30.3.10

You Failed to Make a Movie: The Final

This film provides a challenge for the common film reviewer – how can you write a review of a movie that had absolutely nothing to say? Although that’s not an entirely fair statement, the film does have a statement it’s trying to make (Columbine = Yay!), but it’s delivered in such a cliched and poorly-thought-out manner that I found myself staring at much of the film in disbelief.

But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself – this movie’s utter failure is apparent from its initial frames, long before the premise rears its ugly head.

We open in black and white, for reasons that won’t become clear immediately, but the moment it's revealed I realized that the whole B/W affectation was a ridiculously pretentious indulgence.

Also, it leads to the following person’s credit being lost to the ages.

You know, the entire left side of the screen is black. Or perhaps she requested this slight, in the hopes that no one would ever associate her with the film…

Then there’s this puzzling credit-

‘Original Screenplay by’? This is the only writing credit in the film, and Jason is the only credited writer. He could have just taken a ‘written by’ line. He didn’t, though. Did he want to stress the film’s originality? It’s especially funny that his credit appears here, just before the woman stands up and speaks the first real line of the film (everything before that was just restaurant patter and a child wondering what’s wrong with her face). So, what does she say?

“Stop looking at me! I know what I look like! You think I chose to look like this? You think I chose this?”

It’s a perfect line to associate with the writer’s name because it’s one that best demonstrates his writing style, which is to have every character constantly state their motivations and subtext, phrased in a manner so stilted that no human would ever actually use it.

At this point, you may be wondering if the film is actually in black and white. It’s not. I’ll get to an explanation of that in a second.

First, let’s take a look at the absolute next scene in the film, where Jason pulls out the most popular card in the hack writer’s desk – the relevant lesson! That’s where high school or college students will be attending a lecture in the first five minutes that relates thematically (or directly) to the events they’ll be experiencing later in the film. This one is an especially obvious example, with a teacher explaining that during the Han dynasty soldiers would mutilate their opponents but leave them alive, so that everyone around would see the horrific folly of disobedience.

Wait a minute… could that be what was going on in the opening scene, where the mutilated girl was in public, disgusting everyone? Gasp! So that must mean this film has historical precedent, and is therefore classy!

The scene also introduces the theme of the film – nerd revenge. As the teacher discusses the concept of ‘cosmic retribution’ a jock a-hole picks on an Indian kid, who’s busy scribbling brutal cartoons in his notebook.

Oh, and just for the record, you’re not going crazy, this is, in fact, an American public school where they’re learning about ancient chinese history. And this is a course that stereotypical dumb jocks elected to take.

The rest of our victims are introduced soon after, along with an explanation for the monochromatic opening sequence.

These are the three bitches. I call them that not because I have a problem with the characters, but because that’s all the film wants you to think of them as. They’re 1-dimensional caricatures of shallow pretty girls who gossip and exploit their looks. Presumably the type who ignored the writer throughout high school, although that’s a bit of an overguess, if I’m being honest.

How does this explain the B/W? Well, it’s because the filmmakers are idiots. They want there to be some mystery as to just who it was that wound up with a mutilated face and missing fingers in the beginning of the film, and since they’ve colour-coded the bitches by hair, draining the colour was the only way to conceal their identity.

Except it doesn’t at all. Take a look at those hair colours. Really light blond, really dark brown, red right in the middle. Now let’s take another gander at freakshow from the first scene.

Yeah. Mystery solved. So let’s get to the actual plot. These are the film’s heroes:

They plan to lure all the popular kids-

-out to their leader’s farmhouse so that they can be tortured and murdered in a gruesome fashion. Why? Because of high school bullying. You’ll not that I called those five people above ‘heroes’ and not ‘antiheroes’. Again, that’s not my spin on things, just a description of how the film views these characters – as completely justified in planning the murder of their classmates because of the torment they’ve received at the hands of the popular kids.

So, what torment is so bad that they’re entitled to go on a killing rampage? Well, they throw some milk in the lunchroom. And later someone will break a kid’s videocamera. Scummy stuff, to be sure, but beyond some minor shoving the film makes no effort to establish the jocks and bitches as especially horrible people. Or really, establish them as people at all. They’re presented as little more than stupid cliches, saying and doing the kinds of things the mean kids in high school movies always do. The film is so entirely focused on the righteous nature of the heroes actions that it dehumanizes the jocks and bitches completely, never allowing for the possibility that they have their own problems and reasons for behaving the way they do.

If I’m making it sound like that this film has a point to make about the way that people always dehumanize the objects of their hate so as to allow those feelings the power of overwhelming purity, then I’ve misled you. That certainly could have been a powerful direction for the film to take, showing both how the a-holes’ actions contributed to this course of events, and how the heroes, in their narcissism and entitlement, are actually worse people than their erstwhile tormentors.

