I had no intentions of reviewing this film, but in light of watching a horror film with my wife last night I had to choose something relatively "not frightening" since she really can't handle a good scare. Now, if you've seen this movie I know what you are thinking, "This movie is nothing other than horrifying!" You're right it certainly is horrifying, but not scary, right? If you read my post last week you know that I'm not trying to diminish what this film is. This is a horror movie. However, it certainly fulfills that classic torture sub-genre that has been ever so popular in the 2000's era. In the height of Saw films, The Descent, and Martyrs, The Final jumped on that bandwagon in 2010 with a new take on bullying, but nothing original when it comes to pain, punishment and, well, torture!
The trailer is short, sweet, and to the point. You can tell it isn't going to be a major production film, but it accomplishes what it needs to. It opens up in a classroom where the instructor is giving a lecture on the Han Dynasty and how they would leave their enemies alive disfiguring them and torturing them in the process as the camera pans over a young woman's disfigured face. The scene than changes to a series of bullying scenarios where students are abused verbally, mentally, and physically by fellow classmates. Back to the instructor, he imposes the idea that "death would be a welcomed friend" insinuating the torture brought by the Han Dynasty would be too much to endure.
As we fast forward to what appears to be the main setting of the film, we see students partying in a standard horror movie party home - drinks, drugs, and costumes. They slowly begin to pass out one by one and become chained and shackled to one another as a bellowing distorted voice disrupts their slumber. Then, like a bat out of hell, a montage of torture that takes place from, removing fingers and tongues to bear traps and nail guns. It concludes with the title card and that disgruntled voice one last time, "Ask yourself one question. What did I do to get here?"
The trailer certainly is interesting, and makes you wonder how this all pans out. There is also this surreal feeling considering that is high school students embarking on something like this. To its own credit, the trailer communicated exactly what the film is:
The bullied have had enough
The bullies will have enough
There will be torture.
In the end...
It's a decent trailer.
The film opens in black and white with a hooded girl entering a burger joint to make an order to a seasoned waitress who is too busy to make eye contact with anyone. Though, as she looks up, we see this disturbed look on her face as her voice begins to crack and she can barely lay eyes on her with a gaze of normalcy. The hooded woman takes a seat as she waits for her order. She notices the eyes across the room glaring at her as a young boy asks his mother, "Why does the lady look like that?" It is than revealed that the hooded woman is disfigured on half of her face and she explodes in anger, flipping her table, exclaiming she didn't choose to look this way.
The next scene shows students receiving flyers for a party this upcoming weekend and naturally transitions to the classroom where we're focused in on a jock-like teen boy harassing a south Asian boy (Ravi) in front of him. This scene is than followed by a young girl (Emily) being harassed for not being invited to the party by three other girls who also make repetitive comments on her physical appearance. There is then a sequence where two boys (Dane and Jack) are setting up bear traps outside to be approached by Dane's new neighbor (Parker) to have a conversation with little significance to the plot of the film.
After this takes place a lunch scene where the outcasts enjoying lunch until one of the bullies launches his milk box to make liquid impact on Ravi's books. He trots towards the assailant giving him his milk back. A mutual party (Kurtis) who appears to be friends with everyone approaches the outcasts and invites them to a video shoot on Friday. After his departure, the outcasts mention that they like him and decide to make sure he doesn't make the party.
We bounce to the outcasts' home life where Dane is shown with a gun to his head playing Russian roulette chanting something about being fearless while his parents scream at one another in the background. Ravi lives in a home where no one looks at or talks to each other. Emily lives with her divorced mother who pays little to no attention to her and Jack is an excelling banjo player with a single father who couldn't care less about him. In a later scene with Jack, he mentions to his father that there is a letter in his room that explains what he's about to do. His father continues to ignore him.
Two of the bullies (Bradley and Tommy) confront Ravi and Dane at the video shoot where they break Ravi's camera and Bradley reveals to Dane why he tortures him, "Because you can't stop me." Ravi tells Kurtis about the incident which leads to Kurtis approaching Bradley about the situation ultimately ending up in a brawl, but ultimately showing the outcasts who he is.
Jumping to the night of the party there is a car scene where Bradley and two others are driving like idiots while smoking pot only to get pulled over, but ultimately to be let go by a crooked cop who takes their weed to smoke later. Meanwhile, a conversation amongst the outcasts about hell and doing God's work and then to the group wearing costumes to blend in with the rest of the party so that they can spike the punch bowl chloroform causing everyone to pass out.
After they awaken, a belligerent party-goer (Miles) mouths off for the last time as Jack takes a cattle gun to his cheek and knee disfiguring him. Another attendee (Tommy) is released to go get help and gets caught in one of those bear traps we mentioned earlier only to be brought back moments later. One of the athlete types (Bernard) dares the outcasts to kill him leading Ravi to stab him in the shoulder and forcing him to digest a suspicious liquid that attacks his muscular system keeping him from moving or talking so that Emily can stab his face and neck with hot-tipped needles. This is when Ravi drops a key for Kurtis to escape leading Dane to kill Ravi for betraying the group.
