US (dir. Joey Stewart)
Cast: Marc Donato, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Justin Arnold, Travis Tedford
Synopsis: In the remote county of Rocky Branch, Tex., the Workley ranch house would become the infamous scene known internationally on the internet as “The Final.” Dane, an awkward student with a deadly vendetta and suicidal tendencies, leads a group of outcasts who plot to avenge the years of humiliation they faced by the popular students at Hohn High School. Employing ideas inspired both from their classes as well as from horror films they watched, the outcast turn the tables on the popular students who made sport of them. After receiving a lake-house granted to him in his uncle’s will, Dane and his friends, Jack, Ravi, Andy and Emily prepare for a single night that will leave their tormentors scarred for life — physically and emotionally.
Review: “The Final” is a film that takes the taboo topic of school shootings to an extreme level. You ask yourself, what could be the point of a movie that emulates the Columbine tragedy? “The Final” attempts to address that question in 90 minutes, only to conclude that it is better to torture those that anger you and then kill yourself – likely one of the most confusing lessons in morality ever. This is probably the only movie with supposedly heroic killers (killers that you are meant to root for) which actually leads you to empathize more with the victims instead. In the end, “The Final” provides nothing in the way of a good story, a profound life lesson, or an entertaining film. It truly is a waste of time.
One thing that struck me about the “outcast” teenagers, who are allegedly tormented by the school’s popular crowd, is the mild degree of bullying they actually encounter. One teen just gets generally shoved around for standing up for a friend, another gets racist slurs hurled at him and his camera broken, and another gets called ugly despite actually being quite cute. No one is ever shown to be severely bullied to the point of actual physical assault or physically abused to the point where you would consider some degree of retaliation justifiable. Also, one of the popular kids even stands up for one of the outcast teens and instigates a cafeteria fight when he defends the outcast in front of Dumb Jock #1, so it’s not like all the popular kids are evil in a “Disturbing Behavior” kind of way. This may sound bad of me to say, but had they shown the outcasts getting bullied in some sort of extreme manner (besides petty name calling and mild shoving) then maybe I would have empathized with them more, especially when their final plan, to torture and physically maim the popular crowd, comes to fruition.
As it is apparently relatively easy for high school age children to purchase assault rifles and hand guns in America, the outcasts start stocking up on the weaponry needed to bring their plan to a head within the first 20 minutes of the movie.
In fact, within the entire first 20 minutes of the movie, the outcasts drop hints left, right and center about their intentions for their bullies – so even before the movie starts and before we even get to know one iota of information about the outcasts (some names would be nice), their plan is essentially ready to go. I would have preferred to have sat through a lot more of a back story on these outcast teenagers and maybe even some character development or even some more bullying. Honestly, if they had spent like an hour developing the characters or showing them being severely bullied, this would have been a better movie than just watching the outcasts’ “big final plan” which was apparently to pace back and forth in front of chained up “bullies” and then torture a handful of them in unoriginal ways that were reminiscent of torture scenes from better other horror movies.
Granted their plan isn’t all that bad or anything, but it seems a little intense for a few bullies who really didn’t go beyond some pushing, name calling, and camera breaking. For fuck’s sake, it’s high school, it’ll all be over in a few years anyways and the “outcasts” will likely revel in the satisfaction of seeing their former bullies corralling shopping carts at the grocery store or taking orders at McDonald’s while they go on to successful lives in better cities. They say living well is the best revenge right? Maybe this “revenge” plot had more to do with jealousy or something, because the main goal of the outcasts was to take away that which made the bullies popular (i.e. good looks, athletic ability, nice fingers) and thus disfigure them in ways that would ultimately make them outcasts themselves. With bullies as fucking cookie cutter and inane as the ones from “The Final” however, it’s hard to believe the outcasts would envy not being included with their retarded shenanigans of driving totally high and swerving while yelling “IT’S TIME TO PARTY!! YEAH!! WHOOHOO!!” or dressing in the sluttiest costumes Party Packagers has to offer (more on this later). They’re all just walking, talking stereotypes of themselves, and the douchebag jocks actually give a bad name to jocks everywhere since they are about as fucking ugly and redneck looking as one could ever think is possible. The bitchy, mean girls of “The Final” are like a greatest hits trio of bitches. They lament about being fat, cheat with other girls’ boyfriends, and discuss the pros and cons of eating red meat (“Red meat is for people who don’t care how they look, not for hot chicks like us!”… really?). Also, the uglier one of the bunch speaks by enunciating words with a nasal twang when she’s trying to be sarcastic, which only makes her look fucking retarded. At least they successfully made for the most annoying twits I’ve yet seen in a horror movie.
As part of their master plan, the outcasts stage a costume party and invite all the popular kids to it so they can eventually drug them and proceed with the mangling and maiming. Of course, all the jocks and sluts show up in stereotype appropriate outfits but the outcasts show up in bulky, childish costumes (clown, scarecrow, fairy etc.) to conceal their identities. I guess we are supposed to believe they wouldn’t have really stood out at a costume party where the two most popular costumes were sexy cop and sexy Roman soldier.
It would appear as though the outcasts didn’t co-ordinate costumes either, since so many of them end up wearing identical horror-movie inspired outfits after changing out of the bulky, face-concealing, “party-safe” costumes. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but with the masks on and only the voices to guide you, it sometimes felt like one person was in two different places simultaneously (guarding the outside of the building or guarding the bullies inside) so I was constantly questioning who was where, and who was who.
Of course with the movie having mean bullies and outcast teenagers with a confused sense of morality, there has to be a hero somewhere in the movie. Our hero comes in the form of the token black guy who, though part of the popular crowd, is the only one to stand up for the outcasts. Though initially spared the wrath of the outcasts’ plan, he ends up at the costume party likely due to someone accidentally inviting him to the event on Facebook (it happens!). The outcasts, likely upset that they didn’t add the whole “This is a private event. It will not show up in your profile, and only admins can invite guests” spiel under the event information on the Facebook event listing (lol) decide to include him in the maiming anyways. Of course, the hero ends up escaping from captivity after one of the outcasts helps him, then ends up getting captured by some nut job redneck when he tries to get help, then ends up rounding up the police to help him foil the plans of the outcasts. I swear, this was just an excuse to make the audience feel like there was at least someone without a confused sense of morals in this movie. For fucks sake, the outcast teenagers pray before initiating their plan and say they are doing God’s work. Did Joey Stewart honestly think enough time had passed since Columbine to make “The Final” look like an entertaining horror movie? I also felt mildly insulted when it became obvious some of the outcasts were heavily borrowing from horror movies in either the costumes or their methods of torture. One girl looks straight out of “Audition”, one guy looked straight out of “Apt Pupil” (or maybe even “Dead Snow”), and the rest looked like members of Slipknot. What was that trying to show? Teenagers will copy horror movie villains? Horror movie fans are disturbed, vengeful nerds willing to lash out at any one who makes fun of them? Is that really a good implication to have in a horror movie?
In the end, I don’t think any of the bullies even die from their injuries. Only the outcasts, and I think that redneck who kidnapped the token black kid, end up dead (the outcasts had a suicide pact, the redneck was just in the wrong place at the wrong time). The bullies become the outcasts themselves as their lost fingers and scarred faces make them hideous and they are no longer able to look good in sexy cop outfits or sexy solider costumes. Boo-hoo. I’m not quite sure what point Stewart was trying to make in “The Final”, and I think that had he condensed this movie into a 10 minute short instead of a full feature film, he could have made it one thing it certainly isn’t: enjoyable.