The film doesn’t attempt to make that point, though, or really any other, because it’s too busy congratulating itself for showing those stupid jocks and bitches a thing or two. It’s contemptible wish-fulfilment torture porn, and nothing else.

And so terrible written at that! In addition to the non-existent characterizations, horrible morality, and endless whiny emo bitching that I’ll get to in a moment, the film’s plot is as lazy and stupid as any I’ve seen recently.

First off, the heroes’ plan is based entirely around the idea that all of the popular kids would get dressed up and go to a costume party without knowing who was throwing it. If we’re supposed to believe that this high school is a rigidly stratified social environment then obviously these kids wouldn’t be caught dead at the wrong person’s party – and when you add to it the fact that they’re expected to drive out into the middle of nowhere and then be driven to a second location? Who would do that for a stranger when they could all just get together at the house of whoever’s parents were gone that weekend and do their partying there?

Okay, idea for a short film – a group of social outcasts arrange a party to slaughter all of the popular kids – and then no one shows up. They’re left hanging out in a house full of deathtraps, and after a few drinks, they forget just where some of them are.

Would hilarity ensue? I think so!

But back to the awful movie I actually watched.

The one bit of depth that the film actually occurs next, when a quick series of scenes establish that the heroes all have terrible home lives. This is meant to make them more tragic and sympathetic, but it doesn’t quite work out that way: the only message we’re left with is that (duh-) it was bad parenting that turned these kids into the kind of losers who get picked on in high school. So why are they taking this out on the bullies? Shouldn’t their parents be the ones getting killed? Even worse is the next sequence:

The film’s childish attempt to reveal that people who believe in god are stupid. They’re holding a prayer circle, and announcing that if they don’t get a sign from god not to, they’re going to torture and kill a bunch of people.

Because that’s how god works.

Even more ridiculously, Dane (the douche in the middle there) will, during some of his endless pontifications, explain that all of this torture is god’s idea, because he didn’t stop them from doing it. Which means that them being tormented by jocks for their entire life was also god’s idea, because he didn’t stop that either.

God, if you want me to continue insulting this movie because you share my opinion of it, give me no sign.

Thy will be done.

Then, after a completely pointless scene of some jocks being pulled over by a cop on the way to the party, the party actually gets started. And, as bad writing needed it to, absolutely no one finds the circumstances of the party at all suspicious. Despite the fact that all of the victims have costumes that reveal their faces:

But every single one of the heroes has a mask that hides their identity.

Now I’m going to point out one of the key elements that separates bad writing from good writing. Bad writers never think about the intermediary steps that must have occurred to get to the next scene. When we first see the party it’s already in full swing, but that party had to get started at some point. Some combination of jocks and bitches had to be the first ones to arrive, and upon doing so, and seeing that already present were five strangers in face-obscuring masks, what was their reaction? Were they creeped out? Did they question whose party it was? If not, why not?

Because, as mentioned earlier, Jason is a terrible writer.

Then, in an even more preposterous contrivance, the heroes drug the punch, which all the a-holes proceed to drink in exactly the right amount at the exact right time for everyone to fall asleep basically at once. That’s right, there’s no one who brought their own flask, or didn’t like punch, or just went a little slower than the rest on their first non-drugged drink and found it more than a little odd that everyone except for the hosts fell over at the same time. Hell, no one even goes out for some fresh air when they start to feel tired.

When they wake up everyone has been bound at their hands and feet:

So now the torture part of the evening can begin. And by torture, I mean the unbelievable boredom the audience is subjected to. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, what little physical torture ensues from this point on is so massively outstripped by Dane’s endless speechifying that even if it were incredibly bloody and creative it’s doubtful the film could have been salvaged.

It’s not, though. No, there’s no blood, no gore, just some of the least interesting torture you’ve ever seen in the history of cinema. Oh, a few girls get lye applied to their faces (hence freakshow at the open), but other than that it’s so tame that you’d almost think they were shooting for a lower rating. Or afraid of the colour red. Here’s a shot from an interminably long torture sequence-

She crouches over him for a full 90 seconds, sticking in acupuncture needles. No closeups, no effects shots, just needle after needle, seemingly in his neck. Except then we finally see the results of her work-

And it seems that there was only two needles in the neck, and the rest are just kind of grouped around his sternum. I have no doubt that this could be painful to suffer through. But it certainly isn’t visually interesting in any way.

