Not in any way schlocky or dumb as you might expect, this is actually a smart ripping on the slasher genre with modern and 80’s horror melding together in a fun yet affectionate yarn about working together to survive the unstoppable horror movie killer.
On the anniversary of a tragic car accident, Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga) doesn’t feel like attending a back-to-back screening of the Camp Bloodbath movies, but she’s convinced by nerdy Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), so along with her friend she goes to the cinema. A fire breaks out within the theatre and Max, Duncan, friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), crush Chris (Alexander Ludwig) and Chris’ ex Vicki (Nina Dobrev) end up within the Camp Bloodbath movie and must evade the masked murderer.
The look of this film is spot on, striding with a palette of purples and blues that scream 1980’s. The cabin and counsellors idea is a trope of teen slashers most know of and they spoof it well as the present day characters are immersed into the 80’s world. It’s handled both comically in the way the film within the film figures don’t get modern technology but also sweetly in its clear love for horror and the way they use the know-how of the plot to try and help the characters.
Todd Strauss-Schulson makes this film an enjoyable and totally immersive ride as we too know enough about the outcome of Camp Bloodbath that we think about what we’d do if stuck in a movie like that. It’s perfectly shot as a shaky B movie turned cult classic, the acting is deliciously over the top, the killer is Michael Myers enough, the dialogue is cheesy and the music is synth gold. He directs with an obvious eye for horror moments and plays on these very well so we don’t always know what may come round the corner.
Flashbacks and slow-motion are two fascinating cinematic tools used in this movie for great effect. The past bleeds into life and we see the 50’s, or characters try blurting out words but are stuck in a sequence of slow-motion which becomes a dramatic and yet hilarious run from Billy the machete wielding maniac. The idea of final girls, sluts dying and a killer always getting up are all used here but they twist it enough to keep the material exciting and generally the idea of having characters ending up within a horror movie is smart and meta magnificence.
Gregory James Jenkins’ score is a grin inducing electronic one that rides over the film in an enhancing way to sell the 80’s vibe, songs like ‘Mickey’ and ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ are also used in cool ways to show the loop of the film or the sad punch of a character’s fate. This film is cheesy and that but it surprised me with a solid emotional lining. You end up caring for the characters and when you know their time is up it hits you more than you’d expect for a slasher feature.
Taissa Farmiga is often silent and assured and portrays this thinking virgin with a convincing innocence though she manages to be the bad ass to help try and kill Billy with ease. Malin Akerman plays the caring blonde Nancy as the final girl you’d expect but she has more to this film and you feel for her as she makes her decisions and pairs up with Max. Middleditch is a fun horror geek addition needed for this type of structure, his mouthing of the script or fanatical reactions to seeing Billy are brilliant. Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat are two great female parts, working in the set up and still showing of their characteristics, Dobrev wanting to be the final girl and save the day but scared of being the bitch and Shawkat falling for one of the film characters and trying to help Max. I must also give kudos to Adam DeVine, who plays a jock but such a buffoon and moronic character that he acts splendidly that you wish him to die.
Jumping between comedy, meta, horror and drama of letting go, this movie is surprisingly clever and so amusing. It also boasts a gleeful ending to follow a gag filled satire and adoring look at the slasher genre.