One of the girls who tortured Emily (Heather) has a compound placed on her face that leaving her scarred and damaged. This is when another one of the girls (Bridgette) realizes who Emily is and apologizes. For apologizing, Emily decides to be "generous" and allow her to be unharmed if she cuts off Bradley's fingers. She refuses. Bradley cuts off two of her fingers instead to save himself. This is when Emily grants her one more chance by staking claim on Bradley's fingers once more. She accepts this time, but when it comes down to it she panics and Emily smears that same compound on half of Bridgette's face giving her a little more motivation. She still refuses to hurt Bradley as the skin on her face disintegrates.
Where did our boy Kurtis go? He's at the neighbor, Parker's place, tied up because he came knocking on the door with a gun in his hand. He eventually convinces Parker to help save the kids by telling the spooked neighbor a false story about he comes from a bloodline of soldiers too.
Back at the party, Bradley is tied to a chair where Dane goes on a tangent about how Bradley was the bane of his existence and severs his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.
After Parker left Kurtis tied up to investigate the party, Kurtis finds a way to untie himself to make his way back to help. He makes it to the house where he saves another student from getting his tongue cut off. He's shot in the arm, but kills another outcast (Andy) in the process. Dane was about to put Kurtis down for good before Emily stops him by shooting and killing him with a handgun. She gives Jack the gun, hugs him, and allows him to shoot her in the back of the head. Jack reminds the police as they bust into the door that "there are more of us out there" before pulling the trigger, killing himself. The final scene reveals it was Bridgett that was the disfigured girl in the introductory scene of the film.
THOUGHTS ON THE FILM
I can see how the first third of the movie can feel relatable to so many people as bullying is always so prominent in young peoples' lives. These introductory scenes immediately give you a sense of compassion because you either have or know someone who has been bullied in this same way. What makes these scenes hard to watch, however, is not the insufferable behavior from many of these students, but its the injustice of the acting. I'm not sure if this script was in their favor; nevertheless, the comments made by most of the bullies in the film doesn't feel natural or even real and ultimately makes it hard to get into the heads of any of the characters when the performances are so laughable.
In reality, none of the performances were very stellar with the exception to the actress who plays Emily who was nominated for a Fright Meter Award for 'Best Supporting Actress'. Even then, her performance wasn't worth noting either.
I'm not sure if we're meant to feel remorse for any of the outcasts in this movie, but I don't. Believe me, I understand what these disgruntled youths are going through, but the film doesn't sell it well; therefore, I'm just not convinced.
I will note that once the party starts, that the overwhelming feeling of horror takes over. You find yourself wondering with the rest of these classmates bound at their hands and feet, "What is going to happen?" The film also paces itself well in that sense. It doesn't take too long to set up the plot, explain the characters and drive us to the horror. Which, I must mention, is consistently taking place almost as soon as they all wake up.
However, if you are really into the torture genre, this film isn't much. It actually lacks a lot of blood in my opinion, but still sustains itself in cringe worthy moments like when Bridget has her fingers removed, when Bradley has his spinal cord severed or the "needle" scene. Aside from that, I believe most of the film is bearable even for the most squeamish viewers.
There isn't much depth to the story. Once the torture starts there isn't much to interrupt aside from Ravi silently dropping a key for Kurtis to escape. Even then, this just gives us the useless side plot with Parker that gives a reason as to why the police don't show up immediately. The conclusion isn't unique in any way as the mass suicide plan is heavily hinted at. The only exception to this is when Emily kills Dane for getting out of hand the second time. Initially for shooting at Kurtis and killing Ravi and the latter for shooting Kurtis and wounding him. If you want to get technical, I suppose only one of them committed suicide while the rest were murdered or participated in an... elective suicide? Yes, I suppose that is the best way to put that.
I believe the deeper meaning has something to do with how we treat others comes back - you reap what you sow kind of thing. The question from the trailer resurfaces a couple of times asking the partiers why each one of them is there that evening. It certainly isn't profound or a new concept in anyway.
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I rated this film heavily based on its gore as the trailer obviously advertised it as a torture film. At the same time, with gore comes that disturbance factor. So, those two things alone were 65% of how I scored the film. I didn't have high expectations for a great plot because it looked like a low budget film, I didn't know the director, and the premise seemed too simple to become too deep or complex of a film. Nevertheless, that obviously downplayed on my expectations for twists the like. I personally am not a fan of jump scares as I feel they're cheap and rarely done well and so, I didn't come expecting much in that department.
I projected the film would probably score a 5/10 and you can see above I was pretty close. IMDb gave it a 5.4 which, in my opinion, is not very far-fetched.
In the end, I'm not completely disappointed. It was a standard hour and a half and I didn't feel like I was robbed. It's a good film to have on in the background if you're working on a project or cleaning the house, but probably not worth sitting down and watching more than once. This films budget was about $1,000,000 and it only made $28,491 if that tells you what you need to know...
YOU MAY NOT KNOW
The three guards in the woods are actually other outcasts from school despite wearing the same costumes as some of those inside the party. This part of the plot is subtly hinted at and easy to miss.
Lindsay Seidel's father was on set for the needle scene.
When Emily is on the phone with Ravi it appears that Emily is watching Audition (1999) as that scream in the background of the phone call sounds all too familiar and the needle stunt pays tribute to it.