Last Girl Standing
She survived a brutal massacre, but lost her life. What happens to the final girl after the credits roll?
Benjamin R. Moody
Benjamin R. Moody
Danielle Evon Ploeger
Last Girl Standing. Based on the name alone, one might automatically associate it with the far superior The Final Girls from last year. It’s similar, in that it takes tried-and-true slasher film tropes we all know and love and turns them on their ear. For you see, Last Girl Standing asks the question, “What happens to the final girl after the massacre ends and the credits roll?” But this film is nowhere near the realm of quality or originality of that entertaining, clever and sentimental film known as The Final Girls.
In a promising opening, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) barely survives an attack at the hands of “The Hunter”, a mass murderer who hunts and kills teenagers in his neck of the woods, all the while touting some sort of jackalope/deer mask (sharp antlers included). All of Camryn’s friends are dead and she is rescued, and we then fast forward five years. A paranoid and anti-social Camryn now lives a solitary and sad existence in a barely-furnished apartment and robotically goes to her unrewarding job at a dry cleaners. She has come to terms with her constant anxiety (dare I say PTSD), but with the arrival of a new employee named Rick (Brian Villalobos – he and Akasha are married), her terrifying past resurfaces and she begins to see “The Hunter” everywhere. Once introduced to Nick’s circle of friends, Camryn starts to come out of her shell, but soon believes that she may be putting them in danger. One of the girls in her new group of friends, Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger – who delivers some nice acting moments) immediately bonds with Camryn, and sets out to help her face her fears and her past. But that past comes rumbling back with a vengeance and things get bloody.
Akasha Villalobos as Camryn was truly the one good thing about Last Girl Standing. She has to run the gamut of emotions, and she solidly hits all of them. Particularly good are her moments in the film’s bloody climax. It’s not necessarily a surprise twist, but where it takes Camryn offers Villalobos plenty of space to run free and impress the audience with her believable and emotional outbursts. With the talent Villalobos clearly possesses, it’s a shame that the script she was provided falls short in almost every way. I’d truly like to see what else she’s got up her sleeve!
As for the supporting cast, there are a few good moments here and there by certain actors (again, namely Danielle Evon Ploeger), but other than Akasha Villalobos, there’s really not much to shout about in the acting categories. Why, some of the performances are even downright amateurish.
Plausibility issues abound throughout. Camryn’s immediate deep-seated friendship with this gang of college kids is unrealistic. The dangerous places these character will go, in order to help this clearly unstable woman they’ve only just met – well, it doesn’t ring true.
And as far as that group of new chums, it’s a pretty basic bunch of personalities. There’s the bitch, the earthy psychic-type, the stoner-type, the boyfriend, the nerdy artist and the best-friend material. One can assume these stereotypes were written consciously, in order to further cement the fact that this is a typical “stalk-n-slash”. But it certainly gives us no reason to care what happens to these throw-away characters.
The opening moments borrow heavily from any number of films in the Friday the 13th franchise (later directly pulling the Tommy Jarvis, “I need to be sure he’s dead” from the beginning of Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part 6). There are also blatant “homages” to The Shining and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The thing is, with tributes or homages or however you’d care to term them – they have to be far more clever, perhaps more subtle and honestly included in a new project which is already ground-breaking or original in and of itself – in order for these “knowing winks” not to feel cheap. Last Girl Standing is not ground-breaking in any way.
There was zero suspense and perhaps one good “boo” moment. There was no build-up, and the film felt too long – at times mirroring Camryn’s boring existence itself. There are far too many times throughout where the filmmakers use the typical, “Let me slowly move through the room and as slowly as possible, reach out to the door which may or may not have someone behind it”. And while these are (again) usual occurrences in films like this, if there’s a practically audible response from the audience of, “Do it or don’t – I’m not sure I care”, then we’ve got problems folks.
And I’m sorry that this particular film will be the one on the lashing end of the whip — based on this ever-present detail in so many horror films, including Last Girl Standing. Once again, let’s quote Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard – as a couple of the characters from Last Girl Standing do “the Nancy Drew bit”. Of course, Camryn doesn’t have to research what happened, she was there, but for the sake of audience knowledge, we will see through her eyes as she rifles through newspaper clippings and other information on the massacre five years ago. Incidentally, why on earth would Camryn have crime scene photos and police reports? Another one of those plausibility problems. But I digress. To all filmmakers out there reading this – please, please, please – make your newspapers look authentic. If it’s aged, make it look aged. If it’s supposed to be the “Crystal Lake Gazette”, then for goodness sakes, make it look like actual newsprint. The texture of newspaper is a far cry from printer paper run through your desktop HP F2240 printer. I can’t stress this enough. And as I’ve said on numerous other occasions, this callout may seem petty and frivolous. But folks, the devil is in the details. And quite simply, things like this are distracting, especially since your film wasn’t great to begin with.
Last Girl Standing is now available on DVD/VOD, but I think that based on this review, it’s a foregone conclusion that it can be labeled “adequately skip-worthy”.