Every October, old slasher movies and creature features of days gone by are brought back to prominence, as classics like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street become essential viewing on moonlit Saturday nights. The dread of what’s lurking around the corner, the ominous knowledge that any carnal activity will surely be punished, and the inevitable glee when blood is finally spilled; it’s all part of the Halloween spirit, letting us play voyeur to unspeakable acts and immerse ourselves in the allure of the final girl.
The School of Night and writer/director Christopher Johnson pays homage to these gore-fests with their latest production, The Final Girl, a terrifyingly hilarious, camp-filled performance that brings classic horror to L.A.’s McCadden Place Theater. This is the story of Smalltown, USA’s Victoria Vahtes (Andrea Nelson), whose family and friends were brutally murdered by a masked psychopath in 1978. Six years later, a female vigilante (the titular Final Girl) is offing similar killers mid-spree, while Vahtes’ psychiatrist (Kristin Carey) thinks her client may well be the one exacting revenge.
Much like its predecessors, The Final Girl doesn’t take itself too seriously. The tone is gory but light, violent but hilarious. But that’s not to say the show spares any expense in showing off its horror chops. All of the tropes of your favorite scary movies of the past are here in spades; composer and sound designer Ryan Beveridge crafts not only an appropriately retro, synth-heavy soundtrack, but also plenty of startling jump scares, while producer and fight choreographer Jen Albert imbues the performance with several adrenaline-pumping martial arts-based fight scenes.
The Final Girl doesn’t just pay lip service to the pre-Netflix era of campy splatterhouse films either. While the show is a traditional stage play, the efforts of lighting designer Brandon Baruch and projection designer Corwin Evans come together to cleverly replicate the experience of enjoying an obscure horror title on the big screen, right down to the super-stylized credits sequences bookending the production. It’s an innovative technique, and one that makes the entire show exponentially more fun.
The technical aspects of the show, impressive as they are, serve only to complement the efforts of an absolutely astounding cast. Nelson is a legitimate threat that transcends revenge tales like I Spit On Your Grave, and while the most obvious comparison might be Halloween’s Laurie Strode, her badass stoicism has much more in common with action stars like Alien’s Ripley.
Starring opposite Nelson is Eric Rollins, who plays the hulking behemoth Wayne Walton with the type of sheer aggression and ruthlessness that would make Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers proud, while Carey’s constantly gun-brandishing Dr. Harriet Gordon Lewis is a perfect twist on the Dr. Loomis archetype.
As Vahtes hunts Walton, the plot twists and turns en route to its heart-pounding finale, with plenty of sex and violence along the way, not just paying tribute to classic slasher flicks, but becoming one of its very own. Rather than streaming a favorite from decades ago, horror fans should spend a night this Halloween season enjoying the frightful fun of The Final Girl.
For more information on The Final Girl and The School of Night, visit http://schoolofnight.org/