Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the latest Scream and Shout column. If you're new 'round these parts, Scream and Shout takes a detailed look at the Blu-Ray releases of Shout Factory and its horror arm Scream Factory.
This installment focuses on a weird early '80s slasher called The Final Terror.
I've only seen this movie one time before checking out this disc, back in my video store combing young horror buff years. I remember not liking it much then, but I was excited to give it a second chance. It had to have some kind of cult significance if Scream was giving it its due, right?
Maybe I haven't changed much since I was twelve because I am still not a fan of this movie. In fact I was just kind of bored with it as a kid, but I've evolved into actively disliking it with this adult viewing.
Now, I should love this movie. It has a great cast of rising talent, including Joe Pantoliano, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward and Lewis Smith (who funnily enough made his debut in Southern Comfort, featured in the first Scream and Shout column) and it's one of those early '80s slashers that was blatantly trying to cash in on the success of Friday the 13th, a particular favorite sub-genre of mine.
While director Andrew Davis has a keen sense of storytelling and a good eye for framing (as evidenced by his successful career, which includes some of the better Steven Seagal movies and The Fugitive) I could tell he saw himself above the material even before I got to the special features where he says as much.
The problem with the film is that it feels embarrassed to be a campy slasher, but it's not smart enough to rise above the genre. Basically, the story is about young men and women who go out into the beautiful redwoods of Northern California to clear out debris from streams or something else menial that wasn't explained very well. While out there, their weird driver/mechanic (Joey Pants) gets even weirder when the campfire tale/bad guy backstory is told. You see, there's a crazy woman who was raped as a little girl and got pregnant. She had the incest baby, but was committed to a mental institution. Upon release she ended up living in the very woods these young folks are trespassing in.
Joey Pants freaks out when they tell this story, so it's no surprise at all when he turns out to be the incest baby. I get the impression that they intended to make the audience think he was pulling a Norman Bates and dressing up as his crazy mom, but again that mis-direction isn't handled very well. There wasn't a second while watching that I thought Joey Pants was the actual killer. I suppose it's possible that I've seen a lot of these things and was able to predict a little bit better than the average viewer, but I honestly think it was just a half-baked idea that wasn't executed well.
There's no fun or gore to fall back, really. The opening sequence was shot by the producers without the director's consent and it's even worse than the rest of the movie. It's a random, bloody kill that poorly framed, edited and paced. They added it in to up the body count because very few people actually die in the movie. I'm not as much of a gore hound as a lot of my fellow horror-lovers, but you either gotta be a great, weird, tense slasher or a bucket of gory fun. If you're not one of those two things you're doomed to be forgotten, much like this movie has been.
The acting in it is pretty decent, but none of the characters are written very well. Daryl Hannah is definitely eye-drawing, but she's relegated to the background for the majority of the movie. Oddly enough there isn't a main character, really. Every one of the young group are interchangeable and equally vanilla.
As far as the finale goes, it's about as anticlimactic as the rest of the movie, with a big “reveal” that isn't a reveal at all to anybody paying an iota of attention. Admittedly, how they off the big baddie is impressive in its unexpected scope, but it's incredibly underwhelming in its execution. Once again, Davis shows no flair here and shies away from going graphic. It's a just-the-facts-ma'am event that happens with zero suspense.
Joey Pants escapes this movie pretty well despite how over the top he goes. As a character he's always amped up and if the movie around him was weirder it'd fit a bit more and play better. But at least he's energetic unlike the rest of the cast who just kind of quietly wait out the clock.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES:
Let's start with the audio commentary by director Andrew Davis. It starts off interesting as Davis talks without fear (the benefit of being successful and kind of out of the industry) about how the producers fucked him over by shooting the opening scene, but by doing so they violated a DGA rule, the fine for which ended up paying for Davis' wedding. He also talks about the cast (how Daryl Hannah was Haskel Wexler's niece and that we're seeing Joey Pants' original nose, etc. Sadly, the commentary is front-loaded and he spends a great deal of the middle and end of the movie silently watching along with us, interjecting only occasionally.
Other supplementals are a 22 minute doc called Post Terror with Davis leading the discussion about the circumstances of making the movie and gathering the cast and a 16 minute featurette called The First Terror with actors Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith discussing how they got involved and what their experiences were with the movie. Neither is super enlightening, but if you dig the movie more than I do they're filled with enough tidbits to make them worth a watch.
The disc starts out with a warning that the original negative and inter-positive has been lost on this film, so the transfer is made up of 6 release prints on loan from collectors. The color is strong and the prints are pretty clean, so it's actually a pretty great transfer considering what they had to work with. It reminded me of seeing a great print at an Alamo screening. The look of the transfer is one of the best things about this disc (including the movie). There's more film grain than usual because they're sourcing from a print (a copy of a copy of a copy by that point), but it looks better than some half-assed big studio restorations I've seen.
I'm not a fan of the movie and the special features are pretty middle of the road, but if this is one of your favorites there's enough substance to justify buying the disc. If you love the movie then this is likely the best it's ever looked for you, so the transfer alone is worth having it. If you've never seen it and are on the fence, I'd recommend a few dozen other better early '80s slashers for you to give your eyeballs to.
THE NEXT SCREAM/SHOUT TITLE WILL BE...
I have San Diego Comic-Con starting today, so Psycho II will have to wait until I get back next week, but I dearly love this underrated sequel. Very eager to finally crack the plastic open on this title. See ya' next week!
Previous Scream and Shout Columns: