We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
The Dragon goes on the run with two movies full of final girls.
THE FINAL GIRLS (2015)
The early '80s into the early '90s was a time in television and film when it seemed that instantly recognizable child actor Joshua Miller was unavoidable. He was in Halloween III, River's Edge, Near Dark, Teen Witch, Class of 1999, Death Warrant, he showed up on a slew of shows, including Family Ties. Miller came from a family of actors; his mother Sue Bernard worked through the '60s and '70s, appearing in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and The Beverly Hillbillies; Jason Patric is his half-brother; and his father was Jason Miller, best known for playing Father Karras in the horror classic The Exorcist. Jason Miller passed away in 2001, but in the years since Joshua has had the odd experience of watching his dad in The Exorcist and seeing him deal with some very horrific things. It was rewatching his late father in The Exorcist that inspired Miller to write the screenplay for The Final Girls with M.A. Fortin.
The Final Girls centers on a young girl named Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga), the daughter of B-movie actress Amanda Cartwright (Malik Akerman), whose biggest hit was the slasher movie Camp Bloodbath. The film begins with a grindhouse-esque faux trailer for Camp Bloodbath, and The Final Girls instantly won my heart by not being subtle at all about Bloodbath being primarily influenced by Friday the 13th. There's even a "ki ki ki ma ma ma" type of sound effect in the score as hulking, machete-wielding killer Billy Murphy, played by Dan B. Norris, stalks Camp Blue Finch. Billy looks very much like Jason Voorhees did in Freddy vs. Jason, his mask just isn't nearly as cool as Jason's hockey mask. His back story is like a mixture of Jason and Cropsy from The Burning.
Max is left devastated after Amanda is killed in a car accident. When a local theatre throws a Camp Bloodbath double feature, she doesn't want to have anything to do with it, but her slasher-loving friend Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) convinces her to come to the show and "maybe" do a Q&A. Through a series of knuckleheaded moves on the part of audience members, the theatre turns into a raging inferno right in the middle of the first movie. In an attempt to lead her friends to safety, Max grabs a cosplayer's dropped machete off the floor and slashes open the movie screen.
Stepping through the screen, Max and her friends (Middleditch as Duncan, Alia Shawkat as Max's best friend/Duncan's step-sister Gertie, Alexander Ludwig as Max's love interest Chris, and Nina Dobrev as Chris's annoying ex Vicki) find themselves literally stepping into Camp Bloodbath. They're in 1986, interacting with the characters, living out the events of the film... which includes being targeted by Billy Murphy.
And yes, interacting with the characters means that Max finds herself face-to-face with the 1986 version of her dear departed mother Amanda as Bloodbath's naive camp counselor Nancy, adding a touching level of emotional weight to the story. She's getting to see her mom again after losing her.
Camp Bloodbath plays up the slasher clichés and stereotypes to the extreme for the sake of comedy, and it is quite amusing to see the more absurd elements of slashers get spoofed. It's fun to watch Duncan's reactions to these things as well, because even though his life is in danger he's still loving the fact that he's in one of his favorite movies.
In addition to Akerman as Amanda/Nancy, the Bloodbath cast is played by Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson, Reginald Robinson, and Lauren Gros. They're a group of true nitwits who are a delight to watch, especially the goofy horndogs DeVine and Trimbur portray.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson executed Miller and Fortin's script with style to spare and the story allows him to present some crazy visuals, although he does go a little overboard from time to time, leaning too heavily on CGI at times and occasionally ruining the momentum of scenes by getting too fancy with the camera work. The film also comes up a little short by having a PG-13 rating when the slashers of the '80s were R rated movies. It still works, but it could have been even more accurate if it had followed its predecessors into R territory. But the studio wanted the PG-13.
If you're a fan of slashers in general and the Friday the 13th franchise in particular, I would highly recommend watching The Final Girls. It's an entertaining horror/comedy with a surprising amount of heart, and it feels like the filmmakers have a love for the era and type of films they're sending up here.
Interesting side note: Alexander Ludwig is the son of actress Sharlene Martin, who played a character who gets killed by Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.
