Let’s kick off the Texas Frightmare movie reviews with the one I liked the most. As you can read, that would be Last Girl Standing. Here’s your mandatory one sentence warning about spoilers… that means if you hate knowing anything, stop reading, back out of this post, and maybe read something else. Okay, cool… here we go.
Last Girl Standing, enjoyable on all levels, deals with the ramifications of surviving a serial killer. 1995s Copycat, which starred Sigourney Weaver, touches on this a little bit. If you remember, her character, Dr. Helen Hudson, is attacked by Daryll Lee Cullum and the trauma of the experience turns her into an agoraphobic. That, of course, plays into her ability to deal with the things happening to her during the movie.
But that’s where the similarities end.
In Last Girl Standing, the movie begins with Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) in the final fight with serial killer, “The Hunter.” The opening sequence is shot well and touches on all the slasher lore horror fans will love: elaborate traps, numerous dead bodies staged in a single location, weird crafted stick art, a masked killer built like a Mack Truck. Of course, after suffering several wounds, Camryn invariably wins and walks away with her life and her scars.
The movie time jumps five years ahead and morphs from slasher flick to psychological thriller as Camryn, living alone and working in a dry cleaners, has found a routine that works for her. She’s withdrawn herself from life, hardly talking to anyone at her job, and certainly no one outside there. She’s still jittery, nervous, afraid of shadows and noises.
In just a few minutes, writer/director Benjamin R. Moody and actress Akasha Villalobos are able to convey a profound sense of isolation and loneliness. But Camryn is human and, as we all know, humans crave attention, socialization, love, and affection. We need contact with others, both physical and emotional, so we enter Nick (Brian Villalobos), who starts working at the dry cleaner and forms an instant attraction with Camryn.
And as soon as she recognizes this, Camryn starts seeing little flashes of the The Hunter: shadows moving, him out of the corner of her eye, weird stick art left behind. Nick is there to help her through some of this, and Camryn is introduced to his circle of friends, which of course reminds her of the ones she couldn’t save from The Hunter. But despite herself, Camryn finds herself bonding with them, especially Danielle, played by Danielle Evon Ploeger.
The movie builds here, playing on the tropes of the slasher and psychological thriller genres. Is The Hunter back from the dead, an unkillable monster in the vein of Michael Myers? Is it Nick? Can she trust him? Can we, as the audience, trust him? Or is Camryn just a little crazy? Or a lot crazy? Is she seeing The Hunter where there’s nothing? Camryn believes all her new friends and in danger and we have the usual dead hanging animals, a chase scene in a club, and the friends divided over whether Camryn is nuts or not. We even dig up bodies and burn corpses in what is actually a powerful bonding scene between Camryn and Danielle.
Now, here’s your very last warning about spoilers, because this is where we get into it. And by it, I mean the end game, and what’s actually what. Turn away, ye of weak stomach and undigested movie morsels…
In the climactic scene, Camryn is having a moment with Nick, one we’ve all been waiting for, when The Hunter steps into the room. He approaches, Camryn finds a weapon, and goes after him. Hack.. HAck… HACk… HACK! And then we see that (basically) Camryn is suffering from PTSD and she’s projecting her fear of living onto everyone else, and that she feels completely unsafe and she’s just murdered Nick. Another person enters the room and, unnecessarily, we see the person and then said person turns into The Hunter.
A bloodbath ensues as Camryn starts seeing The Hunter in everyone.
Now, naturally, Camryn cannot be the Last Girl Standing twice and she’s done in by one of the friends. I’m not going to say which one does her in, you’ll have to watch the movie for that. That said, the last shot disappointed me.
The very end has the survivor seeing Camryn, much the same way Camryn saw The Hunter, implying the cycle would start again. Two things about this bothered me: 1) not everyone deals with traumatic experiences the same way. Why would the new survivor react in the exact same way Camryn did? Why couldn’t she process the grief and live a happy life? Not that we’d see it, but looking at it in that vein, it’s like we had to have the typical “slasher returns” ending. 2) The end could be construed as supernatural in origin. So, maybe it wasn’t really Camryn losing her mind after suffering from PTSD, but The Hunter’s spirit taking her over and now he’s jumped to the new survivor. I don’t believe that’s the case–the movie was far more grounded than that–but it’s certainly a possibility. Perhaps that’s what Moody intended. If so, for me that devalues the entire movie’s interesting, and much needed, view on PTSD.
I usually rate movies out of 5 stars, and focusing on the thematic issues, the acting, and the relatively well produced film, I give Last Girl Standing 4 of 5 stars. If you like horror and it doesn’t have to be high-end glammed out PG-13 Hollywood fare, you’ll dig this flick and you should definitely check it out.