Last Girl Standing
Directed by: Benjamin R. Moody
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: There’s a thrill that comes from watching a young director’s first full-length feature and witnessing everything click into place.
The script. The performances. The effects. The music.
There are so many moving components to filmmaking, so many opportunities for error, so many fundamental and basic processes to master. Important, each and every one, but what it really comes down to is the most basic of basic building blocks: The story, stupid.
And from that tiny seed of an idea, writer-director Benjamin R. Moody has crafted a genre film that deconstructs its genre entirely and then repurposes it into something wholly fresh and new, so much so that the traditional audience expectation is flipped, confounded and, ultimately, elevated to a new height.
World, meet Last Girl Standing.
This is a film that starts where most others end – with the final girl finally squaring off against a deranged lunatic killer from Hell. And where it goes from there, well, let’s say it’s pretty damn fantastic.
How many other movies have even bothered to consider what happens once the horror ends? Sure, the final girl survives, but how dramatically is her life changed by the experience of besting a vicious sociopath and watching everyone she loves die horrible deaths?
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 for 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 friend 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 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 very real. These are people you know, which makes what happens 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 effed-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 clever.
Run, don’t walk, to find this movie now. Just remember to tell everyone that BVB told you about it first!
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Gratuitous.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The Hunter.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Star Trek Beyond (Paramount, 122 minutes, PG-13, 3D Blu-Ray): Rest easy, Trekkies, your beloved franchise is in good hands.
Following two feature films by J.J. Abrams, which reinvigorated the stale USS Enterprise, and delivered a bounty of new adventures courtesy of a younger Starfleet crew, the third film in this new universe was handed off to Justin Lin (Fast & Furious franchise).
Lin has delivered a solid entry into the Star Trek canon by focusing both on an existential crisis of faith facing Captain James Kirk and Mr. Spock, and by deftly staging some standout action sequences.
The script, co-written by Simon Pegg, has fun with its source material. In one of his Captain’s Logs, Kirk wearily sighs that his space adventures are beginning to feel episodic. But it never ventures into camp or makes fun of the lasting legacy of these characters that dates back decades.
Star Trek Beyond is pure popcorn fun. It has really cool creatures, some visually dazzling backdrops and enough interpersonal issues to fill a therapist’s calendar for a year.
Beam me up for the next mission. This franchise still has legs!
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze
Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One
The IT Crowd: The Complete Series
Reign of Assassins
The Lost Bladesman
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
The Sea of Trees
Hell on Wheels: Season Five – Volume 2 – The Final Episodes
Outlander: Season Two
Not to be Overlooked:
Sometimes, BVB receives so many good-looking movies, both New Releases and Re-Issues, that we simply can't watch them all, but that doesn't mean they should go ignored by you guys at home!
Here are four recent titles that look pretty rad.
Tales of Poe (Wild Eye Releasing, 120 minutes, Unrated, DVD)
We Are Twisted F***ing Sister (Music Box Films, 134 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray)
The Model (Passion River Films, 105 minutes, Unrated, DVD)
Body Snatchers (Warner Archive, 87 minutes, R, Blu-Ray)