Some moviegoers like to think that the story isn’t really over once the credits roll. Be it superheroes, Disney princesses or even talking animals, some of us like to imagine what might happen to our favorite fictional characters next. Slasher movies, however, are usually a different story. Outside of a few examples like Friday the 13th’s Tommy Jarvis or (to some extent) Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, few filmmakers are interested in what happens once the killer is defeated. Last Girl Standing, Benjamin R. Moody’s first feature film, chooses to focus solely on a final girl’s not-so-happily ever after, with terrific results.
The plot revolves around Camyrn, played by Akasha Villalobos, the sole survivor of a horrific massacre that claimed the lives of all her friends. She struggles to keep her head as she’s haunted by visions of The Hunter, the masked murderer she managed to kill in order to escape. After apparently being attacked at her workplace, she reluctantly befriends Nick and Danielle, played by Brian Villalobos and Danielle Evon Ploeger. Introduced to a new circle of friends, Camyrn is afraid the killer is back from the dead and eager for more victims while her friends wonder if she’s just going insane.
Storywise, it’s a simple script, but it’s also filled with sympathetic characters and believable reactions that make this a memorable film. A lot of time is devoted to simply getting to know these people and their struggles, which makes the grueling climax all the more impactful. Though the dialogue and line delivery was a bit stilted at times, the actors did all they could to breathe life into these characters with such a low-budget venture. Danielle and Akasha, however, really stand out with the most convincing and professional performances in the movie.
Moody obviously did his homework before stepping into the director’s seat, riddling the film with numerous subtle nods to some of the best slashers of yesteryear. Though the movie focused more on the dramatic elements of the story, there were some serviceable horrific scenes peppered throughout. The hallucination and chase scenes weren’t bad, but they could have benefited from a larger budget. The masked killer especially doesn’t look very frightening, with the costume looking like it was cobbled together on the spot from what the crew had lying around in the basement. The ending is also lacking in energy, especially considering how emotional the set up was. Ultimately, these flaws don’t ruin the film, especially since they’re not the main focus, but it would have been much better without them.
I’m actually familiar with some of the director’s earlier videogame-related shorts (Skyrim Intervention comes to mind), and watching those it’s clear Moody has a talent for turning small budgets into an excuse to focus almost exclusively on character. It’s a welcome change of pace compared to the usual disposable cardboard cutouts that populate most slasher films, but the action scenes need some work. Last Girl Standing is a captivating depiction of survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress, and a very entertaining movie if you don’t mind focusing more on emotion than the kill count.