Film Review – The Final

The Final Quad

For a directorial debut, with a cast of largely unknown actors and a budget that is obviously limited, The Final pretty much manages to deliver what it sets out to.

A revenge fantasy. The Final focuses on five high school students, Dane, Emily, Ravi, Alan and Jack, who decide, having been bullied and brutalised by their co-students for most of their school lives to wreck a grotesque revenge on their tormentors. Using horror films they have seen, school lessons and their own limited resources, they come up with inventive and horrible ways to repay the acts of cruelty they have suffered.

It’s a simple enough premise, and one that will strike a nerve with anyone who’s become an outcast in school. The indignities that the the five suffer are never shown to be particularly horrible, slaps, destruction of property, taunts and slights. From what we see on screen, the decision invite all the bullies to a swish party, drug them, chain them up and then disfigure/maim one by one seems a tad extreme. However, the implication is that these five had suffered years of abuse and torment, grinding them down, ruining their lives, bringing them to this point. As an audience, we are familiar with these bullies (there is more than a passing nod to Michael Lehrmann’s “Heathers”, and our experiences of being bullied (or being the bully), no doubt fills in the blanks.

The revengers’ ringleader, Dane, has a recently inherited woodland property at his disposal, to hold a swish Halloween party for all the popular kids. (As Jack says “I knew we could use their arrogance against them”), nobody knows who is holding the party, no-one really cares. The pretty people drink spiked punch and end up chained to each other, disorientated and faced by five grotesque costumes.

All the characters seem to be drawn with broad brushstrokes, but this is well-worn territory. The parents of the outcasts are distant figures, we never see their faces, Ravi’s and Jack’s fathers ignoring their sons, Emily’s mother showing a passing concern, but taking things at face value.The greatest character development follows Dane, who has the most extreme view and believes that God has given him permission to carry out these acts. As he tells chief bully Bradley, “who’d’ve thought your actions would empower me”. Dane shows utter ruthlessness, even with the one cool kid who isn’t a bully, who turns up unexpectedly, and one of his own team.

Emily, played by Lindsay Seidel is the standout character though. Featuring heavily in the main torture sequence, she blossoms from the shy character we see at the start, to a confident, almost sweet girl, the sweetness marred by what she’s doing to the bullies…

Other than a stash of weapons Dane seems to have inherited along with the house, the group use simple tools to inflict damage, the most eye watering sequence featuring a pair of secateurs. The violence isn’t the torture porn of such films as Hostel or Saw, and other than the moment with the secateurs isn’t overly lingering. The film isn’t overly scary, but the tension builds up well, and the sequences are well-shot, mostly leaving much to the imagination. It’s a nifty use of a limited budget.

Scriptwise, there are some neat touches – some of the action is foreshadowed by the lessons the students attend, and there’s a neat bit of business that is set up very early on. Unfortunately, the line is so throwaway, that originally I thought there had been a massive continuity error. Only on reflection did I realise what had actually been done.

This is a film that knows its audience, very much so, and I can see it getting a cult following. It’s nowhere near as vapid as a lot of teen horror movies, and Lindsay Seidel is definitely an actress to watch out for. However, the thing that stays with me most with this film, is that it could be seen as a blueprint for disenfranchised, bullied teenagers to take their own real-life revenge. The simplicity of their actions is something easily achievable and could be copied. Now, I’m not going to come over all Christopher Tookey and say the film is reprehensible and dangerous, because I’d like to give your average teen more credit than that. But it would be a shame if ultimately this film gains notoriety not on the screen but for actions it causes off it.

The Final will be released exclusively at The Empire, Leicester Square from 13th August and DVD from 23rd August.

This was originally posted over at Blogomatic 3000 on 20th July, 2010

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on July 29, 2010.

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