A girl runs panicked through the woods, her clothes soaked in blood. She stumbles upon a clearing where her friends have all been brutally murdered. After a brief confrontation with the creepily-attired killer, she escapes, wounded but alive.
Where most often a scene like this would trigger the closing credits of a slasher film, in Last Girl Standing this all transpires before the opening title. The film’s ingenious central idea is to examine the character of the ‘final girl’, expanding on the archetype by following her into life after the rampage she survived. What follows is a film that plays out as a darkly affecting character study, where the accent is mostly placed on horror of the psychological persuasion.
A few years on, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) works at a laundromat, living a pretty subdued existence and evidently still plagued by the memory of her trauma. This, while mostly pretty tastefully handled, is probably evidenced slightly too often with shots of her waking with a start from nightmares. She’s introduced to new workmate Nick (Brian Villalobos), and shortly after she seems to hallucinate being stalked by the serial killer she so convincingly despatched in the film’s opening. From here, she tentatively forms a friendship with Nick, and while he and his friends attempt to support her through the problems she’s having, her visions and paranoia worsen, and her new friends begin to question exactly what they’ve let themselves in for.
Last Girl Standing is bolstered by a mostly convincing set of central performances (most notably from Brian Villalobos as Nick, and Danielle Evon Ploeger as Danielle, Camyrn’s closest confidante) and a nicely authentic script, but slips up in a couple of areas too: the mostly effective ending is hampered somewhat by the plot being needlessly over-explained through the medium of maniacal shouting, and there’s an element of repetition to the second-act scares. That being said, it’s difficult to criticise Last Girl Standing too harshly for not quite reaching its full potential: it’s an impressive, accomplished, well-acted piece of work that offers the slasher genre a refreshingly original, indie-flavoured shot in the arm. Impressive stuff.