Available on Amazon Video
What happens after the horror movie? Well I guess somewhere, somebody might have asked that and for once they weren’t talking about binge watching sequels. But I presume the answer is a lot of prescription drugs and a shaky mental state for starters. The question is posed by the poster tagline right up front there, though you might suspect the answer is… another horror movie. The artwork doesn’t exactly suggest this will be a serious look at any grounded post-traumatic stress disorder type issues after all. There are no docudrama style studies to be found here. But it’s a film that tries its hand at a few different ideas, with varying effectiveness. Will there be any catharsis or a few couch sessions perhaps? Well I will get to that soon enough.
Last Girl Standing opens with your common or garden camp fire slasher sequence, complete with a masked serial killer and a lot of dead teens. The ‘Hunter’ as he becomes known to the press chases the last of the campers through the trees as we see the aftermath of his latest outing. The mask design is effective enough, though the hints of the killer’s interest in ritual totems and ceremonial blood letting could have been explored a little better. But this isn’t really about that, which is a shame. In the final moments Cameryn (Akasha Villalobos) gets the better of him and escapes from the woods into the breaking daylight just in time to stop a passing car and lose her mind a little. You know the drill. But it’s not over yet and as the opening credits roll five years pass by, as highlighted by a few handy newspaper headlines and crime report close-ups.
Our lead soon finds herself in a new nightmare – a day job at the local dry cleaners. The location lends itself to her post therapy mindset, it’s grey and drab, not all the staff members speak English, and this sense of lonely isolation is a good starting point for the story. The awkward and mundane grind is interrupted however when she begins to see the killer during a late night overtime session. Or does she? The first act introduces Nick (Brian Villalobos) the newest employee at the place, and after Cameryn’s old wounds are re-opened he does what he can to integrate her with his house-mates. While her vaguely catatonic state doesn’t make for a compelling narrative, things pick up once the other characters are introduced. Her efforts to fit in with a new crowd have some charm, and the cast are pretty naturalistic for a bunch of students, even if their shenanigans are less than gripping horror material. It’s not always great acting, but most of it works. They fit in a few standard clichés such as quirky artist, a dippy spiritualist, ad drunken waste of space; you get the idea. But all this stuff is pretty meandering and uneventful, and it takes too long for the generic flashbacks and nightmare moments to come along with any meaningful results.
It’s clear that Cameryn has a lot of baggage to deal with, and it’s not helping that her apartment has boxes of case files and newspaper clippings about her harrowing experience. (Though how she acquired all these police photos is a mystery in itself.) That map with the killers ‘unmarked’ grave on isn’t going to do her any favours either. It’s too obvious from the outset that her issues are the focus here, and rather than them being portrayed in a realistic way it just starts to point towards the way things will end far too soon. As a thriller the sound effects and music are pretty atmospheric in places, but the flat lighting and lack of tension building does it no favours, even during moments of sudden drama. The violence and special effects are all fine once things kick into gear for the climax, but the plot elements never converge into anything particularly satisfying. Fleeting moments of real human drama become overshadowed by silly schlock and gore which undermine the little hints of character development.
This is the real missed opportunity here, because there are moments when the story elements about dealing with grief and getting closure on a tragedy are given some real focus. There’s a great little road trip sequence in which the two leading ladies try and work things out for the better. But like the music used in this scene it feels like another movie suddenly landed before the rest of the story comes back around, and it doesn’t really mesh at all. Mystic River this is not. If you’re looking for some cartoonish mental breakdowns and a few bloody slasher scenes then it sort of delivers on that front, but in terms of the stronger ideas being grasped here I’m afraid they just aren’t utilised properly at all.