Though horror has been my lifelong genre of choice, I'm tickled shitless when any movie from any genre is as good as I hope it will be. It doesn't happen as often as I would like. I'm more likely to find myself relieved when a movie isn't as bad as I fear it could be, and that's a sad commentary. Whether that's a sad commentary on what a miserable, jaded bastard I've become or on the general state of modern filmmaking is up for debate.
More specifically, what most often separates the good movies from the bad for me is whether or not the movie makes me feel something - anything, really. One of the primary reasons I've always been drawn to horror movies is that the best ones make you feel some of the deepest and most primal of human emotions. The worst ones make one wonder how filmmakers so frequently fail to recognize the importance of those identifiably human emotions to effective storytelling. This may come as a surprise given the Dog Farm's pedigree (pun intended), but I love a good cinematic tearjerker as much as a good horror movie - and for precisely the same reasons.
I've been absent from the Dog Farm for a few months, and I now realize it was at least partially because my enthusiasm had been eroded of late by too many hollow spectacles and too few displays of real human emotion. I don't think I consciously realized that until tonight, when a new release provided me the nourishment my cinematic diet had been lacking for so long. Color me surprised that the movie in question was director Todd Strauss-Schulson's new comedy The Final Girls (2015), a very meta (and very funny) riff on slasher movie tropes that has more heart than any movie born of such an emotionally shallow sub-genre has a right to. The Final Girls gets almost everything right, but it's most crucial success lies in the fact that it has the good sense to realize the importance - even in a goofy horror/comedy - of building on a solid foundation of identifiable human emotion.
The Final Girls is perfectly cast, cleverly written, and beautifully shot, but its biggest triumph is the mother/daughter relationship at its core. Taissa Farmiga (Amercian Horror Story) and Malin Ackerman (Cottage Country) make that relationship ring true even amidst all the silliness, and having a beating human heart beneath the levity raises the movie's game on all levels. Delightful. Truly delightful.
I'm not going to thoroughly review The Final Girls here because there are already about a gazillion reviews online, and that's not what this post is really about anyway. What this post is really about is how I lost my enthusiasm for one of the things I love most, and how one low budget horror/comedy done right restored it. If you become disenchanted with the movies too, hang in there. A good one will surface sooner or later that restores your faith, reminding you once again why you loved movies in the first place. And it probably won't be the one you would expect, either.