The Final Girls is a film whose depth reinforces its wit, a clever movie that rises above the now-common device of calling out horror clichés thanks to the deep emotional connection portrayed by Max (Taissa Farmiga) toward her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman). To get to this place, director Todd Strauss-Schulson and writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller fracture Max’s spirit in the opening moments thanks to a car crash and the guilt that rests on the young woman’s shoulders due to a simple slip of the finger.
Moving the story forward three years reveals a somewhat withdrawn (she’s a bit shruggy, not a curly-fingernailed recluse) 20-year-old woman who misses her B-movie star mother but who is slowly moving her way through a normal life as a student with the help of her sympathetic best friend, Gertie (Alia Shawkat). There’s also the prospect of romance with Chris (Alexander Ludwig), a classic horror movie hunk with a lingering ex-love named Vicki (Nina Dobrev) who used to be Max’s friend before the death of her mom. The only remaining horror movie staple is the comic relief and that responsibility falls to Duncan (Thomas Middleditch from Silicon Valley), Gertie’s annoyingly enthusiastic stepbrother. Duncan is obsessed with Camp Bloodbath, the cult slasher film in which Amanda starred (a role that kept her from getting more work in her career), and desperately wants Max to do a Q&A at a local movie theater on the third anniversary of her mother’s death. Convinced by Duncan’s willingness to do her homework, Max agrees, setting in motion events that lead to her and her friends entering the world of Camp Bloodbath where the cast swells to include camp counselors Kurt (Adam Devine), Tina (Angela Trimbur), Blake (Tory N. Thompson), Paula (Chloe Bridges), Max’s mother (or, at least, the character that she played in the film), and the forgettable composite ’80s horror film slasher that is trying to kill them all.