We've all had moments, I'm sure, when we wish we could get back at those who picked on us in high school. That doesn't mean there's an excuse for movies like "The Final." This is an ugly, cruel, sadistic, irredeemable revenge fantasy that places no value on human life, nor does it entertain the possibility of hope. It's vile and nihilistic, a story with no message except that life is pointless and not worth living. There isn't a single likeable character, although from the way they're portrayed, it's clear that we were meant to side with the torturers, who go to levels that have the dubious distinction of being both implausible and immoral. Don't make the mistake of believing it's a commentary on society, violence, or acceptance - it serves no purpose other than to be perverse. Seeing this movie was a depressing experience, one I hope to never again go through.
The story focuses on five high school kids, all outcasts: Emily (Lindsay Seidel), Ravi (Vincent Silochan), Jack (Eric Isenhower), Andy (Travis Tedford), and their leader, Dane (Marc Donato), who right from the start shows disturbing suicidal tendencies and is an unhealthy influence on the other four. They devise a scheme to invite all the mean, popular kids to a party, which is located in what I think is a farmhouse that just happens to be in the middle of nowhere. Once they arrive, the five outcasts serve the popular kids punch spiked with a powerful sedative, which makes them all pass out. When they awaken, they're not only tethered together via iron shackles, they're also at the mercy of the outcasts, who dress in horror movie costumes complete with masks. Dane takes the idea one step further by using a voice altering machine like Ghost Face in "Scream."
And that when the games begin. I will not describe them, although I'm sure your imagination will be more than sufficient to fill in the blanks. I will say, however, that it was intertwined with a completely ill-fitting subplot involving the one kid the five outcasts didn't hate. His name is Kurtis (Jascha Washington), and through events too ridiculous to repeat, he winds up tied to a chair in the home of an insane military freak. What this man is doing in this movie is beyond me. So far as I can tell, he's there only to be just as crazy, just as mean, and just as violent as the high school outcasts, making the whole thing one big exercise in merciless brutality.
As I sat there, I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that this was just a horror movie, that it was supposed to be bloody and violent, that it was made for entertainment and nothing else. I really did try. But then came a shot in which Dane opens a box filled with artillery weapons, one of which he lifts up and happily poses with, and I could only think of the Columbine shootings, an incident this film was clearly inspired by. To make light of such a tragedy in a gory teen slasher film is not merely in bad taste, it's downright reprehensible.
And yet the audience I sat with took it all as a fun night out, continuously laughing, wooing at the screen, applauding when someone died a horrible death. My god - they were actually enjoying this. I was so disturbed by them that, as soon as the film ended, I quickly left the theater in the hopes that no one would comment to me about how awesome it was. You see, that has happened to me from time to time, and when it comes to the bad movies, it often takes a great deal of effort to stop myself from ranting at these people. If someone had approached me this time around, I don't think I would have been able to suppress my disgust. If anything, I probably would have accused him or her of being a vicarious murderer.
I truly hated this movie. Everything it stands for - the notion that teenage bullying, depression, and homicide is somehow entertaining, the belief that suicide is the answer to all of life's problems, the pleasure taken from torturing and maiming in the most abhorrent of ways - is wrong on every level imaginable. It's sick, brazen, and relentless, and I'm sorry for ever having seen it. To any prospective commenters ready to tell me off for not getting "The Final": I'm glad I didn't get it. There's no context under which I can see this story making sense, nor is there anything to be gained by telling this story in this particular way. To understand the thinking that went into it is to understand heartlessness and exploitation, neither of which have any place in my life.
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Chris Pandolfi (Chris_Pandolfi)
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Eight new independent visions of terror await genre fans with the fourth go-round of the annual After Dark Horrorfest series. As devotees have discovered from past festivals, the Horrorfest lineup is usually hit or miss, with at least one standout and a few genuine dogs. The 2010 edition is no exception: depending on your taste for terror, the highlight will either beDread, a fairly harrowing if thinly dramatized take on producer Clive Barker's short story about a college project about fear going terribly awry, orLake Mungo, a bloodless but genuinely chilling ghost story done in a convincing documentary format. Norway'sHiddenalso eschews gore for atmosphere; its glacial pace may put off some viewers, but the patient will find subtle scares in its tale of a troubled homecoming overshadowed by murders. If it's body counts you're looking for,Kill TheoryandThe Finalhave them in spades--you'll just have to put up with heavy-handed proselytizing in the former (and some truly ugly scenes) and shopworn characters in the latter. Overly familiar plotting and personas also undo the UK importThe Reeds, a sluggish thriller that pits boaters against killer strays, andZombies of Mass Destruction, a broad political comedy that takes potshots at lame-duck conservative targets. Of course, for some, the horror movie is pure popcorn material, best enjoyed at top volume with the rowdiest of audiences, and comic book writer-creator Brian (Evil Ernie) Pulido's debut ...