Final Girl is the directorial debut of award winning still photographer Tyler Shields, and it shows. The film looks beautiful, the set design is perfect and the scenes are wonderfully composed. Unfortunately just about everything else is a disaster.
Set in what appears to be a slightly skewed version of the 50s a young orphaned girl is raised by a mysterious man to be the perfect killing machine. But this isn’t another clone of La Femme Nikita, though it might have been better if it was. For her first assignment she’s sent to deal with a group of local boys who are literally hunting and killing women. She allows herself to be selected as a victim and then turns the tables on her would be killers. The end result is more like I Spit on Your Grave minus all the rapey stuff than any of the Nikita films or tv shows.
Nothing however is explained, who William is or why he chooses Veronica. What happened to her parents is never explained and that could contributed to a strong back story for her character. Similarly the boys are blanks too. Neither they or their motives are developed nor is it explained why they simply aren’t arrested since they’ve killed 20 women already. And most importantly, we’re given no reason why they are chosen to be her first assignment. As a result it’s very hard to care about anything that’s going on, there’s no emotional investment in the characters and no plot driven reason to care about them beyond the most basic good vs evil scenario. Which may have worked if the action scenes delivered, but they don’t. The choreography is lackluster and a gimmick that has the killers seeing what they fear most during the fights makes them rather dull affairs.
It’s obvious the Shields and scriptwriter Adam Prince want to take the slasher film and flip it, with the “final girl” being the hunter rather than the hunted. And this would have been a welcome change of pace if it had been set up properly. But there’s no build up, no sense of revenge, just a trained killer being randomly sent after a bunch of thrill killers. The script just goes from fight to fight with no suspense until the final confrontation with he group’s leader. Even an attempt to shake things up with conflict between two of the killers falls flat, and just feels like padding.
The cast is top lined by two very talented actors, Abigail Breslin as Veronica and Wes Bently as her mentor William. The problem is they have nothing to work with, the dialogue is weak and at times awkward. (one of the killers calls Veronica a “Babylonian whore” during their fight), and they have no backstory or motivation to help sell it. It doesn’t help that Breslin just does not look the part, She’s entirely too soft bodied to be a strong, athletic killing machine which further hurts the film’s credibility.
Tyler Shields has been quoted as saying “The thing about criticism is it’s a waste of time,’ he said. ‘I honestly don’t care. Sometimes you upset people and when you do it means they just don’t understand, but that’s okay.” so obviously it’s everybody else’s fault that film received a poor reception, us peons just didn’t understand his work of art. Hopefully somebody will get him to understand that, unlike a picture, a successful film has to do more than just look good.