Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Final (2010)
By and large regarded as one of the stronger entries (along with Lake Mungo ) in this year's edition of the 8 Films to Die For Series, The Final is different and original in scope than your standard variety torture porn. However, in the end, it falls into a few too many hackneyed cliches and it struggles with bouts of being wholly self-aware when a more subtle approach would have been best served. And overall, it just doesn't go all the way with driving home the message that its attempting to deliver.
The film awkwardly opens up with a teeny bopper flick soundtrack (think American Pie) and stereotypical high school hallway scene which introduces you to a bunch of unlikeable characters. It was enough to throw me off and think, 'Had I pressed play on the wrong On Demand movie selection, again? Fuck, I hate it when I do that.' This gives way to a lunchtime cafeteria scene in which a handful of outcasts talk about their 'plan' for their tormentors. Whew, looks like I'm not wasting $4.99 tonight. Er, wait....
During the group planning session, one of the male plotters exclaims 'It looks like all those years of watching horror movies will finally pay off.' I almost wanted to stop taking the film seriously at this point and I was only about 15 minutes in. Sorry if I'm sounding a little cynical but I've seen one too many horror films lately that are much too self-aware. Its like every director has to spell out every plot point and have some sort of genre nod in an attempt to be more appealing. I mean really, how does a comment like that add to the proceedings?
Anyways, if you haven't figured it out, these kids are plotting revenge against all the jocks, popular kids, mean girls, etc. of the school that have made their lives a living hell. They sucker them into a costume party out at a secluded ranch, drug their drinks and watch as they subsequently pass out. The drugged party goers awaken later to find themselves chained together. The ring leader of the outcasted group (who are all sporting costumes of their own which help mask their identities), starts in on a speech after one of the jocks breaks down and starts weeping like a baby. Here is where the film really begins to lose me. Instead of a heart felt speech about ostracism and acceptance, we get a half-assed, whiny, 'no one would play with us' speech that rings hollow emotionally. And we get a 'this is revenge' or 'payback' line and we're supposed to believe that yeah, these chained kids really deserve what's coming to them. Look, I'm not trying to make light of school bullying. I was plenty smacked around, harassed and tormented when I was younger, being the shortest kid at school. But, essentially, what these kids 'suffered' through was tantamount to someone slapping their lunch tray.
So what we don't get in terms of a true sense of profound emotional and physical torture at the hands of these supposed bullies, you'd think that the next 45 min. or so would convince us of their just due punishment with some really brutal and gut wrenching payback at the hands of our scheming social misfits. To a certain extent there is (some finger clippings via a garden tool, a facial mask that's enhanced with acid). But it never really goes all the way and the intent and purpose of their plan is never fully realized as 1) they start infighting amongst each other and 2) it's foiled by a next door neighbor and a kid who's escaped the party.
In the end, there's certainly a message thats trying to reach out about bullying and social justice. It just lacks any sort of emotional resonance or punch. Since all the kids being held captive escape and our conspiring kiddos get waxed, there isn't a sense of anyone truly learning from their mistakes or grossly altering their life as a result of the experience.
Could we be seeing the advent of a new type of torture porn film? Hard to say. I do think, that in the hands of a more competent filmmaker, this could have really worked.
Cortez the Killer