Benjamin R. Moody’s Last Girl Standing opens where any normal slasher movie would end. Camryn (Akasha Villalobos), the so-called “Final Girl”, is stumbling around a wood pursued by a masked killer. Her friends are all dead and she must finally face her terroriser. She manages to slay her foe and makes it out to the nearest road to find help, only to see an apparition of the killer in the seat of the pickup truck that comes to her rescue.
These visions never really leave Camryn and “The Hunter” still torments her nightmares, but the spectre of the killer seems to be drawing ever closer. Meanwhile, Nick (Brian Villalobos) starts a new job at the laundrette Camryn’s been working at for the last four years. Nick takes a liking to Camryn and introduces her to his friendship group, when her latest vision leaves her really spooked.
After the unmistakable slasher movie opening, Last Girl Standing settles into more of a social realism groove, a far cry from the film’s “horror” label. The distinctly unglamorous workplace and Camryn’s struggling central character reminded me (bizarrely) of the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night, and much of Moody’s film plays in a similarly reserved, and well observed, sand pit.
Likewise, Moody writes his characters with far more depth than one usually finds in this subgenre. Even Nick’s friends, who could have simply been written off as hipster side characters, are well drawn. Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger), in particular, gets a lovely moment with Camryn in which she shares her own personal trauma.
It’s a shame then that the requisite slasher movie finale, which for so long felt like Moody might dare avoid, sidelines the complexity displayed up until that point. It satisfies the genre requirements, but diminishes some of the good work that came before it and, as is so often the case, the threat of impending horror is more disturbing than its ultimate manifestation. That being said, and without wanting to spoil anything, the finale does complete the victim cycle in a satisfying manner. So, in the end, the bloodletting is used to say something interesting about the very nature of the genre.
Elsewhere, I did like the booby trap element, but I would have still appreciated a more distinctive killer, although that’s a problem with so many current slasher offerings. Something that really does stand out, however, is Espectrostatic’s pulsing musical work. His tracks are Carpenter-esque, but never slavish, and provide a purposeful driving force somewhat lacking from Linus Lau’s original score.
Last Girl Standing offers a welcome new perspective on the slasher film. If only it had offered a finale in keeping with the thoughtful build-up.
Last Girl Standing is out now on DVD in the UK via Frightfest Presents.
For more reviews of the FrightFest Presents films, click here.