The Final Terror is another ’80s slasher given the HD treatment by the folks at Scream Factory. Despite a sparse amount of remaining prints, they went to great lengths to give it a well done presentation. Bravo for their efforts and their continuing work to restore rare and well-known horror films alike, but within their steady stream of releases, there’s bound to be some stinkers. Case in point, The Final Terror – a 1981 backwoods slasher directed by Andrew Davis, the man who would go on to helm The Fugitive and Above the Law.
During the feature commentary with Davis included on Scream Factory’s Blu-ray, he states that he doesn’t like horror films and never made another one after this (although I’d argue that Holes could be considered horror for making a star of Shia LaBeouf). His disinterest towards the genre shows in the film, but at least Davis’ knows his way around a camera because the film looks really great. Given Davis’ later action classics, it’s no surprise The Final Terror looks more like an action film than horror, but there’s a strong grittiness to the atmosphere that works well in the backwoods setting. The cast includes some actors that would go on to become well-known, such as Daryl Hannah, Joe Pantoliano, and Adrian Zmed (Bachelor Party), so it’s cool to see these future stars cutting their chops.
The film’s story is nothing original. Like a lot of slashers of the decade, the film starts with a couple slaughtered in the woods. This part was apparently tacked on after Davis finished filming to give the story an initial thrust before it settles into 50 minutes of down time. Then it jumps to a group of young campers who head into some thick woods for a weekend trip. You see where this is going. Eventually they’re hunted and some are killed by a wild-woman wearing pelts and no shoes.
The body count is very low for a slasher of this era. My hunch is Davis wanted to avoid having to shoot any more gore than he had to. After those initial two kills in the prologue, it takes another 50 minutes for one more person to die, followed by another in the closing minutes. One person even has their throat slashed, only to be saved by the group. Don’t take my thoughts on the low body count to be a complaint, I’m not bloodthirsty or anything, I just believe it was a sign of Davis’ skittishness towards the genre.
None of the characters are developed and none of them have that much depth to them either. They also seem to absolutely hate each other, which isn’t fun to watch, but does create this steady tension that’s thicker than in scenes that are supposed to be intentionally tense. The only character given any sort of real personality is Zorich, a militant redneck survivalist type. He’s played by John Friedrich, who played Joey Capra in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Wanderers. In that film he’s a wacky, awkward guy who strikes out with the ladies, so it’s really fun to watch him play the drug-absuing scumbag Zorich.
Overall there’s nothing really memorable about The Final Terror - nothing sticks with you after watching it. The look of the killer is fairly striking and there’s a cool booby trap like one you’d see on Endor utilized in the climax. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend renting this one first. After you watch it, pop back on here and try to explain to me what the “final terror” is because I have no idea.
The Blu-ray sports a 1080p transfer culled from six remaining prints owned by collectors. There’s a disclaimer in the beginning in which Scream Factory states that the original negatives are lost, so they did what they could with those six prints. For a cut and chop job, it looks fairly decent. The daytime scenes have nice details and there’s not enough print damage to be distracting. If anything, the scratches and other noise add to the film’s grittiness.
Like I mentioned, on the feature commentary with Davis he points out that he doesn’t like horror movies and has never made another one. He doesn’t seem all that enthused about revisiting this film either. He goes a very long time without talking. It’s simply a boring track.
The disc features new interviews with actors Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith. They discuss how they got involved with the picture, working with Davis, and their acting background (Smith had none going into the film, he didn’t even have a SAG card). There’s also interviews with editor Allan Holzman and composer Susan Justin, both who share the opinion that it’s not a very good film but are still proud of their contributions.
Also included is a misleading trailer.