If you’re in High School or if you’ve ever been in High School, you don’t need me (let alone a movie) to tell you that High School is hell. It’s just plain not a good time. And, if movies have taught us anything about life (that life forgot to teach us) it’s that no matter what your social strata being a teenager sucks for everybody. Of course there’s a special kind of hell for teenagers that just don’t fit into any specific clique. The losers, the outcasts, the freaks. Those people probably have it harder than anyone else. And movies like American Pie or Revenge of the Nerds or Pump Up The Volume don’t tell it like it really is. For those of you that fall into the outsider category, the only revenge most of you are ever gonna get is taking your aggression out on a XBox game or 20. But what if the freaks fought back? What if instead of going all Columbine and just obliterating everyone, they planned their attack? What if they lured all their tormenters to a remote country house under the guise of an exclusive costume party (you know, the kind of party the losers would never get invited to). What would you do to a captive audience of all you’re worst enemies? Would you kill them all?
Dane (Marc Donato), Emily (Lindsay Seidel), Jack (Eric Isenhower), Ravi (Vincent Silochan) and a few other misfits get just the chance to dole out a little punishment when they lure the most popular kids in their high school class out of town for a night that none of them will ever forget. Trapped in the house and chained to the floor, Dane presides over a night of torture and murder all in the name of vengeance.
As a revenge fantasy, The Final is way more Hostel than your average teen flick. It gleefully dishes out, severed fingers and spines along with some wince-worthy acupuncture and slathering of flesh-melting madness. But, Dane and his pals aren’t interested in a Jigsaw-style lesson plan—they’re not all that keen of teaching anyone anything. Sure they talk a big game. They claim that this will make the others understand, but the fact remains that Dane and his comrades in carnage are all just a little too Norman Bates nuts to claim that what their doing is justifiably sane.
For Director Joey Stewart and Writer Jason Kabolati’s part they do their best to make the popular kids seemingly deserve what they get. But I can’t help but think the camera lingers a little too long on the torture of the Jocks and Cheerleaders and a not nearly long enough on the catharsis of the killers. It seems more like a twisted teen blodbath that was made as payback for the filmmakers and the audience and not so much for the characters inside the production. It’s one thing to say “hey wouldn’t it be cool if we did this or that” but it’s entirely something different to do it because it’s what the characters truly desire. In fact aside from the megalomaniacal Dane (whose abuse we witness first hand) the only other character that seems to have real impetus for murder is Emily.
As for Emily, her inspiration is more internalized than Dane’s. I mean sure, she doesn’t seem to have any friends and the girls give her a lot of grief (as bitchy teenage princesses are wont to do to their underlings), but no one is dumping buckets of pig blood on the girl or pelting her with tampons in the locker room. Emily just seems to take a flying leap right off the deep end. But if you look closer you’ll discover that it’s a great leap and that Emily is arguably the most compelling character in the film. To her credit, Lindsay Seidel deserves rousing and thunderous applause for taking a pseudo-gothic, wallflower, Ally Sheedy character and sending her careering down a cliff of violent insanity while at the same time making her a wholly identifiable lunatic. When she taunts her victims you can see the sadness behind her bloodthirsty eyes.
The Final is far from a perfect film, but like its characters’ predicament, in the beginning the plan seems like a good idea–tell a teenage terror tale but don’t set the film up as a morality play—but in the end, it’s not really teaching a lesson to kids everywhere that picking on your lessers (or those people in your mind that you deem to be lesser) is bad for your health. It’s more like the revenge fantasy of a group filmmaker kids who got picked on themselves in high school. Sitting around drinking and saying to themselves ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if the football player was paralyzed and the pretty princess had her porcelain skin burned off her face?’ Truth be told though, the weird kid in me that somehow survived middle-school thinks it would be cool too.