Dread / The Final / The Graves / The Hidden / Kill Theory
Lake Mungo / The Reeds / Zombies of Mass Destruction



BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!

STUDIO:
Lions Gate
MSRP: $19.98

RATED:
R for sadistic violence and torture, language, sexual references, drug and alcohol use- all involving teens

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•Commentary with writer and director
•Behind the scenes footage
•Deleted scene
•Trailers



The Pitch

It’s like Saw but with nerds.

The Humans

Director: Joey Stewart
Writer: Jason Kabolati
Cast: Marc Donato, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Julin, Lindsay Seidel, Laura Ashley Samuels, Justin S. Arnold, Travis Tedford, Eric Isenhower, Vincent Silochan, Farah White

The Nutshell

A group of annoying
dumbasses are picked on at school by another group of annoying
dumbasses. The party of the first part lures the party of the second
part to a secret mansion where they administer roofies to the party of
the second part, who awake chained up. Then the dumbasses torture the
dumbasses until the movie is over.

The Lowdown

The Final is what I call an
“uppity B-movie.” That is, a B-movie which tries to tell a ‘real story’
about ‘actual feelings’ and ‘important issues.’ Now I have no problem
with genre films that transcend the trappings of their genre. The
problem here is that this film doesn’t transcend anything. It throws off
its genre trappings clumsily (and not in any surprising ways) but
doesn’t replace them with anything of substance. What we’re left with is
a film as dumb as a typical B-movie but with none of the pulpy elements
that might’ve made it fun to watch.


“If you want to climb our stairs, you have to contribute to our Murder Plot fund. No OF COURSE we’re not actually murdering people. ‘Murder Plot’ is a euphemism. For torture.”


The opening scene is pure
cliche. A character enters a restaurant and everyone who looks at her is
horrified because something is wrong with her face, but we the audience
can’t see the face. The rest of the film is flashback. We meet a band
of unpopular kids (a goth, an AV geek, and some generically disliked
students) and their tormentors (a crew of jocks and skanks, plus a
fellow sporting a fauxhawk). After some cruel tormenting, we’re clued in
that the unpopular kids are hatching a plot. Something involving bear
traps, a secret mansion, ATVs, high-powered rifles and hidden cameras.

In
these early scenes we also meet Kurtis, an aspiring rapper also
aspiring to turn actor (an would-be “raptor” in the parlance of our
times). Kurtis gets along with the jocks but is also nice to the
unpopular kids. The losers thusly agree among each other not to involve
Kurtis in their dastardly shenanigans.

The popular jerks are all
invited to a costume party hosted by an unknown person at an undisclosed
location. Dane, one of the losers, calls this “using their egos against
them.” The jerks all drive to a grain elevator where the losers
(wearing slightly creepy costumes with masks that conceal their
identities) drive them to the secret mansion, where they are wined,
dined, and permitted to dance. To the losers’ great surprise, Kurtis
shows up at the party! They talk about getting him out of there, but for
some reason Dane says that Kurtis is here because of fate, and they
have to just go forward with their plot. There are a few other
references to “fate” in this flim. When a crappy movie has characters
talking excessively about fate when discussing plot mechanics, usually
if you take the dialogue and replace the word “fate” with the phrase
“because the writer needed it to happen” such lines make even more
sense.


Stick-trapping is a sport requiring tremendous patience and art.


The punch is drugged and the jerks and the raptor all get
very sleepy. They awaken to find themselves chained to the floor. The
losers have changed from slightly creepy costumes into creepier
costumes. Jack changed from (I guess) a character in a Noh theater
rendition of Hee Haw into a burlap-clad Batman villain. Ravi changed
from a creepy happy clown to a creepy angry clown. Goth chick Emily
changed from a giant butterfly into a woman with a plastic plate for a
face. Also the losers are all wielding various guns, some of them John
Woo-style. Dane lectures the manacled jerks through a voice-changing
device in his spiked-leather gas mask, sounding like a robot version of
Paul Robeson. He informs them that the time has come to torment the
tormentors, that they’re not going to kill anyone, but that the jerks’
lives will be changed irrevocably, and will finally know what its like to be different. (See, this is one of those modern torture movies like Saw, where the sadists actually just want to teach their victims a valuable lesson.) Then they cattle-gun one jerk in the
face to prove they’re serious. Then they let one of the jerks leave.

Since
they chase after the guy (“Mike”) immediately, it at first seems the
only reason they let him leave was that they were bored after giving a
lecture and thought it would be fun to ride some ATVs and dirt bikes.
But it soon turns out they were going to chase him until he stepped on a
beartrap. Given that they don’t set a contiguous perimeter of
beartraps, it might seem like a gamble on their part that he’d actually
be snagged, but one must remember that writers are powerful beings and
if they need something unlikely to happen, all they have to do is press a
few dozen buttons.


“I say I want to cosplay THE WIRE and this is what you bring me?”


It’s worth noting how ridiculously
well-equipped these losers are. They have shotguns, high-powered rifles
(something shaped like an AR-75), pistols, many many beartraps, a
pneumatic cattle gun, a secret mansion, roofie drugs, an acupuncture
set, two costumes per person, dirt bikes, some acid (the burning kind,
not the lysergic kind), a dentist chair, ATVs, a video
camera, a flatbed truck, and enough manacles to go around. It’s sad
really; with all that stuff they could’ve become popular at school by
starting a gang, a militia, or a cult.

