LAST GIRL STANDING (2015)
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Interesting little movie takes a look at the traditional slasher film, but from a different direction…what happens to the final girl after the massacre is over. Pretty young Camryn (Akasha Banks Villalobos) is the only survivor when a masked serial killer called “The Hunter” (Jason Vines) murders all her friends. Camryn barely escaped with her life, but managed to kill the maniac before he killed her. Four years later, her life is a mess. She works a minimum wage dry cleaning job and is a shy introvert still haunted by the memories of what befell her on that terrible night in the woods. When new guy Nick (Brian Villalobos, Akasha’s real-life husband) starts working at the dry cleaners, Camryn starts to slowly open up and join Nick and his group of friends. But the closer she gets to them, the more she starts seeing The Hunter again. Has the killer somehow returned from the dead to stalk her new friends, or is Camryn far more haunted by that fateful night than she imagined?
Written and directed by Benjamin R. Moody, this is an intriguing look at what happens in a slasher movie to the victim’s life, after the events of the movie are over. He opens his film with the gruesome final moments of Camryn fighting for her life against the masked madman and then barely surviving as she kills the fiend trying to save herself. He then takes us four years later with the scars, both physical and mental still apparent. He presents a young women in emotional and social withdrawal who is haunted by the memories of the murder of her friends. We then get a glimmer of hope for her, as Nick arrives and introduces her to a new group of people. Obviously, the fear of losing her new friends takes it’s toll and she begins to see the killer and evidence of his return…or does she? Moody keeps us guessing a bit as to if the killer truly has returned, as so many in slasher sequels do, or is Camryn far more damaged that even she suspects. Just as the premise starts to wear out it’s welcome, the blood starts to spatter again…but who is spilling it? If the film falters a bit, it’s that it does remain mostly a drama till it’s last act and it’s not always as gripping as we’d like, but the director/writer balances that with some interesting and effective scenes such as one of Camryn being taken to The Hunter’s grave by new friend Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger) to try and give her closure. Emotionally the scene is one of the best in the film. For those wanting a horror movie here, your patience pays off and there is a quite bloody finale to go along with the gruesome beginning and “The Hunter” is effective enough to work as the character needs to. We may see the end coming, but it still ironic, still works and very well.
As for our actors, Akasha Banks Villalobos does a very good job evoking our sympathy as Camryn. The role is wisely played low key, as over-the-top would have taken the film in a more theatrical direction and keeping it grounded makes it work nicely. Villalobos is effective as both final girl and presenting the effects of a victim haunted by dire events. She also shines in the climactic last act where Moody turns this back into a slasher movie. The actress’ husband Brian Villalobos is also good as Nick. He portrays a likable guy who is interested in his shy co-worker and portrays well a character who is trying to be patient with someone he is starting to care about, but who has issues he doesn’t fully understand. Danielle Evon Ploeger really makes an impression as Nick’s friend Danielle, who takes a sympathetic liking to Camryn. The actress creates a very likable and sweet girl-next-door type and she has some really nice scenes together with Villalobos as she tries to help Camryn heal. Ploeger and her character are final girl material in themselves and that may not be unintentional.
I liked this movie. Maybe it was a bit too low key at times and there are a few questions, like why Camryn isn’t in therapy, but it tells a side of a beloved horror mainstay that we rarely see…what happens to the final girl’s life long after the killer is gone. Director Benjamin R. Moody gives us a sad and sympathetic portrayal of a young women whose life has been tragically damaged by horrific events and then makes us watch as the prospect of new friends to care about both entices and terrifies her. And just as the film starts to wear out it’s welcome, Moody turns it back into the horror flick it started out as, but with a twist. The acting is effective and the gore is surprisingly abundant once it does get bloody. Definitely a flick worth taking a look at if you are a horror/slasher fan.
3 hand axes.