"Scream" meets "Pleasantville" in the new movie "The Final Girls," a playful deconstruction of the slasher film that ultimately packs a surprisingly affecting punch.
In a bid to escape a freak movie theater fire, Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her friends flee through a hastily torn slit in the screen, only to find themselves trapped in "Camp Bloodbath," a cult horror flick that starred Max's late scream-queen mother (Malin Akerman).
But Max ends up having more than psycho, machete-wielding Billy Murphy to deal with. She also must come to emotional grips with the fact that the "shy girl with the clipboard and the guitar" happens to be her mom, three decades in the past.
As convoluted as it may sound, darned if the bizarro premise actually works — and on multiple fronts.
While gleefully picking off all those familiar "Friday the 13th" tropes, director Todd Strauss-Schulson ("A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas") and screenwriters M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller have seen fit to populate doomed Camp Bluefinch with likable characters played by a game young cast of talented actors.
The result is a curious hybrid that provides, in addition to the buckets of blood and pop culture irreverence, some unexpectedly touching closure.
"The Final Girls"
MPAA rating: PG-13 for horror violence, crude and sexual material, language, drug use.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
Playing: Vista, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.