Man, it’s hard to be a woman in today’s cinema.
Leading female roles seem to fall in one of three categories: The good girl, the bitch or the victim.
Where’s the fun in that?
It’s even harder to be a normal everyday woman in a horror movie. You’re either expected to get naked and frisky before dying a spectacularly gruesome death, or you wind up the Final Girl, staring down an indestructible monster while surrounded by stacks of bodies that once were your best friends.
The majority of slasher films — both from the genre’s heyday in the 1980s to the recent resurgence of ah-ah-ah, kill-kill-kill homages — brutally dispatch with the bulk of their leading ladies until only one remains, but precious few — OK, none that BVB can recall — ever stop to consider what happens after the horror ends.
As viewers, we just take for granted that the victorious Final Girl goes on to lead a happy and productive and therapy-free life once she has bested the lunatic killer from Hell. Sure, why not? It could happen. And who would want to watch an entire movie built around the idea that the Final Girl is essentially effed up forever for simply doing whatever it takes to survive?
World, meet Last Girl Standing.
Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) is the sole survivor of The Hunter, a pagan ritualist who stalks his victims while wearing a dear head, torturing them for days, until only one remains — the one he will make the ultimate sacrifice.
Last Girl Standing literally thrusts you squarely into the nightmare from jump. Camryn is trying to escape. All of her friends are dead and disemboweled. And she must stand up to The Hunter if she wants to live.
More than a year later, Camryn is beset by nightmares of her tormentor and visions of him exacting his final revenge. She barely speaks, refuses to engage or interact with other people and stays laser focused on her menial 9-to-5 job folding clothes at a laundromat.
But the nightmares begin to manifest in her physical reality, causing unpredictable outburst and episodes. This ironic and cruel twist comes just as Camryn is introduced to a new co-worker, Nick (Brian Villalobos, her real-life husband), and his group of seemingly normal 20-something-aged friends. She also meets Nick’s best gal pal Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger), who finally gets Camryn to open up about her past and try to seek closure.
The beauty of Last Girl Standing is that first-time feature writer-director Benjamin R. Moody keeps you off-balance the entire time. Is Camryn crazy? Has The Hunter returned from the grave? Should her dire warnings be heeded?
Moody also employs a fantastic and propulsive score and soundtrack filled with lesser-known artists like Espectrotastic and Marz Leon that fuels the action.
He receives standout turns from his three leads — Akasha and Brian Villalobos share an undeniable chemistry, but Akasha and Danielle come off as completely genuine, vulnerable and real. These are people you know, which makes what happens to them all the more shocking.
The practical effects are gory great with some moments so borderline brutal that they are difficult to watch. The third act alone is a blistering assault on your senses.
Even the iconic slasher character, The Hunter feels different than past horror antagonists. You don’t learn a whole lot about him, other than what’s shown in newspaper clippings and police reports, but he’s a powerful and menacing threat that casts a long shadow over everyone involved.
Last Girl Standing takes a solid idea and runs with it, creating a believable scenario that actually makes sense in today’s crazy, Trumped-up world. Every detail has been carefully attended to. There are no false notes. This is genre cinema in its purest form, and yet also a very smart, well-considered rebuke of the common horror tropes that we’ve grown immune to over the years. Even its title is a clever bit of wordplay that becomes apparent by the final frame.
Run, don’t walk, to find this movie now. Just remember to tell everyone that BVB told you about it first!
Last Girl Standing
Directed by: Benjamin R. Moody
Run time: 90 minutes
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks: Yes.
Nudity :No. Gore: Gratuitous.
Drug use: No.
Bad Guys/Killers : The Hunter.
Buy/Rent: Buy it.
Released: November 1, 2016
In terms of behaving badly, at least the Last Girl Standing had ample reason to fly into fits of unexpected rage given the trauma she endured at the hands of a sadistic deer-head-wearing madman.
In Bad Moms, the latest big-screen comedy to spotlight women acting as boorish and uninhibited as their male counterparts, the behavior on display isn’t nearly as bad as the film itself. And that’s the main problem.
Bad Moms is one of those films that tries to entice you in by promoting that it was written by the guys who wrote The Hangover (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore).
What the advertising fails to share in full disclosure is that these two chuckleheads also are responsible for a slew of uneven and fitfully unfunny films, including Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, 21 & Over and The Change-Up. In all fairness, The Hangover (at least the first one) was hysterical and fresh. But did anyone really watch the Matthew McConaughey rom-com and think, "Hot damn, this is a seriously funny take on A Christmas Carol?"
Bad Moms has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. There are moments of situational life comedy that parents can relate to, but those brief flashes are overwhelmed by repeated attempts to force the titular trio of misbehaving mommies (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell) into overlong and undercooked vignettes that fall flat.
Several of the key "bad" moments also are borderline criminal acts that rightfully should have landed all three women in jail.
In one scene, the moms invade a local grocery store and wreak havoc, opening food, mixing liquor with juice and guzzling it down and basically vandalizing aisle after aisle with little regard for consequence or reprisal. That would never happen in real life.
And there’s a continuing series of moments where Kunis is driving her ex-husband’s sports car like Mario Andretti down residential roads, burning rubber around corners and hopping curbs without ever once being pulled over by a patrol officer for reckless driving.
The core story of Bad Moms has promise: Kunis’ Amy and her two cohorts, one single mother always on the prowl (Hahn) and one submissive mother overwhelmed by multiple babies (Bell), decide enough is enough when there are confronted by the overbearing, rule-making, catty-aside-spewing Mean Moms, led by Christina Applegate and featuring Jada Pinkett Smith in an oddly reserved supporting role.
If Bad Moms was a more intelligent film, it would have mined the ridiculous obligations of working mothers in the 21st century to subvert and deconstruct traditional expectations. If Election can create a masterful tale of struggle between an over-achieving high schooler and a jealous educator, why can’t a movie like Bad Moms flip the script on conventional gross-out comedies and do the same for soccer practice, bake sales and PTA elections?
That said, BVB did suffer through the entire film just to warn you not to follow the same path.
If you want a great comedy about people trying and failing to juggle parenthood with hilarious results, this is not that movie. For that, we would recommend you travel all the way back to 1983 and re-watch Mr. Mom. At least Michael Keaton was smart enough to engage in a round of strip poker with his mammary clan.
Directed by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Run time: 100 minutes
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks : Yeah, Mila Kunis is hot, but Christina Applegate ruled Ron Burgundy’s whore island.
Drug use: Surprisingly, no.
Bad Guys/Killers: PTA Moms.
Released: November 1, 2016
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