Last Girl Standing
The slasher sub-genre has been old since the end of the 80s. The typical tale of a group of often obnoxious, stoned or drunk, sex-crazed college kids with one smart, semi-soiled “final girl” to survive has run its course. The hackneyed stories are comprised of killers on a mission to slice-and-dice youngsters without much logic. The usually masked murderers walk slow yet still manage to be right behind their screaming victims, show no emotion (unless they’re of the Freddy Kruger one-liner variety), and can take a ton of damage like a tank and keep on comin’. And every death scene must be wilder than the last to satisfy gore hounds. But along comes writer/director Benjamin R. Moody with Last Girl Standing, and his new twist on the old narrative.
Last Girl Standing begins where most slashers end: with the “final girl.” Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) has survived “The Hunter” (Jason Vines), but her nightmare continues. Camryn suffers from the horrors of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt, and can’t get her life going. She’s lived alone in an apartment for years, but due to her terrified mental state, hasn’t opened boxes or hung pictures. Camryn’s locked in a state of perpetual paranoia and can’t gain any traction in her daily struggle to attain pre-murder spree normalcy.
It’s only when Nick (played by her real-life husband, Brian Villalobos) gets a job at the cleaners where she works does she feel a little stronger due to his kindness and a burgeoning attraction. She even meets some of his friends and slowly becomes a part of the troupe as she tests the waters of becoming social once again. But Camryn’s problems run deep, and we’re not sure if she’s suddenly seeing followers of “The Hunter” or if she’s hallucinating. The presence of The Hunter stalks her at work and whenever she tries to make time with Nick and company. The only thing we know for certain is that this final girl will do everything in her power to protect her newfound friends.
The beauty of Last Girl Standing, besides a different story, is its realism. Cinematographer, Travis Jones creates an atmosphere akin to something from a found footage film: it feels a bit raw and far more sincere than any over-stylized film. The camera angles are strong, keeping us right where we need to be in any scene, and Travis does a great job incorporating light and shadow to set the mood.
The acting’s honest as well. Akasha Villalobos must have been exhausted portraying a woman on edge fighting for her sanity. Other standouts in the feature were Brian (think a young Chris Sarandon) and Ryan Hamilton.
Last Girl Standing isn’t full of stock, cardboard characters hellbent on partying or getting laid. That does exist, but not in the over-the-top fashion we’ve come to expect in the subgenre. Kelsey Pribilski does portray the self-absorbed “bitch,” Maelyn but it doesn’t mean she’s always off the mark. Her nasty behavior’s more reflective of frank commentary in lieu of taking simple potshots at people.
Music adds punch to the tale and enhances the mood and on-screen imagery with great work from Øfdream, Prints, Hex Dispensers, and OOFJ, among others.
Benjamin R. Moody, along with cast and crew, brought everything together to breathe fresh life into a moribund sub-genre. And “everything” includes a strong finish that should impress jaded horror fans. Whether you like this well-crafted, low-budget independent film, one can’t deny that it may inspire other filmmakers to bring a new and smart approach to slasher films.
There’s no better way to launch into “Women in Horror” month than giving Last Girl Standing a watch…
Share your favorite’s, and maybe they’ll find themselves on the next list…
Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk)
He loves great, in-depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, IMDb, Amazon, Behance, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.
(Photo of Last Girl Standing from Last Girl Standing.)