Last Girl Standing (2015) Review

lgs1Last Girl Standing (USA, 2015)

Dir: Benjamin R. Moody

Starring: Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos

UK Release TBC

Plot: After surviving the brutal massacre of The Hunter, a slasher movie style masked killer who wiped out all her friends, Camryn (Villalobos) is just trying to get on with her life. She struggles to move on, avoiding making friends at the dry cleaners she works at, and still living out of boxes at home. That is until Nick (Villalobos) starts working the counter at the dry cleaners. The two end up getting closer and Camryn meets Nick’s friends. Her new friends are in trouble though when Camryn starts seeing The Hunter stalking them and her fears that history might be repeating it self start to mount.

Last Girl Standing takes the archetypal Final Girl of the slasher movie sub-genre and shows us just what happens to that girl when she doesn’t find herself in a franchise of 5 or more films (How will she ever get to go to space if not for some seventh instalment?) and instead goes down a route of Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD. Another horror that takes the challenge of mixing horror with mental illness. It’s a trickier feat these days because it’s getting less and less acceptable to say “He’s crazy and that’s why he kills” without being an insensitive asshole these days.

lgs3Camryn is clearly a traumatised woman and her self-inflicted isolation doesn’t seem to be helping her condition, especially when she starts catching glimpses of The Hunter despite the fact that she saw him die. Last Girl Standing attempts to show the support friendship can offer through Camryn’s interactions with characters like Nick and Danielle (Evon). However when things go bad, it starts to get awfully close to the line of tastefulness, Camryn’s mental problems and violence don’t look good if it’s supposed to represent how PTSD manifests itself.

While it’s not an impossibility that the traumatic events of her past have effected her, most violent people do come from some past abuse, it doesn’t quite feel enough to make her actions feel justified. However films are not here to show us what the realms of probability and logic are and Last Girl Standing takes us along for a ride where violence perpetuates violence as Camryn struggles to escape her trauma.

Aside from it’s depiction of mental illness, Last Girl Standing is notable for it’s spin on the Slasher movie sub-genre. It’s not so openly meta as films like Scream or Cabin in the woods. It strives to create it’s own mythos rather than borrow from films like Friday the 13th . There is no screaming about people running up stairs when they should be going down them. This film is all about the Final Girl, and yet there’s no reference to things like her being a virgin or anything as cliché as that. Camryn is physically strong, it’s what helped her survive, but it’s the cracks in her mental well-being that make her an interesting character.

lgs2Last Girl Standing is a film all slasher movie fans should watch, an interesting film that stands out amongst all the love-letter slasher homages that keep trying to create the next Freddy Kreuger but ultimately has us watching another two hours of people running around the woods. Last Girl Standing tells us a new story, what happens next.


Cherry Tree (2015) Review

cherrytree1Cherry Tree (Ireland, 2015)

Dir: David Keating

Starring: Naomi Battrick, Sam Hazeldine, Anna Walton

UK release TBC from Studio Canal

Plot:Faith (Battrick), a bullied teenager, is worried about her Dad (Hazeldine). He’s suffering from leukaemia and treatment isn’t going well. When it looks like it might be terminal, Faith is approached by Sissy (Walton), Faith’s hockey coach and secretly the head of an ancient witches coven that has haunted the town for generations.Faith makes a deal with Sissy, Sissy will save her father but at the expense that Faith has a baby. There is treachery and Satanic dealings and it’s unclear if Faith can save her Dad, or herself.

This is the film that opened this year’s Film4 FrightFest and from the get-go it seemed like an odd choice. It’s not a film that I could get excited about, I don’t know about other Fright Festers. David Keating is most notable for directed Wake Wood, and that alone didn’t get me hyped.

cherrytree2Cherry Tree has a lot going on, but for me it didn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the biggest fault this film has. So much of the plot of this film is pushed on by convenience because if the characters stopped to think for a second, I doubt they would even get into the mess they get into. It really threw me out of the story early on. Exposition of the witches back story is read out by a character as a school report, and when Sissy approaches Faith to make her deal, she doesn’t hide her witchy ways in the slightest but Faith doesn’t seem to have any problem with that, or being paraded into a spooky dungeon.

The film fights the inconvenience of competent story telling by using tactics like jumping forward in time (twice it jumps forward three weeks) and goofy dialogue (Faith is only pregnant for six weeks because apparently devil babies only require “Six weeks, Six Days, Six hours”. And nobody has any problem with her super-fast pregnancy, or her dad’s instant cancer recovery, or any of the film’s holes.

Cherry Tree isn’t scary, Sissy is a Bond villain who would rather leave Faith to die and continue with her nefarious plans to become powerful than deal with her problems. The mean girl bullies seem more of a threat to Faith than Sissy at times. Also on the topic of the mean girls, Cherry Tree has quite a bit of nudity but in the context of the film, those girls are supposed to be 15-16, and I think that was the creepiest moment of the film.

cherrytree3I just didn’t enjoy Cherry Tree, it’s weak plot never did it for me. Which is a shame because the film looks great. The set design and the make-up effects are fantastic and really give off that folklore feel to the story, but they were not enough to save it. It’s more style than substance and even if it’s illogical plot didn’t ruin your enjoyment,it’s ending is both nonsensical and cheesy is the final nail in the coffin for Cherry Tree.