VOD film review: Final Girl
50s style production design7.5
Matthew Turner | On 31, Aug 2015
Director: Tyler Shields
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Alexander Ludwig, Cameron Bright, Logan Huffman, Reece Thompson
Watch Final Girl online in the UK: Arrow UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Former child star Abigail Breslin has been making some interesting career choices of late (Maggie, Ender’s Game, Haunter, even her rebellious supporting role in August: Osage County) and her cult cachet is likely to rise still further with Final Girl, a stylish thriller with a curious 1950s atmosphere.
Directed by celebrity photographer Tyler Shields, Final Girl begins with the mysterious William (Wes Bentley) giving a young, recently orphaned girl named Veronica (Gracyn Shinyei) an aptitude test in what looks like a police interview room. When she passes the test, we skip forward by 12 years (with Veronica now played by Abigail Breslin) and discover that her training is nearly complete, with William advising her on how to fight, evade capture and survive in the wild, as well as teaching her sundry other skills, such as how to administer a lethal chokehold.
Soon, William tells Veronica that she’s ready for her final exam. A group of four young men (Alexander Ludwig, Cameron Bright, Logan Huffman and Reece Thompson) have been luring young women out to the woods and hunting and killing them for sport. Veronica’s task will be to position herself as their latest quarry and eliminate them, but first she has to face her deepest fears in a final test involving a hallucinogenic truth serum that will be Important For Later.
The script cleverly strips the film of all context outside of Veronica’s training, the ’50s-style diner where the men pick up their prey, and their hunting ground in the woods. This gives the film an effective, dream-like atmosphere, with a hint of fairy tale thanks to Veronica’s choice of a striking bright red dress and some accentuated lighting choices from cinematographer Gregory Middleton.
Breslin is superb as self-assured, no-nonsense Veronica, and she generates strong, likeable chemistry with Bentley (another actor making intriguing career choices of late). She also has some nicely snappy dialogue moments, such as when she announces she’s going “on a fact-finding mission…with french fries”. Ludwig makes a suitably arrogant antagonist as lead villain Jameson and there’s scene-stealing support from Logan Huffman as be-quiffed, borderline bonkers bad guy Danny, who’s introduced dancing around with an axe to Who The Bossman’s psychobilly-esque track The Devil And The Duke Ride Out Tonight.
The initial game of cat-and-mouse is nicely handled, with Veronica engaging in a suspenseful game of Truth or Dare before the men announce their intentions, heightening the tension as you wonder whether Veronica might be out of her depth. However, the actual hunting sequences are slightly frustrating, with the script placing a little too much weight on the afore-mentioned hallucinogenic truth serum.
That said, the end result is suitably satisfying, while the film itself leaves you with an overwhelming desire to see more of its two leads, to the point where it could almost be the pilot for a TV show. In short, this is a stylish thriller that deliberately up-ends the standard stalk-and-slash set-up to entertaining effect. Worth seeing.
Final Girl is now available on Arrow UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.