That’s because interesting the audience isn’t this film’s primary goal. No, we’re hear to listen to Dane talk. And talk and talk and talk. Scenes drag on and on as he explains, time and again, that all of the jocks and bitches deserve what they’re getting, and how this physical punishment is the natural result of the psychological torment that was heaped upon them over the years.

I kept praying that someone would just tell him to quit bitching, but it never happened. You see, the jocks and bitches can’t respond, or be intelligent enough to see the holes in Dane’s argument, or even do anything but apologize because doing that would spoil the fantasy. The whole film is a pathetic revenge fantasy in which nothing is allowed to interfere with the way it was supposed to play out in the character’s mind.

Of course, because everything goes exactly according to plan that means that drama is largely lacking from the proceedings as well. Every time something interesting could happen, it steadfastly refuses to. The a-holes are given a set of shears and told to cut each others’ fingers off. Do they use the shears to turn the tables on the heroes, stabbing one of them in the eye? No, because that would ruin the fantasy where the nerds are all-powerful and the jocks do nothing but beg and plead. Also because the film did not have the money for special effects.

See that room the acupuncture victim is lying in? He’s not the only one there, and it’s a tool shed. Interestingly, in addition to him, there are two other people whose only meaningful injures are to their knee and shin, respectively:

I know there’s some blood on that guy’s face, but his cheek was just cut open. That’s it. They’re not badly injured or tied up securely, and right next to them is:

A well-stocked tool bench. Do these characters cut themselves loose or fashion makeshift weapons, then ambush the heroes later in the film? Nope. They just lie passively, waiting for things to be over. Because once they’ve suffered a little, they’re of no interest to the heroes, and therefore the world of the film forgets that they exist.

To be absolutely fair, there is one complication, although it’s so preposterous that I have a hard time giving the writer anything close to credit. It seems that they’re one guy who’s always nice to the heroes, and they pointedly didn’t invite him to the party. But he came anyway, which led to conflict amongst the heroes – should they let him go?

Again, we’re into terrible writing territory here… the heroes’ plan was predicated on staging a big, mysterious high school party, and then having only the people who were specifically invited show up, and absolutely no one else? And, with the exception of a single person, it worked? How is that possible? The fact that the nice guy is there means that people talked openly about the party. Why did only a single crasher appear?

Has the writer ever been to a high school party? Does he have any idea how big and out of control they get?

Oh, wait, if he had, then he wouldn’t have written this movie. Right.

Damn, I’ve got to stop with those ad hominem attacks. I don’t know if Jason was a loser in high school. All I know is that his movie really pissed me off, and now I’m lashing out at it… just like in his movie! Spooky, right?

Anyhoo, one of the heroes lets nice guy go and gets stabbed for his trouble, then nice guy is chased through the woods by two guys on ATVs and one guy on a dirtbike. This leads to a preposterous series of events where the bikers shoot a random cop to death, and then nice guy gets knocked out by a racist Vietnam vet neighbour (nice guy is black, you see), who he’s unable to convince about the massacre occurring next door.

His attempts to convince the vet take a turn for the hilarious when he convinces the man that he’s not trouble by revealing that his own grandfather was in Vietnam, while his father was in the Gulf War, and came back with Gulf War Syndrome, or as Nice Guy charmingly refers to it ‘that gulfstream’. This convinces crazy vet that Nice Guy might be telling the truth, despite the fact that the statement is either a lie, bad writing, or both. How do I know this? The nice guy character states that his father’s never been the same since coming back from the war. Thus clearly implying that he remembers his father before the war.

Except Nice Guy is eighteen at most. And the Gulf War was in 1991. So Nice Guy wasn’t alive during it. Vet somehow doesn’t catch this inconsistency. Is it because he’s supposed to be unbearably stupid? Or is it because this film was written in the wake of Columbine (when the age and memories would make sense) and sat on a shelf for years before Jason was able to get someone to produce it?

The vet finally goes to check on the party, and winds up stabbed by a spike trap for his trouble. Being a Rambo-esque caricature, however, he manages to live just long enough to kill the two ATV guys, leaving only the dirtbiker alive and fleeing.

For the record, the idea of having both traps and hunters makes absolutely no sense. These are dense dark woods, and there’s no good way of remembering – especially while driving through them on a dirtbike – where all of the bear traps were hidden. And while only the dirtbiker really has to fear those, the spike traps set at chest level would prove entirely fatal had one of the ATV riders triggered it.

Nice Guy then breaks his bonds and calls the police, then runs over to help. He doesn’t do much good, killing one of the heroes before getting shot himself. Luckily the police arrive moments later, and the remaining Heroes all kill themselves, believing that there work for the night is done. They take the time for a little more bitching before doing it, though, because it just wouldn’t be ‘The Final’ if the heroes didn’t get to spend a full 2/3rds of the running time blaming their evil on the jocks and bitches.

