In the inaugural indie thriller by Tyler Shields, a pack of young men spend their Saturday nights chasing young women through the woods for sport. The men think that they’re dominant, that they have a right to pursue these women [can you hear the contemporary societal critique?], and that they can’t lose. Then, they stumble upon a young woman who meets all of their checkmarks for desirable prey… and suddenly, they’re the hunted.
Final Girl is part-thriller, part-horror, part-societal exploration. Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, The Dark is Rising) plays against type as the mastermind of the pack of young men, each of whom has a characteristic or two that distinguishes them. For the most part, they are presented as a whole, until their latest prey, Veronica (Abigail Breslin, Maggie, Little Miss Sunshine), turns the tables on them and makes them confront their greatest fears. Suddenly, the way they’ve preyed on others, the way they’ve engendered fear, doesn’t matter, because Veronica isn’t afraid.
Veronica (we find out early on that she’s no wallflower) has been trained to enact violence on those who would hurt others. She’s the angel of death, the justice withheld until now. Veronica learns from a wounded man (Wes Bentley, who is popping up everywhere), and so she fights for herself, for him, and for those girls that the pack has already hunted down. If this makes you think of Hanna, I won’t blame you – it’s definitely an overlooked girl who provides most of the damage to those who would out-gun, out-size, and out-muscle her.
The story is in itself pretty straightforward, but the way that the film is shot shows it all in a hazy way that matches up reality with fantasy, and then blends them together. The girls run in dresses; the boys hunt in black tie. If this makes you think of something like the prom or a meet market or a wedding or something, then I think that’s the way you’re supposed to see it.
Ultimately, I found myself reflecting on the fact that we just don’t know where everyone is coming from. We don’t know their hurt or their pain or their … training as a ninja warrior. If we would appreciate each other, things might go better for us in the world. If we’d recognize that crime has punishment, sometimes deferred, well, we won’t end up hunted in the woods.