In The Final Girls, while Max Cartwright waits in her car for her mother, Amanda, to return from an audition, she watches a movie trailer on her phone. The film is a 1986 slasher called Camp Bloodbath which Amanda starred in back in the day. While the movie is now a cult classic, Amanda has trouble finding new roles because she’s been typecast as the scream queen named Nancy from Camp Bloodbath. As the two drive home from the audition, a car hits them, and kills Amanda, dead.
Fast forward three years, and Max now lives with her Aunt. She meets her BFF, Gertie, and a boy named Chris, whom she’s smitten with, at a diner to study the Classics. Gertie’s annoying stepbrother, Duncan, pops in, and interrupts the trio. He’s a huge horror fan, and he asks Max to go to the night’s double feature at the local theater of Camp Bloodbath and its sequel, Camp Bloodbath 2: Cruel Summer. Since it’s the anniversary of her mother’s death, she reluctantly agrees to attend.
Later that night at the theater, Chris shows up to join Max and Gertie…and to share his popcorn covered in M&Ms. While Max’s happy Chris came, she’s unhappy that Chris’ ex-girlfriend, Vicki, shows up as well. Vickie and Max were once BFFs too, but they drifted apart shortly after Amanda’s death.
During the film, one of the audience members, sitting towards the back, drops a full bottle of open vodka which rolls to the bottom of the theater while spilling all its contents before shattering at the front of the theater. Then that same guy lights up a cigarette, because theaters let only him smoke in there, and one of his ashes falls to the ground; igniting the alcohol, and the theater goes up in flames.
To escape, Max uses a machete that a fan dropped while trying to flee, and cuts a hole in the screen to escape out the back. Max, Chris, Gertie, Vickie, and Duncan are magically transported into the 92 minute film called Camp Bloodbath.
They find themselves in the woods outside the camp, and every 92 minutes, a yellow van with two of the film’s characters, Kurt and Tina, drive by and ask for directions. On the third time around, Duncan says they too are camp counselors, and will give them directions if they can come along. In the van, Max meets Nancy, the character her mom played in the film, and all her raw emotions over her mom’s death come back to her.
Realizing they are in the movie, they decide to watch it play out so they can escape with the film’s final girl. However, after the movie’s villain, Billy Murphy, kills his first two victims, he takes his machete, and kills Duncan. The rest of the group realize they too are now in danger, and run away.
In the film, Billy does not kill virgins; only those who have sex, so the group tries to keep the cast from having sex; thus keeping Billy from showing up. Chris watches over the sex-fiend, Kurt. Gertie takes Blake, another of the counselors, and falls in love with him. Vickie partners up with Paula, who is the film’s final girl, and Max does her best to keep her mom, I mean Nancy, a virgin. Nobody partners with Tina, the other sex fiend, but they really should. Instead, the group shoves Tina in a life jacket, and duct tape cooking mittens on her hands to keep her from ripping off her clothes. Like that would save her a trip to pound town.
Gertie lets it slip that the legend of Billy Murphy is true, and he is going to kill everyone. This panics the film counselors, and Paula drives off with Kurt in the vehicle. As they speed away, Paula drives into Duncan, who is somehow still alive, and then crashes into a totem pole. She and Kurt die is a fiery blaze when her car strikes the pole. Duncan is for sure dead now too.
Now that the film’s original sole survivor is dead, they decide that the only remaining virgin of the group will be the new final girl, but there are actually two virgins; Max and Nancy. Gertie was disqualified when that overly romantic autistic boy took her v-card in a van down by the river last summer.
Now, all they have to do is get Billy’s machete from him, and get Max to cut his head off with it. While they hatch a plan, Max convinces herself that if Nancy survives the film, she can come back home with her. Even if it’s just the movie version of her mom, she’d still have her mom back in some form.
That night, Tina, hopped up on Vicki’s Adderall, performs a striptease out of her life jacket. This arouses Billy, and he comes over to rip her a new one…with his machete. Tina panics, and trips over a wire meant for Billy, and she falls headfirst into a bear trap; which kills her, dead.
Billy then kills Blake, and chases everyone up the stairs of the cabin. There, he traps Vicki and Gertie under a large bookcase. He then stabs Gertie with his machete, but before he can do the same to Vicki, she pulls a chord that leads to a bucket full of gasoline or alcohol or something highly explosive. The liquid hits the flames of the burning arrows that Max, Chris, and Nancy shot into Billy’s chest just as the three of them escape out a window. The room ignites, but the three survivors are not out of the woods yet. In fact, they run straight into them when Billy epically jumps from the window; engulfed in flames.
Billy winds up stabbing Chris, and then kidnaps Nancy. Max leaves Chris at a church to go get her mom, I mean Nancy, back. She finds Nancy tied up at Billy’s hideout which is an old dilapidated barn. Max and Billy fight it out, and Billy stabs her. She and Nancy manage to escape, and then head back to the church to regroup.
There, Nancy tells Max that she knows she must die so that Max can truly be the final girl. In a teary goodbye, Max tells Nancy that the actress who plays her is Max’s real-life mom, and she can’t stand to lose her again.
Nancy leaves, and then does a sexy striptease in the meadow outside the church. Once again, Billy arrives to rip her a new one…with his machete…and he quickly kills Nancy.
Now the final girl, Max gets up, and walks out to the meadow with the strength to chop off Billy’s head. After a brief fight, she kills Billy, dead. Chris walks out of the church, and the two kiss. Camp Bloodbath ends, and the closing credits roll into the sky.
As the film rewinds, it transports Chris and Max out of it. Max wakes in a hospital with Chris in a bed next to her. There, she finds Gertie, Vicki, and Duncan are still alive, but Billy’s music cuts the happy ending. As he comes crashing through the hospital doors, the group realizes that they aren’t back home. Instead, they are now in the film’s sequel, Camp Bloodbath 2: Cruel Summer.
Max goes to attack Billy once more, but our film ends there.