Dane is one of a handful of bullied teenagers at an American high school who, along with his group of fellow outcasts, plans to get the ultimate revenge on the bullies. He uses his knowledge of horror films (and some jarringly appropriate moments in a history and chemistry lesson) to plan the violence and is throwing a secret fancy dress party at his uncle’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.
Not knowing who is throwing the party isn’t stopping the bullies wanting to go. They just assume it’s being thrown by someone cool, and it’s in the middle of nowhere, so no adults or authority figures will be around.
In the farmhouse, the outcasts drug the partygoers, chaining them up before reviving them to inform them that they’re all going to experience a life-changing evening where some will survive and all will be changed. This leads to violent retribution against the helpless bullies as they are attacked with cattle guns, aromatherapy needles, acidic face cream, secateurs and other sundry weapons.
As each bully suffers for their actions, the threads of friendship begin to fray. The outcasts realise that this isn’t what they hoped and the bullies realise that actions have consequences. However, as far as Dane is concerned, it’s far too late for forgiveness and what has started must be finished, regardless of who gets in the way.
This is, basically, the plot of The Final. It’s a plot that sounds like it’s going to make a terribly bloody film, especially when the publicity material describes it as “Saw and Hostel meet Columbine High School Massacre-inspired movies such as Elephant, Zero Day and The Class.“
In reality, The Final owes more to Elephant and Zero Day than to Saw and Hostel. It’s an intelligent revenge film obviously influenced by high school massacres and presenting a stark portrayal of the darker side of humanity, especially for the survivors of the aftermath.
The dialogue, especially amongst the outcasts, seems overly pretentious, however, it fits with the type of characters these guys are! They do come across as the type of group who think that their every word has to be dripping with meaning and that their every action has to have purpose, as a way of hiding their weakness when they are being bullied.
Considering that the actors have very little film experience, they all do particularly well. Marc Donato, as Dane, captures the sense of suicidal depression whilst still delivering the type of charisma that would attract others of a similar mind to him. Lindsay Seidel, as Emily, goes from convincingly helpless to chilling as the only girl in the group.
On the side of the bullies, Justin S Arnold is everything that a jock should be, down to his callous behaviour and imposing stature, whilst lead pretty girl, Bridget (played by Whitney Hoy), is cold and manipulative, but has a brilliantly short turn in the opening and closing moments.
An area where the film suffers is the low level lighting. Most of the film is shot at night, in moodily lit rooms, and this makes it difficult to make things out occasionally. The lighting, along with some great costumes, give the film a really creepy, almost claustrophobic feel. It’s further enhanced by the closeness of a number of the shots and the personal nature of the dialogue. There are very few bombastic speeches here, aside from by Dane.
It’s not a perfect film by a long shot, but it is an interesting film. Fantastical violence aside, the film deals quite well with social structures and acceptance, the lack of role models in the lives of teenagers (the majority of adults faces aren’t shown, suggesting that the teenagers don’t respect them even though they may listen to them), and the vast difference between ideas and execution.
As with a fair few films these days, if you go by the blurb, you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re expecting the Saw/Hostel levels of torture that are alluded to. If you watch the film for what it is, a moderately violent high school revenge film that is well written and quite well acted, then you might be in for a surprise.
The director’s commentary is very good and highlights a lot that you may miss throughout the film. The director and writer offer advice to filmmakers, talk about the filming process and the difficulties of filming various challenging scenes, the writing process and how they wanting the filming to be organic and not staged. They also talk about the social basis for the film, high school massacres and being part of cliques. Finally, we get plenty of discussion about the violence and the decisions made for each act and the difficulties (and mishaps) of each set piece.
There’s a deleted scene featuring the cop fantasising about stopping a woman driver and coming to an ‘understanding’ about the speeding ticket. It’s quite funny in a cringe worthy way, but is better left out of the film.
The Final trailer is a decent enough trailer that builds the film around the idea of the horror aspects.
There’s also a Chelsea Films Trailer, which is actually a trailer for an upcoming horror film called Animals.
The Final is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.