I’m disappointed. For the third entry in my Holloween-inspired horror film series, I decided to venture away from the territory of well-known films that I visited with the first two entries in the series. This proved to be a mistake. Today’s movie The Final is promoted as a horror movie, but it really isn’t. It turns out to be an odd sort of simultaneously pathetic and insane high school revenge fantasy. It seems to want to be a combination of Hostel and Mean Girls.
The plot centers around of high school outcasts who, fed up with years of constant taunting and abuse from the “in crowd” decide to get their revenge. They lure all the popular kids to an abandoned warehouse for an exclusive costume party, then drug them, then, donning bizarre costumes set about torturing the lot of them for their past misdeeds. This really makes it tough for the viewer to pick a side. In the first act, the popular kids are really exceptionally cruel to the outcasts, but then, it’s still tough to sit and watch the outcast’s poorly planned revenge play-out. Still, this might all have some appeal in a twisted torture-fest type sense, that would succeed for the same reason that movies like Saw and Hostel succeeded; except, for whatever reason, director Joey Stewart chooses to cut around most of the rather blood and gore that might potentially have been seen. Honestly, I’ve spilled more blood in a can-opener mishap than I saw in this movie. That wouldn’t normally be a complaint. After all, I don’t think Dracula showed any blood at all, but throwing a bunch of sanguinary special effects at the screen is pretty much the raison d’être for the sub-genre of horror that this film seems to want to be part of.
So, I’m left thinking that the only thing this movie thing has left is a message. In this case that message is, don’t bully the un-popular kids because they might snap one day. Which, I guess is a good message, but it seems a little bit a) obvious, b) trite, c) repeated to excess. Take your pick.
I was going to say this movie should be avoided, but as I reflect on it, it’s not entirely without merit. The acting, is actually pretty good. The only actor I recognized was Eric Isenhower, (who occasionally pops-up as the creepy Orin on Parks and Recreation,) here playing one of the outcast kids. However there were a few outstanding performances from actors I’ve never seen before. Lindsay Seidel plays the token goth Emily, the only girl amongst the scheming outcasts, while Whitney Hoy plays Bridget, one of the tormented popular girls. Their interplay is actually really good. Then there’s the performance of Marc Donato as Dane, the leader of the outcast clique. For the most part, when this movie works it is because of him. Sure, he’s tasked with reading a bunch of ridiculous speeches, most of which don’t seem that realistic, but he’s great both as the passive bullied kid at the beginning of the film, then as the screw-loose leader of the gang of misfits gone wrong.
The costume design is also simply fantastic. The majority of the film is set at a costume party, and the outfits that these kids put together are both chilling and fantastic. Of course, this being a movie that manages to turn strengths into weaknesses, I couldn’t help but think that it was extremely unlikely that a group of high school kids would have been able to pull together such fantastic attire. So while the costumes are fantastic, they’re so good that they actually detract from what the realism the film has to offer.
So, at the end of the day, this film is simply a disappointment. It doesn’t work as a true horror movie because the viewer knows exactly what’s going on the whole time. Moreover, there’s nobody to empathize with, so it’s impossible to really get drawn into what’s going on. It also doesn’t work as torture-porn because it’s so chaste with the cinematic violence. The costumes are great, but in context they don’t make sense. Finally, the message isn’t a new one, and has been expressed better elsewhere. There are some fantastic performances by otherwise obscure actors, but there’s just so much going against them, that even a cast full of Oscar-winners would be hard-pressed to rescue the film. The Final isn’t a good movie. I didn’t hate it, but it’s certainly not worth seeing.