BLOODFIST VII: MANHUNT (1995)
Released later in the same year as Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero, this entry in the franchise (which, of course, has nothing to do with the movies that came before) drops the "Die Hard in a ---" approach of Ground Zero and returns to the "man on the run through the city" style of Bloodfist IV: Die Trying and Bloodfist V: Human Target.
Playing his sixth character in seven films, franchise star Don "The Dragon" Wilson this time portrays the mysterious Jim Trudell, who goes to a bar while on a road trip and ends up getting in a fight with some guys, one of whom is played by Rick Dean, who played a different character in Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight, and ends up leaving with a woman named Stephanie (Jillian McWhirter), who says she's on the run from her psychotic ex-boyfriend. Jim and Stephanie share a motel room that night - separate beds - and in the morning Jim wakes up to find that Stephanie has stolen his car.
Jim sets out on a search for Stephanie, a search that ends up causing him a whole lot of trouble, especially after he kills a man, while defending himself in Stephanie's ransacked house, who turns out to be a police officer. That particular officer is just one of multiple corrupt cops on this police force who are looking for Stephanie, so rather than go through the legal process Jim is forced to escape police custody... And that's how you get the film's subtitle, as Jim becomes the focus of a manhunt being conducted by both good cops and bad cops alike.
Representing the good cops is an actor I always enjoy watching, Steven Williams, who you may know as Mr. X from The X-Files, Captain Adam Fuller from the 21 Jump Street TV show, or most importantly (in my book), bounty hunter Creighton Duke in Jason Goes to Hell. Or maybe you know him from one of his other 120+ credits.
Also of note is the presence of Survivor contestant Jonathan Penner as the primary bad cop. Another Survivor contestant, Shane Powers, shows up along the way as a storekeeper.
Directed by Jonathan Winfrey, Manhunt ranks among the better of the Bloodfist movies for me, because the screenplay by the Ground Zero writing duo of Brendan Broderick and Rob Kerchner (Kerchner also came up with the stories for Die Trying and Human Target) achieves a sweet spot balance of mystery, twists, and simplicity, while keeping the momentum going and taking a break from the action just rarely enough.
FINAL GIRL (2015)
Teenager Veronica (Abigail Breslin of Maggie and The Call) has been in training for twelve years, being coached by the impeccably dressed William (P2's Wes Bentley). Veronica is training for the challenge of her life... literally, it's a challenge where her life will be at stake. Seeking revenge for the murders of his wife and daughter, William is trying to teach Veronica what she'll need to know in order to strike back at the people responsible. He's preparing her for battle.
Some day, Veronica will find herself in the clutches of a group of impeccably dressed young men (one of them is Alexander Ludwig, who was also in The Final Girls), too young to have been the ones who killed William's family, who like to take young women out into a woods and hunt them down, killing them for sport. When Veronica becomes their intended victim, she is to turn them into the prey instead.
The directorial debut of infamous photographer Tyler Shields, Final Girl is an odd movie, a bit artsy but not unbearably so. Shields' background shines through in the imagery, with unusual choices of composition and lighting. Many moments are set in stark locations with bright white lights, and that same sort of bright white light blasts through the foggy woods most of the film is set in.
It's a very simplistic film - there's nothing to it aside from scenes of Veronica's training and then her being taken out into the woods by the young men so she can put that training to use. (Hallucinogenics get involved to add to the fun.) At the same time, there's a mysterious air to everything that's going on. Who are these kids? How are they connected to the killers of twelve years ago? Where are Veronica's parents? Can William be trusted? These questions don't necessarily get answered.
Dialogue heavy, the script by Adam Prince (from a story by Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri, and Johnny T. Silver) occasionally tries too hard, but works for the most part and keeps things interesting.
Packed with violence and unique visuals, Final Girl is worth the 84 minutes it requires of the viewer. I had been interested in it since it was first announced, but got around to watching it at the recommendation of my friend Noah Smith (who recently wrote about the movies Creep and Batman v. Superman on the blog), and he didn't steer me wrong.