Knowing roughly what The Final is about before watching it, I felt slightly hesitant. In this day and age, teen-on-teen violence seems to be more prevalent than ever (though perhaps this is just the media overreacting as usual) and so exploiting this in a film, especially when it makes the perpetrators appear justified in their heinous actions, is not the smartest of moves on the directors part. Even though the Columbine High School massacre was over ten years ago now, for many it will always be a sore point – understandably so. The original posters for this film actually had to be changed (apart from in a few foreign countries) because it was felt that it was too reminiscent of the tragedy that really did take place (being three masked gunmen standing over figures lying on the floor). After watching this film, I pondered about whether using ‘taboo’ subjects as the backdrop was the only way that a horror movie can have much of an impact anymore. Honestly, I’m not sure.
In an interview with the director, Joey Stewart, when asked about people making the connection between his film and the Columbine High School Massacre, he said, ‘I think if those people actually saw the film they would see how it has nothing to do with that scenario’. I personally don’t entirely agree with him on that one, but each to their own, and I especially disagree with the notion that showing this film in high schools would prevent bullies. Let’s not get carried away now.
This film is about a group of students who get bullied and tormented, but decide that they’ve had enough. They choose to sneak into a costume party, drug all of the guests and get revenge through various methods of torture, claiming that they were simply ‘driven’ to do this because of the bullying they’d endured (a point made more poignant due to the fact that the motives behind the Columbine High School Massacre were also said to be bullying). Watching it definitely made me feel uneasy – which I suppose is what the director wanted. It almost felt like the ‘outcasts’ were portrayed as heroes, as martyrs even, and the ‘bullies’ deserved everything that came to them. This is not a message that I approve of and so I found it hard to really identify with any of the characters. Whilst bullying is undeniably wrong, seeking revenge (via cutting off fingers and severing spinal cords) is not at all valid either, under any circumstances. Just the overall ‘statement’ that the film gave isn’t one that sits well with me, and that somewhat coloured my opinion of the film in general.
I think that although this film manages to be horrific – torturing people is never a ‘light hearted’ topic – it was not executed all that well, and making a ninety minute movie solely about torture is rarely a good thing. There needs to be more substance to it, and I felt that the reasons given by the main outcast Dane (played by Marc Donato) were all a bit cheesy and lame. I was also irritated by the fact that when one of the students escapes and manages to reach a house, he is then accused of burglary by the occupant and tied to a chair. I mean, what the hell is that? Quite clearly the director was trying to play for time, and for me it was a completely unnecessary addition to the story.
All in all, The Final is a shocking watch, to say the least, and if you’re a fan of ‘revenge’ movies then this is probably one of the ultimate revenge movies! I suppose, as well, that anybody who was unlucky enough to be bullied when they went to school might appreciate this film as something of a fantasy that they had back then. But I’ll warn those out there who fancy giving it a watch – it’s not all that satisfying a movie, falling down in many places, with just a few moments that provoke genuine emotion from the viewer.