psycho

The Final Girls

Max (Taissa Farmiga) is a teenage girl who lost her mother (Malin Akerman) in a tragic car accident 3 years ago. Her mother was an actress whose most famous role was in a cheesy 80’s slasher flick. On the anniversary of her mother’s death Max gets sucked into attending a screening of the slasher movie. During the film a fire breaks out in the theater. Max and her friends escape by cutting through the movie screen and walking through it, only to find themselves trapped inside the movie. Now Max and her friends have to keep themselves alive until the horror movie they are trapped in ends.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I LOVE this movie. Not only did I love it, but there are many things to love about this film. One of my favorite parts was simply the originality of the story. The “Camp Bloodbath” film is obviously paying homage to Friday the 13th. The idea that these modern day teens somehow accidentally transport themselves into an 80’s slasher makes for some hilarious scenes related to the differences in clothing and technology. It’s so clever that I’m not even bothered by the fact that we have no idea how these kids ended up in the movie world in the first place. While the filmmakers are clearly honoring the classic slasher films, they also mercilessly make fun of them. It is absolutely hilarious. They make fun of everything including the over-the-top acting, bad writing, and the fact that sex is equal to death. The filmmakers even included classic 80’s horror movie music, but they updated it a bit in order to keep it fresh.

The acting in this film was perfect. Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) alone was brilliant. She does a great job of portraying the girl next door, but with an added edge that makes her more interesting. What was really brilliant was the juxtaposition of the “real teens” acting compared to the acting of the teens from “Camp Bloodbath.” It was hilarious to see the real teens and their reactions, especially next to the teens from the slasher flick who are acting so over the top and cheesy. Malin Akerman (Couples Retreat) surprised me in this film. I usually am not very fond of her or her acting, but she managed to win me over in The Final Girls both as Max’s mother, Amanda, and as the shy camp counselor from “Camp Bloodbath,” Nancy. Two standouts in this film are the over-sexed camp counselors Kurt (Adam DeVine) and Tina (Angela Timbur). They perfectly fit the 80’s slasher stereotype of the not-too-bright counselors that only care about getting laid. These two definitely stole some scenes with how hilarious they were.

The various effects and styles of this film also contributed to its success. The cinematography is gorgeous. There are a few scenes where they fluidly move from one point of view to another in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen in other films. The effects they utilized to transition to and from the flashback scenes were also quite unique and added some interest to the film while we experience things the way the teens from the real world do. I honestly can’t say anything bad about the CGI in this film. They used it in a relatively sparing way. When they did use it the effects were slightly over the top, but in a way that fit the film in a perfect way. The same goes for the practical effects. There were some practical effects used for the various kill scenes, but those scenes were not very gory considering this is a PG-13 movie. There was really only one aspect of the practical effects that I didn’t like, and it is really so minuscule that most people probably wouldn’t even notice. In the beginning of the film when we see Max with her mother, Amanda, they clearly had to age Amanda a bit because she was much younger when she filmed “Camp Bloodbath.” The only real effort that can be noticed to age her was subtle prosthetics under her eyes to add wrinkles. As I said, it was pretty subtle, but what really bothered me about it is that I could tell they were prosthetics. The edges didn’t seem to be blended very well and the color of the prosthetics didn’t match her skin tone, making it stick out a bit. This may seem nitpicky, but it ruined the age makeup for me.

I really had so much fun watching this film. It had everything you could want from a horror comedy. There was an interesting story, it made fun of itself, it honored the classics, can be touching at times, and I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire time. What makes this film even better, is that it has outtakes! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horror movie, or even a horror comedy, that has outtakes at the end. This is the kind of film that will appeal to everyone, even those that don’t love horror films. You can even bring younger audiences to see this since it has a rating of PG-13. This is definitely a must see film that will keep you laughing the whole way through, and maybe even make you tear up a bit, with an ending that couldn’t have been better if I wrote it myself.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

The Boy (2015)

A 9-year-old boy named Ted (Jared Breeze) lives in a remote mountain motel with his father, John (David Morse). Together they own and run the failing motel. Ted generally lives in isolation, with no one but his father and the rare motel guest to interact with. As a chain of events gets in the way of Ted’s goals, his sociopathic tendencies bubble to the surface.

This film definitely has a slow burn. For some, it might be slow to the point of being boring. Personally I thought the pace was just slightly above the boring line, but I can see that many people will not like it. The first half of the film is really just character development for Ted. They do an excellent job of showing that he has some qualities that could make him a potential sociopath, and he is fascinated by death. Ted’s ultimate goal is to find a way to to go live with his mom in Florida. This is entirely an understandable wish. He lives in the middle of nowhere, only has his dad to talk to, and doesn’t interact with any kids his own age. I would want to leave too! It isn’t until his plans to leave get ruined that he becomes fully psychotic. This makes the last 15 or so minutes of the film very tense and at times a bit shocking.

The acting in this film is excellent. I was so impressed by Jared Breeze (Cooties) and his performance as Ted. Kids in horror movies tend to either be terrifying or simply annoying. Breeze did a great job of acting like a relatively normal boy in the beginning, only showing glimpses of his insanity here and there, to then becoming a full blown sociopath. The most impressive part of his performance was all in his eyes. While Breeze’s character was carrying out unspeakable acts of violence, his eyes remind dead and soulless. The only emotion that I would say you can really see in those eyes is just a touch of curiosity. Rainn Wilson (The Office) was also amazing as the mysterious drifter who is staying at the motel. I am so used to seeing him in more comedic roles. While the role is a smaller one, Wilson does an excellent job of portraying this darker character with quite a few secrets of his own.

One of my favorite parts about this film is that it brings up the question of nature vs. nurture. Is Ted psychotic because he was born that way? Or is it because of the environment that he grew up in? It is clear to me fairly early in the film that Ted has some of the qualities of a sociopath. These qualities begin very small, and are almost unnoticeable. At one point when a boy his age is staying at the motel Ted learns fairly quickly that some of his actions are not socially acceptable, so he changes those behaviors. This makes me wonder if Ted had been raised in an environment where he was around other children his age, and had a better idea of the social norms, would those sociopathic tendencies have been put in check before they got out of hand.

When deciding if you want to watch this film, keep in mind that it isn’t a scary movie and it moves at a slower pace. It is definitely more of a suspenseful film that relies on the building of tension in order to keep you at the edge of your seat. With how slow the film is, and the fact that all the action only really occurs within the last 15 minutes of the film (and even then it isn’t that action packed), I would say this film is definitely not for everyone. Overall I enjoyed the acting, the story line, and the way they portrayed a kind of coming-of-age story about a child sociopath. It isn’t a “must see” movie, but if the general themes are what you look for in a film then I would recommend this one.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10