What I'm Watching: Last Girl
Oh look it's yet another found footage movie. I know, I'm the one who keeps buying them so I only have myself to blame. So, what do we got THIS time?
Last Girl is about an urban legend, a series of videos depicting the brutal torture and slayings of young women. These videos circulate on the underground circuit, turning up as bootlegs and at conventions, fetching hefty prices for their lurid images. But it all came to a close when #12's tape came out.
This is the story of #12, the Last Girl, whose tape was acquired by the filmmakers behind this movie, and edited together with some of the other tapes to beef up the runtime.
Now, all that backstory and mythology comes from a press release, and very, very little of it is from the actual movie. I wish it HAD been in the movie, because it would've made the actual proceedings that much more interesting, and the final product needed that meat somehow added to the stew.
As it is, the movie takes awhile to get going. The selling point is #12's plight, clearly. Instead, we spend about 10-13 minutes watching some of the other videos, and most of the rest of that time watching a husband get coerced into going somewhere to do something; which we eventually find out is the kidnapping part of #12's story, whom he meets in a hotel room as a prostitute.
She sees the camera, knows what it means, why he's there, and freaks out. He calms her down, but still has to do it to save his wife, and takes her to an abandoned building, where her torment begins, torment he gets sucked into as he is further coerced, until his conscience takes hold once more, and he kills the man torturing #12, finally kicking in the story we're here for.
Which actually is really, really tense. Once #12 is taken, there's a palpable sense of ongoing dread that never lets up. The only problem is, if you take a moment to pause and think about what you're watching. In that moment you realise, "Wait...I'm watching a first person view of someone running around an abandoned building. You see a LOT of walls, and stairs, and crap and junk. And occasionally the other person who isn't using the camera will run in front of it and interact with whomever still is holding it, be it the Husband, or #12.
Now, yes, there is the usual problem of PUT THE CAMERA DOWN but at least there's a thin idea here that the camera has a light attached to it, allowing them to actually see where they're going, and any filming is incidental and accidental to them using the lights on the camera. I can JUST about buy into that, thankfully enough for this plot.
It does have that usual good vibe of making you feel like you're part of the movie, as #12 or the Husband interacts with the person behind the camera, sometimes putting you in that role as they try and make their escape.
But there's really not a lot to this movie, just a lot of running and hiding from all the people of this secretive group, and rushing up stairs to try and escape. This movie really should not work as well as it does, and I don't quite know what makes it work. Part of it is that long time I grumpled about at the start where we sympathsie with the Husband, coerced into doing this to save his wife. And you feel for #12, who was in the wrong hotel room at the wrong time, but she sadly doesn't get a lot of characterisation, and is largely reduced to running.
Another reason this works, is because of the found footage aspect of it, putting you in that active viewer role, where you kinda get into it like you're behind the camera, and once they're escaping, keeping things moving helps. But again, once you stop to think about that second half, you do realise there's not a lot there besides running.
It's not a great found footage movie, since the story is light, and it's very straightforward, but it finds a way to work in that simplicity. It's short enough at 80ish minutes that it's not too terrible to sit through, and if you want something on the exploitation side of things, that's pretty lurid but light, and with a lot of running...well, this actually isn't that bad to watch. It's well made, for what it is, and I have some other reasons for enjoying it.
I hope I've talked you into watching this, if you were mildly interested in it, because the thing that REALLY sold me on this movie, I do not want to talk about at all. I urge you, if you have any interest in seeing Last Girl, stop reading and go do so. I am about to spoil the end of the movie, and I really really do not want to ruin it, even though the trailer kinda already did that, and I hate it for that. If you can go into this movie fresh, the last few moments are actually borderline amazing.
After the Husband dies, #12 takes the camera and continues her climb to attempted freedom, and after some more mishaps, finds herself on the roof.
Now, as you can imagine, when trying to escape people, being on a roof is...not the best place to be, and the same goes for #12. But she's determined to rob whatever victory she can from these monsters, and turns the camera on herself, addressing the audience directly.
She tells the people watching the tape, the future people who might buy it, that she's not some actress, this is *real* not some movie. Is this what you want? You want to be entertained?? Well, fuck you, show's over...and she jumps.
Hoooly crap. I love, love love LOVE busting through the fourth wall like that, and this may be my favourite instance of it. It takes the found footage genre, it takes horror movies and their treatment of women, it takes the audience sitting down to watch these things for entertainment, and stares you RIGHT in the face, literally, and tells you how sick this is, and takes that enjoyment right away from you.
The movie may be a lot of running for a lot of its time, but when you end with a message like that, and send it straight down the barrel of the lens, directly to the audience, speaking right at them, no denying it...that is really, really amazing. I wish I could talk about it better without spoiling it at all, because that alone is worth sitting through the movie for, but if you see it coming, why bother?
If the movie had more of its mythology actually IN the movie somehow, if it didn't feel quite so padded with all its chasing, regardless of how well shot it is, with an ending that powerful, this movie would be a must see. I still say it's close, but instead, this is likely to be relegated to cult film status, with a small following, if that. Last Girl deserves more than that, and it's a shame the rest of the movie isn't quite as brilliant as its final moments.
But it is rare when a found footage movie has me saying the *ending* is the best part. Usually it's the bulk of the movie that's great, and the endings piss me off. I won't say this movie is the reverse of that, but after an okay movie, the ending was the strongest part of it, by far.
It's hard to recommend because of it's tormenting content and treatment of #12 (But that IS the point here, at the same time), and it's straightforward, basic story, but I do urge people to go out and seek this, because it stumbled into being very unique, and using the format to its advantage in the end.
And yeah, I'm going in circles, but the ending is super important to this story, and your perception of it. But I'm done! Check out Last Girl!