LAST GIRL STANDING: A Conversation with Rebecca Moody and Benjamin R. Moody – Out NOW on Digital HD and VOD
Five years ago, a masked killer known in the media as ‘The Hunter’ brutally murdered a group of friends. Since then, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos), the lone survivor, has struggled to reclaim her shattered life. Wracked with guilt and paranoia, Camryn leads a depressingly lonely existence until Nick (Brian Villalobos), a new co-worker, befriends Camryn and attempts to integrate her into his group of friends. Just when she might be ready to start a new life, Camryn’s past comes back to haunt her. Can Camryn ever have a life again, or is she destined to be alone? Part slasher movie, part character study, Last Girl Standing is a penetrating and intimate look at what happens to the survivors of horror movies.
To celebrate the Digital HD and VOD release of Last Girl Standing, filmmaking duo Rebecca and Benjamin R. Moody talk about choosing the subject of the film, crafting Camryn and the challenges they faced when making the film...
What made you choose the subject of survival / aftermath as a subject?
BENJAMIN R MOODY (BRM): A combination of inspiration and circumstance. After funding on a bigger film never came through, we decided to focus on something we could self-fund. We kept trying to come up with the classic, one location, first-time horror film setting but nothing spoke to us. I couldn’t find my “voice” in any of it. I love watching that stuff, but I personally couldn’t find anything inspiring to do with it.
It was a week after our son was born, Rachel (producer/wife) and I were stuck at home learning how to be parents and watching non-stop horror movies (new parents do that, right?). In between films, we turned on a slasher marathon already happening on TV and we caught the very end of one. It was a movie I’d seen before, but coming into it at the end with the girl screaming and laughing because she survived, I immediately turned to Rachel and said, “What happens to her now? I’d be so traumatised after that.” We couldn’t stop talking about it that night.
I think I came up with the general tone and story in that first 45 minutes of talking about it. It was more dramatic and subdued (which meant it was something we could probably make on our own dime). It was something we didn’t feel had been explored that much or at least in the way we wanted to explore it. But most importantly, it was something I could find my “voice” in. Unfortunately, horrible things happen all the time, so I think the very idea of surviving and dealing with trauma is something everyone can relate to. I also hate turning on the news and seeing the same bad news happen over and over again. Which got me thinking about horror movies, especially franchises, where basically the same thing happens every time. I suddenly found something worthwhile to explore.
RACHEL MOODY (RM): This is a subject that has always been of interest to us. Over the years, we’ve discussed different story ideas that deal the idea of “what happens after” a traumatic event, but never settled on one that really felt right until Last Girl Standing. I think it’s an intriguing concept because throughout history humans have had to overcome horrific, tragic situations, and I can’t help but wonder how that changes a person. How can they keep living if they’ve lost everything? By using the final girl trope as our entry point and following the conventions of a slasher film, I think we were able to comment on survival and PTSD in an interesting way.
What was the greatest challenge you each faced in the production of Last Girl Standing?
BRM: What do you want? A location falling through? Us being chased off by a tornado? Or a crew member being attacked by a opossum? It was a zero budget movie. I think the only time things weren’t challenging, for me at least, were when the camera was rolling. Everything in between takes was simply crazy. It was a skeleton crew. Maybe even smaller than a skeleton crew. The only reason it worked was because it was a bunch of people I trusted and had been working together for a couple years.
RM: For me, the biggest challenge was that I wasn’t able to be on location during filming. We had a son who was around 6-months-old during production and I couldn’t be away from him for long periods of time. Ben and I have a certain unspoken workflow on a production because we have done over 20 short films together. We each know what we are responsible for and when to help the other person out without ever having to ask for it. So, when we realised that I couldn’t be on location, it made us both nervous. Of course, we had a wonderful crew and everyone filled in where needed. Not that it wasn’t stressful, but we survived and we’re all really proud of the outcome.
Subverting expectation in horror isn’t an easy thing to achieve although Last Girl Standing seems to do it very well - are there any other typical tropes you dislike in horror and seek to challenge?
BRM: In relation to Last Girl Standing, I was trying to be the most mindful of women in horror and not being overtly meta. Ever since Scream, it’s sort of become a trope to be self-aware within the movie itself. When done with a purpose and affection like Scream or Cabin in the Woods, I think it can be amazing. But I often feel like it’s done for no reason or worse … the filmmakers look down on the genre and are thumbing their nose at it. We felt our core concept was inherently meta, we’re looking at the aftermath of a girl who survived the events of a horror movie. Rachel and I were instantly in agreement that there should never be some character that discovers our main character’s backstory and is like, “Oh snap. You’re that chick that survived that horror movie! You’re like a real life Jamie Lee Curtis!” That hyperaware angle and presentation of this story never interested me.
Additionally, we were also playing with women in horror and ultimately the “Final Girl” trope. I had no real big agenda of stating girls are “strong” and can do whatever guys do or anything like that. All I set out to do was make normal, not hyper-sexualised female characters.
RM: I honestly think the same tropes I dislike in horror carryover to all genres of films – lack of fully-developed characters, especially in regard to women and minorities. Slashers are notorious for stereotypical casting – the jock, the sexy girl, the stoner, the smart/nerdy girl etc. I love when a movie like Cabin the Woods can turn that upside-down, but a movie like that is few and far between. I’m extremely proud that so many people have appreciated how realistic all the characters in Last Girl Standing are and I think that is because we put characters first.
What horror films do you think influenced you the most when making Last Girl Standing?
BRM: I absolutely love and adore the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and to me that is probably the most iconic example of the lone girl surviving by the skin of her teeth. I showed it to some cast members who hadn’t seen it before and it was still a powerful and still a visceral experience for them almost 40 years later.
Growing up near a Crystal Lake in Maine, I was always a Jason guy so the Friday the 13th films were hugely influential. I had all these Friday the 13th expanded universe books that I would devour as a kid. Jason was in my blood. Then you have Halloween, Sleepaway Camp and The Burning. We also looked at Scream and how it completely rejuvenated the slasher genre. Not to try and revolutionise the genre like it did, but more along the lines of what it added to the genre and how it changed people’s way of watching it.
One of the biggest influences though wasn’t a horror movie. It was the Brie Larson movie, Short Term 12. I really wanted to bring that “low fi” dramatic realism to the slasher genre. I have no idea if anyone else wants to watch that, but I did so I hope there’s at least a couple others out there that might.
RM: The slasher genre as a whole has always been one of my favourites. I think the Friday the 13th series was definitely the one I watched the most growing up. What I loved about Ben’s script is that his knowledge of slasher movies, and horror in general, really comes through. One of the themes of Last Girl Standing is repetition. I mean, how many times do we need to see a group of college kids going to the woods and get picked off one-by-one? But horror fans, myself included, love it and continue to watch every new iteration on that idea. Ben really tapped into that with Last Girl Standing and I hope it’s something genre fans will appreciated as much as I do.
LAST GIRL STANDING IS OUT NOW ON DIGITAL HD AND VOD