Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Joey Stewart
Starring Marc Donato, Lindsay Seidel, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Justin Arnold
Distributed by Chelsea Films
Anyone who has suffered merciless hounding at the hands of bullies as a teenager can likely attest to the mental grasps at catharsis made in imagining vengeful fates for their tormentors. The Final takes us on a journey alongside a gang of anguished social outcasts who take it upon themselves to elaborately realise these desires.
Inviting all of the cool kids to a grand costume party, the disenchanted teens drug the punters and bind them in chains to awaken to their impending doom. As the crew viciously torture, scar and murder those who have wronged them, consciences flare, allegiances are challenged and the plan gradually begins to deteriorate.
A sensitive topic for sure, and one not to be taken particularly lightly. It’s a good thing, then, that director Joey Stewart remains visually focused throughout, avoiding a descent into caricature and ensuring that the film maintains a taut, assured approach. The Final contains some effectively chilling imagery, and not just during the torture sequences. Costuming is excellent with the wardrobe department really coming up trumps with our main characters’ choice of adornment as they mete out vengeance.
The portrayal of the bullies is perhaps slightly less developed than necessary to create a true moral dilemma, but the characters remain real and, most importantly, recognisable. When one overbearing beefcake seethes “I do it…because I know that you can’t stop me”, the mindless mentality of the schoolyard bully is realised.
Unfortunately, by the time the credits roll, The Final completely fails to seize the opportunity to explore the mindset of these wronged teens, instead choosing to merely revel in their version of justice. Any attempt at looking into the darker side of the human mind, or even the empty, non-contemplative nature of the bully who often doesn’t realise the intensity of the hurt they cause, is relegated to shallow, incessant prattle by lead character Dane (Donato). He spends the majority of the second act parading on a balcony engaging in faux-philosophical lecturing which only serves to reveal him as a pretentious wannabe intellectual and not a sympathetic or misunderstood outsider. The rest of the vengeful gang suffer from their characters being insufficiently explored, brief glimpses of home lives ranging from empty to caring serving to mystify them even more. Perhaps this is an intentional move on the filmmakers’ part so as to avoid the moral quagmire of offering the perpetrators of some seriously vicious acts as the audience’s rock of sympathy.
Performances from the cast range from just passable to very impressive. Some of the smaller bit players fail to sound like they’re doing anything other than reading from a script; meanwhile Justin Arnold steals the show as head bully Brad, reduced to a sniveling, pleading wreck when the tables are turned. Angel-faced Lindsay Seidel deserves special mention for her performance as the seriously creepy Emily.
The Final certainly isn’t a complete failure and is definitely deserving of a watch, but it fails to address the loftier aspects and questions behind this very real and sensitive topic. Within the first fifteen minutes one of the bullied individuals, while discussing their plan, quips “All the years of watching horror flicks…what can be better than putting it all to use?” Misguided statements such as this serve to do more harm than good, revealing The Final to be much less than the thoughtful and important film it appears to believe it is.
Chelsea Films’ retail release of The Final includes a commentary, deleted scenes and trailer as special features; however, these were not included in the screener copy so have been given a 50% score.
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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