Dissent first appears when
Ravi slips Kurtis a key. Kurtis frees himself and runs for it. Dane
figures out what happened and kills Ravi. Meanwhile, Kurtis is pursued
by the ATVs. The ATV drivers in both chase scenes wear the same costume
as the losers inside the mansion. On my first viewing of The Final I
assumed they were the same characters; we’re barely given any reason to
think otherwise. But in that same first viewing, I noted that one ATV
driver pursuing Kurtis wore a clown costume, and thus it seemed that
Ravi was driving an ATV after his death (which seemed like a safe
assumption given the general quality of the film). On my second viewing I
noticed a quick line early on about how “the triplets” would be driving
ATVs wearing the same costumes as the five main losers. “The triplets”
are three other losers who don’t have any lines, only appear out of
costume in two early scenes and are never again referenced in the
dialogue. In the commentary track the writer mentions that this is a
little confusing but pats himself on the back for it because “it’ll give
people something to talk about.” It’s especially baffling why “the
triplets” wear the same costumes as the main losers, but when one
remembers costumes cost money, it is perhaps less baffling.

So
Kurtis gets away, finds a Vietnam vet, Parker, who holds him at gunpoint
and ties him up. Parker gives the standard rant about how he was a hero
in ‘nam but was spat on when he returned, proving that the screenwriter
has really done his research on Vietnam vets, probably by watching a
television show that featured a character who was a Vietnam vet.


“Look, man, it’s axe-wielding maniacs like you that give National Socialism a bad name.”


Meanwhile,
torture and disfigurement. The losers take off their masks in an
extremely clumsy scene. The director (we learn from the commentary
track) felt the audience needed to see the characters faces for dramatic
purposes. But the scene doesn’t work at all. The losers take them off
so casually and abruptly (and do so at the request of the jerks) that it
makes one wonder why they even wore masks to begin with. It’s not to
shield their identities, and it’s not to make it easier to dehumanize
their victims (they’re just as vicious after taking off the masks). The
vet is killed by some ewok-style traps, though he takes two “triplets”
with him. The head of the jerks, Bradley (played by Justin Arnold, who,
if they made a TV show out of the Star Trek reboot, could with some
creative camerawork be Chris Pine’s double in the inevitable Kirk vs
Kirk fistfight scenes) gets his spinal cord cut. A girl gets her face
burned. I won’t spoil the ending for you, not because you should see
this movie (you shouldn’t) but there’s nothing interesting about the
ending and as a writer I do my best to avoid writing uninteresting
things. But as the various lectures state, all the jerks are scarred for
life physically and/or emotionally.

 
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Is this weirdo pointing regular fingers at me, or is that one of those Videodrome-style gun-hands.’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track of whether the cathode ray bestowed the new flesh upon my left hand or my right hand. But seeing as how your reality is probably already fifty percent video hallucination at least, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Is there anything real outside of my perception of reality?’ Well is there, punk?”


The DVD includes a
commentary track with the writer/producer and the director. They
congratulate themselves for the quality of the “THUDS” and “BANGS” in
the film’s foley sound design. They also congratulate themselves for
using stock characters (Because then they didn’t have to give their
actors any direction! They already know what these people are like!) and
for keeping much of the film in wide shots rather than cutting to
closeups. In discussing the wide shots, they name-check The Shining, how Kubrick used a lot of wide angle
lenses, for wider shots with greater depth of field so that more of the
background is visible with the characters. But in The Shining is a film where the setting is a strong dimension of the film; it’s really the main antagonist for much of the
movie. The setting in The Final, however, is fairly mundane and never
used for either atmospheric or psychological effect. Thus their
reasoning in using wide-angle doesn’t really come from any insight on
their part that the subject matter demands using mise-en-scene rather
than montage to structure their scenes and more just out of wanting
their fledgling movie company to produce something that seems
“cinematic” rather than televisual. (Also, they shoot in cinemascope.
This movie takes place mostly just in a dull room, yet the director felt
he needed to shoot a ratio slightly wider than Lawrence of Arabia.)

Also
mentioned is why the film is so po-faced and so lacking in what can
make a B-movie fun:

“The film is intentionally paced relatively
slowly, because we wanted to genuinely tell a story, as opposed to just
trying to scare the audience, that we felt like these are real kids with
real emotions, and that these kind of events unfold, and obviously they
do, cause they happen quite frequently unfortunately. But we want to
tell a perspective story, that it’s not just demonical people who are
pushed to the edge.”
-writer Jason Kabolati on the commentary track

A
worthy ambition. But he didn’t populate the script with “real kids”;
the jerks are one-dimensional, and the losers act exactly as demonical
as plot mechanics require. Furthermore, no “real emotions” are on
display and the plot hinges on so much contrivance that never does one
believe that “these kind of events…happen quite frequently.” I can
enjoy a fun, trashy B-movie and forgive all of these flaws, but these
filmmakers set out to divest this one of all of the consolations of
pulp.

Ideal double feature partner: Revenge of the Nerds

The Package

The DVD comes with a solid anamorphic
transfer, the aforementioned commentary track, a behind the scenes
featurette (mostly just fly on the wall B-roll footage), a deleted
scene, and some trailers.

3.0/10