Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Final

Title: The Final
Director: Joey Stewart
Released: 2010
Staring: Marc Donato, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hot, Julin, Lindsay Seidel, Laura Ashley Samuels, Justin S. Arnold, Travis Tedford, Eric Isenhower, Vincent Silochan, Farah White, Zacherias Judge.

Plot: After being a target of the popular kids for years, a group of misfits and outcasts band together to plot their revenge on their tormentors.

Review: High school is hell! This is the general opinion I had of school which I recall as a daily ritual of beatings and humiliation, before going to college and truly finding myself, while those who tormented soon struggled and dropped out as they failed cope with no longer being the big fish in the little pond, so guess karma has a way of working things out. Still perhaps it’s because my own school days were so similar to the bullied teens seen here in this film, that in many ways I can relate to their plight, after all who hasn’t thought about getting revenge on someone whose sole purpose in life seems to be about making yours as miserable as possible, while at the same time certainly making it ripe for a horror twist.

While there might have been films in the past which have looked at similar themes of revenge on the tormentor such as Larry Clark’s explicit “Bully” (2001) and the slightly lighter “Mean Creek” (2004), while “Elephant” (2003) and “Zero Day” (2003) attempted to attach the theme to recreating the events of the Columbine High School Massacre, still for horror films this as far as I’m aware is a first, seeing how previous films have always focused on the individual pushed too far rather than a group and it’s this slight twist which certainly makes it more interesting, while also making it awhole lot more plausible, especially when their tormentors easily reach into double figures and to have one person extracting revenge against them all would no doubt have not been able to maintain the same level of focus that this film does on ensure that the so called victims know exactly why they are there.

The group are the usual collection of misfits and outcasts, all bullied and tormented for similar reasons, while the majority of them also have equally disturbing family lives with Ravi’s (Silochan) family barely communicating with each other, while Dane’s (Donato) parents are shown to be constantly fighting, as home provides little in the way of shelter for these teens who are all brought together under the leadership of ringleader Dane, who identifies their similarities to each other and entices them in with his plans for revenge. It’s strange though that once the revenge begins that he takes a backseat to the torture games instead preferring to torment the tormentors with extensive monologues and leaving the rest of the group to carry out the grunt work, ironically only getting his hands dirty when it comes to keeping the rest of the group in line with his plans.

Having lured thier tormentors to a mock costume party we see the group at the start of the party in their innocent looking costumes, which soon change to much more twisted ones once they get their tormentors were they want them, having drugged them all with a spiked punch, as if the second costumes are supposed to represent the darker alter ego’s of the group at the same time with their first costumes representing their usual faces of false innocence they present on a daily basis. The second costumes are also clearly designed to reference other horror films with Emily’s (Seidel) costume in particular basically being a copy of the one seen in “Audition” (2000), a reference only made all the more clearer once she starts her own brand of acupuncture on one of the male jocks.

While the film quickly descends into becpming yet another torture flick, director Stewart atleast bothers to stop the scenes from becoming the usual mix of gratuitous violence and prolonged torment, keeping the focus purely on revenge via Dane’s taunts as he addresses their captives and by also keeping the revenge aspect until the second half of the film, using the first half wisely to make the bullies as evil and vicious as he can. Still the revenge aspect atleast bothers to be slightly more creative than the host of Hostel clones we have seen in the last couple of years, as acidic skin cream and a cattle gun all come into play, with Jack (Isenhower) and Emily dishing out the majority of the revenge, with a focus on disfiguring and maiming their tormentors, before unceromonsley dumping them in the back room and moving onto the next victim, which was kind of a change from the usual torture to death, much like the fact that the group are more than willing to let their captive to walk out, knowing all to well that they will not only have to negotiate a maze of bear traps, but also the homicidal mute triplets who happily hunt down for sport those who want to take their chances in the woods. Still the worst torture of the whole film has to be when Jake starts playing the banjo, which irritatingly soundtracks the majority of scenes in a clear reference to Deliverance with the redneck vibe only added to by Jack’s Scarecrow costume. Now this is not to say that he is not talented, as he clearly know how to play the instrument, it’s just that it’s not exactly the most ideal instrument for building tension in a scene and in fact the majority of times it was used only took away from the film, much like the inclusion of the war veteran neighbour, whose inclusion could have easily been emitted.

While Stewart throws up a couple of twists throughout the film, such as the neutral friend Kurtis (Washington) who is seem befriending both groups, even sticking up for his bullied friends when he finds out how they have treated Bradley and it was his character which proved the most surprising twist, especially when the group soon begin to fall apart over what judgment he will face, with Dane soon being blinded by his hate while the others members of the group soon begin to suspect that he has lost focus from their original intentions as only highlighted by the ending which in many ways was almost predictable, seeing how the film has worked itself into a corner by this point and almost feel like Stewart is afraid to have the film without the group facing any form of punishment for their actions and even more so that he would be seen portraying the groups actions as an acceptable way for equally bullied viewers to deal with their own issues, though the setup is so clearly fantastical it would be doubtful that anyone could see it as a how to guide to dealing with bullies.

Originally released as part of the “After Dark Horrorfest” which has showcased equally noteworthy films such as “The Hamiltons” (2006) and “Frontier(s)” (2007) and this film is equally noteworthy as it is flawed, but for trying to do something different with an overly stale sub genre of horror, it’s worth giving a look even if the groups actions are ultimately questionable.

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