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  Last Girl Standing To The End
Year: 2015
Director: Benjamin R. Moody
Stars: Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos, Laura Ray, Ryan Hamilton, Kelsey Pribilski, JD Carrera, Chad Warren, Christopher Alvarenga, Fede Rangel
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) is being stalked through the forest by a hulking figure in full pagan garb, including a mask that covers his face, and brandishing sharp weaponry. It was only an innocent camping trip but it went horribly wrong once he showed up and started slaughtering everyone, and Camryn has just watched her last surviving friend be gored to death before she flees, winding up in a clearing that has her other friends hanging on trees as sacrifices. But wait - one of them is still alive, and she goes to free her, only alas to discover it's a trap and she is pinned to the tree by a spike. However, she manages to escape once again, and suddenly the killer is upon her, ready to deal the death blow...

Here we had a slasher movie that began at the end, if not the end of Last Girl Standing then the end of the flick that would have come before it had it ever been made. Director and writer Benjamin R. Moody had an thought-provoking take on the subgenre that many regarded as superficial, and had therefore taken the subject as seriously as he could, examining the psychological implications of getting through a night of horror that saw off all your friends thanks to a mass murderer wiping them out and leaving you to do likewise to him. The concept of the Final Girl, for it was she, was well known by this time, and has been the centre of much chin-stroking debate.

Naturally, what had become a cliché was due for revisionism, so some movies would put a twist on it by, for instance, bumping off the seemingly obvious Final Girl half an hour in to disorient the audience, or adding a comedy or weirdo element to similarly catch them off guard, even to the extent of populating an entire cast with final girls. These tended to be the exception rather than the rule, and this example was accepting of the tenets of the feature rather than pushing at them, aside from one aspect that became more overt the further it went on, though even that was nothing especially new, simply a variation on the classic nineteen-sixties shocker Repulsion. This saw Villalobos as our Catherine Deneuve stand-in.

After all, the harrowing ordeal of that fateful night is likely to create some effects on the wellbeing of the mental capacities, and that was what Moody chose to concentrate on in what quickly turned from a chiller into an indie drama with nods to the trappings of horror that he resisted for as long as he possibly could until he could ignore them no longer and all hell broke loose at the last act. Camryn was our unsmiling protagonist whose terror has left her unable to communicate with others in anything else but the tersest exchanges she can, and even some time later when we catch up with her there is little evidence that she has recovered to any sufficient degree, seeing things that may or may not be there out of the corner of her eye and enduring a hefty dose of survivor's guilt.

She has a new co-worker, Nick (Brian Villalobos, husband of the star) who does his best to bring her out of her shell, but it is apparent that her demons run too deep and she will never recover without a lot more help and understanding than anyone is either prepared or capable of offering her. What this served to demonstrate was that while the sincere psychological effects in horror fiction were valuable to crafting decent characters and plotlines, it was also important to deliver on the thrills, and for too long Last Girl Standing neglected that in favour of showcasing a central performance that was convincingly damaged but not that compelling to watch unless you were actually versed in psychology and wished to do a spot of extra-curricular head shrinking. Authentic, then, but jarring with the way that it ultimately moved into far less believable consequences simply because Camryn was a classic slasher character and the cycle had to be continued for a sequel, which this operated as too. Interesting, but tricky to negotiate. Music by Linus Lau.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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