Written and directed by Benjamin R Moody, this 2015 film examines what happens to the survivors of horror movies.
It opens to the climactic chase and battle between pretty Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) and a masked killer. They're in the woods, it's night, and Camryn is soon stumbling across the bloodied corpses of her pals - which the killer has thoughtfully arranged against trees and the like for her maximum distress. You know how it goes.
Battered and stabbed, Camryn eventually gets the better of her assailant and sees him impaled. She wanders off into the night and is picked up, dazed, by a passing driver on the highway the following day.
That's where most horror films would end. But this is just the beginning of Moody's yarn. When we next meet Camryn, five years down the line, she's developed into a nervous loner, haunted by nightmares and reminded of her traumatic past daily by the scars on her body. She can't even brush her teeth without thinking someone's lurking behind her shower curtain, waiting to pounce.
Camryn does at least manage to hold down a job in a local dry cleaners. It's here that she meets new co-worker Nick (Brian Villalobos - Akasha's offscreen husband), who clearly takes an instant shine to her.
When Camryn is asked by her boss to stay back late one night and lock up the shop after finishing a last-minute job, she's "attacked" by a masked maniac. Only, when Nick returns for the mobile 'phone he's misplaced earlier, there is no sign of the intruder. The police are called anyway and, despite being unable to locate evidence of any break-in, are concerned for Camryn's welfare that night: does she have anyone she can stay with? Nick suggests she stays with him and his roommates. Camryn agrees.
And so, Nick drives them back to his place, where we meet roomies Tyler (J D Carrera) and Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger), along with unofficial lodgers Mae (Kelsey Pribilski), Hannah (Laura Ray) and Griffin (Ryan Hamilton). These are a friendly, outgoing - read, annoying - bunch of twentysomethings, who like to gather round the couch and share unfunny stories over drinks. Camryn stays the night regardless.
The relationship between Nick and Camryn grows awkwardly at work, her neurotic disposition and miserable manner - not to mention her waking nightmares of being stalked in the workplace by her masked assailant - making things less than easy for her would-be suitor. But he's got perseverance.
He's also determined to integrate her into his group of friends. This becomes more feasible when it occurs to her that the killer who may or may not be stalking her (real or no real, that is the question) is not after her at all, but Nick's pals...
LAST GIRL STANDING is an odd proposition. It begins as a slasher before slowing down and turning into an indie-style character study with a cast of slacker-types and iffy handheld camerawork during the friends' cringe-worthy conversational scenes.
It's well-lit and the editing is adroit; performances are adequate, with Brian Villalobos and Ploeger taking top honours in this regard. But there are a couple of major, unavoidable flaws which need addressing here...
Firstly, it's inconceivable that any bunch of friends - no matter how nice - would welcome someone as dour and "hard work" as Camryn into their fold. And, for a film that builds ... slowly ... towards a twist climax, unfortunately ninety-nine percent of the population will have sussed the revelation to come by approximately twenty minutes into proceedings.
Some decent practical gore bookends the action, but it's nothing so remarkable as to make the film unmissable. LAST GIRL STANDING takes an intriguing premise and falls short in the execution, I'm afraid.
The film comes to UK DVD uncut courtesy of ICON Entertainment, and forms part of their FrightFest Presents brand.
A healthy transfer presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and enhances the picture for 16x9 televisions. Colours are warm, blacks are deep and detail is impressive throughout.
English audio comes in options of 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Although the latter has a more robust bassy end, it sounded a little artificial to these ears in terms of channel separation: the 2.0 mix was a more authentic-sounding, even affair.
Optional English subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing. These are well-written and easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a static scene selection option allows access to the film via 12 chapters.
Extras begin with an optional 2-minute video introduction from Alan Jones.
We also get an audio commentary track from the affable writer-director and his wife Rachel, who acted as co-producer on the film. It's a decent track, offering plenty of insight into both the film's themes and its actual shoot.
An interview with Moody, conducted at the 2015 NYC Horror Film Festival, follows. This is a well-shot 7-minute proffering. Inevitably some of the same ground as the commentary track is covered - how this began as a short film project to begin with - but it's still worthy stuff.
5 minutes of fly-on-the-wall-type behind-the-scenes footage is pretty interesting; 4 minutes of outtakes serve to prove that the film was more fun to make than it appeared to be.
Finally we get trailers for fellow FrightFest titles THE UNFOLDING, CURTAIN, LANDMINES GO CLICK and THE LESSON.
LAST GIRL STANDING is a slickly mounted, well-edited and decently performed film. The initial premise is a novel, interesting one. But the film is predictable and laboured. It's still worth a watch, and ICON have furnished it with a highly credible DVD release.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by ICON Entertainment|
|see main review|