Now all that’s left is the wrap-up, which is, inexplicably, not in black and white. Okay, that’s not exactly true – as I’ve pointed out earlier the B/W scene was not meant to be atmospheric or symbolic, but rather it was a failed attempt to hide the redhead’s identity.

But you’d think they could have desaturated the rest of the post-slaughter scenes to at least pretend that the lack of colour had some kind of meaning.

It’s in these scenes that the film finally makes it absolutely clear that the film is wholeheartedly on the side of the heroes. How can we be sure of that? First off there’s the heavy-handed narration from a reporter who announces that there was ‘no cause’ for the slaughter. Because isn’t that the way it always works, man? The authorities just don’t know what time it is! And the media just won't report on the pain these kids were going through!

Except that's not even a little accurate. Let's cast out gazes back to Columbine for a second, shall we? That thing wasn't over for more than a few hours when every media outlet started asking 'why did this happen?' and reporting irresponsibly on possible motives and theories of the crime. That kind of shoddy sensationalistic rumormongering is exactly what the American news media is for.

The lack of a statement about the heroes' backstory is even more preposterous when you consider that in the Columbine example a little investigative reporting was required to figure out the motives and scheme. In this case almost 80 percent of what the heroes did was stand around explaining, over and over again, their specific reasons for doing what they were doing. So how could the reporter possibly not know them?

One could make the argument that the reporter knows the reasons behind the mass killing, but is not reporting them for the poorly-expressed hippie conspiracist reasons enumerated above. Of course, to believe that you'd have to have never seen a cable news channel ever, so let's just chalk it up, once again, to terrible writing, and continue with the wrapup.

This is followed by blonde bitch killing herself out of guilt for causing the massacre-

And the most preposterous shot of all, the reveal that dirtbiker was apparently not caught by the police…
Um… how? So there’s this group of crazed outcasts who go on a killing spree – most of them kill themselves or each other, but of the last three (surviving witnesses can attest to their existence) the two that rode ATVs were killed, and the one on a dirtbike got away. Yet somehow the cops didn’t put together the idea that the social outcast on the dirtbike killing people might well be the selfsame social outcast who rides a dirtbike to school every day.

The social outcast who was so inseparable from the ATV guys that other characters refered to them as ‘The Triplets’:

Them hanging out with Dane, the world’s whiniest douche

The only other shot of them in the movie. Notice a theme?

Yet somehow the police weren’t able to piece together the identity of the final killer. And Nice Guy doesn’t shoot dirt-biker in his sleep.

Because, again, this movie thinks that they were the good guys.

Oh, and because this is a current horror movie, here’s the obligatory Crying Girl Tied to a Chair that filmmakers felt compelled to include:

To sum up, The Final is a poorly conceived borderline-offensive juvenile revenge fantasy that should never have made it out of the spiral notepad that it was originally scribbled into.

Attention, everyone involved in ‘The Final’:

You failed to make a movie.

7 comments:

Bo said...

I kinda liked it.

Kidding, of course. Haven't seen it, won't see it, but it made for one hilarious review. Well done.

Anonymous said...

BEST REVIEW EVER. Just saw this bowl of crap and your review was the only prescription for the feeling I had afterward.

alex said...

You missed the point entirely and spent all your precious time trying to write a funny review.
"You failed to write a funny review - Vardulon"

Swadhi said...

Haven't seen the movie, but again, your post just cracked me up! Your sarcasm is just terrific. :)

Cliff Evans said...

I actually didn't have a problem with how obnoxious and pretentious Dane was, because that's exactly what I'd expect some douchey little kid who had these sort of juvenile revenge fantasies to be like. I also didn't have a problem with the popular kids not questioning the party, because it seems to me like when you're that entitled and narcissistic, you're aren't going to be able to imagine anything bad happening to you. So the stupid teenage behavior on both sides was believable to me.

But dead on with the rest of it. That was a terrible movie.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review. I saw this movie, but I just couldn't finish it. I reached the 65 minute mark before I gave up.

You made all the points I would have made and more. The plot was one of the most ill-conceived ones out there, the characters were exaggerated in such a way as to be caricatures of human beings, and the monologues. Dear god, the monologues.

By the end I was close to applauding- I'm dead serious. Your dedication to finishing this awful, awful movie and then writing such a detailed review about it is to be commended.

Anonymous said...

I loved the movie because,to me it simply shows that bullying isn't right...I mean please if your gonna bulky some one at least find a reason why cause it shows that people can get so sick of it and bad stuff ends up happening ...