Veronica (Abigail Breslin) is new in town and local boys Jameson (Alexander Ludwig), Shane (Cameron Bright), Daniel (Logan Huffman) and Nelson (Reece Thomspon) have taken a shine to her. So much so that they’ve invited her to a secret place in the woods where the young men, always dressed impeccably in tuxedos, have their own form of recreation. The kind that involves killing young women like Veronica. Little do they know, however, that Veronica has a dark and bloody secret of her own: She’s been training with her handler William (Wes Bentley). These boys are her first solo mission and her final test before becoming a full-fledged killer. Let the games begin.
Now, you may think that the above paragraph essentially gave away the movie. However, the movie itself just flat out gives you the entire plot in just under five minutes of screentime. In fact, the pace of the story seems almost breakneck, jumping from scene to scene with barely time to learn about the characters. The runtime at about ninety minutes feels very light and tends not to waste time.
“Final Girl” is a 2015 action thriller with elements of psychological horror spliced in. It also has elements of humanity in several scenes, especially between Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley. What little we know of Veronica and William’s relationship is as sweet as it is unsettling, especially when the subject of sex is brought up.
In terms of cinematography, the camera work is terrific as well as the color design. The colors pop out under highly contrasted lighting and the use of shadows give it a very noir-ish feel to the film. Of course there being spotlights in the woods keeps everything eerily lit during each encounter with the tuxedoed killers. Everyone in the film looks stylized and right out of a pulp novel. One of the guys has an affinity for swing music and moves like a manic James Dean.
Abigail Breslin put on a very good performance as the trepidatious but strong-willed Veronica. At the beginning of the film we see her speaking with William, having lost her family and being taken in to train. Twelve years later and we see a confident young woman who is ready for the test. The performances of the tuxedo-wearing killers were pretty decent as well, especially during hallucination sequences where each of their characters were explored briefly.
With everything that is enjoyable in the film, I find that there are many aspects that are sorely lacking. Now, we probably don’t need to know everything about what kind of organization William and Veronica work for, but it might’ve been interesting to find out. Why were these particular young men chosen for her test? It’s implied that William’s job entails killing bad guys through a line of dialogue but other than that, I don’t see a reason for them to go after these particular murderous assholes other than the fact that they are murderous assholes. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between this world and something akin to either a horror film or a realistic drama. We also don’t seem to get a real sense of the killers’ personalities until the climax rolls around.
Another problem for me is that I felt like we were being dropped in the middle of a story, rather than the beginning. While it progresses more or less linearly, the movie seems to want to focus on the part we came to see and the movie wanted to showcase; the climax. Here is when the movie finally stops to build tension and suspense.
(Spoilers in the next paragraph)
However, seeing as how well trained Abigail Breslin’s character is, we realize the most glaring flaw in this film: these guys never stood a chance. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should’ve had them kill the heroine or even be significantly more capable than her because we find that William is never too far from Veronica when he shows up at the end. Perhaps had the boys done their usual killing as the opening scene and then we see Jameson pick up Veronica, leading to the boys trying to kill her, only to find that she is an assassin who’s trained to take them all out. If they had switched the scenes around, I think it could’ve been a much better movie than it is.
I’m giving it a 2 out of 5. The premise is great, the visual style is strikingly evocative and Abigail Breslin is game as fuck, but the plot’s overall lack of suspense and tension takes the teeth out of this movie’s bite.