Directed by: Tyler Shields
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Alexander Ludwig, Emma Paetz, Reece Thompson
From a young age, after her parents were killed in an accident, Veronica has been training to be an assassin for a covert agency which seeks to bring justice to those who believe they are above the law. Her body and mind have been trained by her handler, William, and now it is time to put her skills to the test. For in a small backwoods town, oncea month, four young men like to take a woman out into the forest in order to hunt and kill her. But now they are going to meet Veronica, and everything is going to change.
I've written before, on our old defunct website, about my interest in the concept of the "Final Girl", the one character in a horror movie who survives the killer and makes it to the end credits. Tyler Shields' film takes that concept and twists it. In a typical horror movie, the Final Girl will have survived partly through luck and circumstance, she'll usually have to dredge up some courage and determination to survive and/or kill the killer. Here, though, Veronica is the Final Girl by design. She is trained from a young age to survive hostile environments, to use her body as a weapon and to use subterfuge and her intellect to mess with peoples' heads. She has been moulded to slip into other peoples' narratives and bring the story to a close.
Veronica is a great creation. Even after years of training, she still has questions, still probing her handler William, but at the same time is accepting of the physical challenges he sets her, such as the ten mile barefoot hike around a lake. Abigail Breslin adds a lot of depth to the character and shows Veronica's ability to adapt to different situations. In a test run, she is set to seduce and subdue a redneck in a bar, and acts like jailbait, only to subdue the letch in the bathroom much to William's satisfaction. However later she is able to turn on the charm and befriend Jennifer, one of her targets' girlfriend, and shows remarkable composure when she meets her main target for the first time, Jameson.
The scene with Jameson is a particular strong point of the film. We've already seen that Jameson is the Alpha Male of his group, and is the one who lays on the charm and seduces their victims, such as their most recent, a new waitress at the diner they frequent. When he sees Veronica for the first time, he sits opposite her in the most self-assured, self-confident manner possible. His seduction technique is to dominate and control, dictating the terms of their "date", but at the same time he makes it intriguing enough to make a person curious and want to participate.
The other three members of the hunting pack fall into Jameson's shadow but they each have their quirks. One is most definitely a mother's boy and possibly has an Oedipal complex, another is obsessed with crooners such as Frank Sinatra while the other has his girlfriend, Jennifer. Emma Paetz does a good job of making Jennifer a sympathetic character, frustrated by being shut out of her boyfriend's secret activities.
Director Tyler Shields gives the whole film a very impressionist look, with deep shadows cast by artificial light sources. The chase scenes in the forest are all back-lit in a way which reminded me of some Maria Bava films, such as Baron Blood. Most scenes are set indoors, and even the forest scenes could conceivably have been shot on a sound-stage. Only the scene introducing the adult Veronica by the lake makes good use of exteriors. The film also has a timeless look, eschewing the use of computers and mobile phones; the cars also have a generic "classic" look.
Final Girl isn't meant to be an action film - it'san interesting exploration of the concept of surviving a horror movie, artificially inserting a "ringer" into a town's macabre narrative. The performances are great, and the stylish production helps make the film stand out. Recommended.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR TYLER SHIELDS HERE.