Monday, September 6, 2010

THE FINAL TERROR (1983) - nature is already a vast expanse filled with horrors, and It's unfair that local inbreds insist on piling on

here is the entire film on Youtube (aka Carnivore), albeit in quality that suffers in comparison to even my ancient worn out Vestron VHS

When Brit John Boorman traversed into the raging rapids of the American south, along with Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, and that dude that was in Stroker Ace, he wrought a masterpiece about a group of friends enveloped by the savage maw of unfettered nature. Real men doing real things and really getting in over their heads. It’s rather unfortunate that the film has been reduced in popular culture to a freak show featuring Ned Beatty getting unceremoniously porked against his will (supplemented with some banjo noodling), and not a modern myth of man vs. nature.

Another often overlooked effect of the film is the mostly unheralded ripoffs that followed (apart from the excellent and reasonably well known Southern Comfort). Surprisingly, this is a subgenre replete with quality. There’s Hunter’s Blood, and Rituals, and Just Before Dawn (which I previously reviewed), all effective and well made elaborations on John Boorman’s classic. Another one lost in the shuffle is The Final Terror, which dares to ask the question “what if the characters from a Friday the 13th movie were dropped into a Deliverance ripoff?” Finally, a movie that goes out on a limb, falls out of the tree, and lands on a trap built by a handy redneck.

The film opens up with a sweet intro murder, like you might find in a typical slasher, as a teen couple falls prey to a mysterious trap killer in the forest preserve. A busload of camper victims roll in, driven along by creepy redneck bus driver Joe Pantoliano (Joey Pants to his friends and colleagues). This ragtag gaggle of hick food includes free spirit Darryl Hannah, resident studmuffin Adrian Zmed, pledge pin pontificator Mark Metcalf, and, of course, Rachel Ward. Rachel seems a little out of place amongst a group of young rustic Americans, but she is smoking hot, so who the hell cares. They start singing Three Blind Mice to pass the time during the bus ride (this must predate Walkman technology), and we hear a report on the radio about missing couples and so forth. Joe mentions a friend of his being killed in the forest several years prior, and they also drive by a mental institution. It would be pretty funny if, after all of these warning signs, they all get eaten by bears. Either way, they are WAY too many potential hazards for me to feel comfortable about this situation.

They get a nice campfire going, roasting marshmallows till they get nice and ashy. Of course, a dude chimes with a campfire story (something about campfires always inspire these campfire stories for some reason), telling a story about a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her lumberjack uncle. She ended up having a son (inbred alert!), and later ended up in a mental institution. Nineteen years later, her child rescues her from the nuthouse and into the safe sanctuary of the nearby preserve. Of course, this story ends in a jump scare, to relieve the audience’s tension by giving off the impression that the story was just a fun way to scare the shit out of innocent people.

Zmed, rocking the red bandana like Axl Rose (although this predates Guns and Roses, so it's probably more accurate to say that Axl rocked a headband like the dude from Grease 2), hears about a vast garden of marijuana lying beyond the trees, and goes hunting for dope. The next morning, Zmed is mysteriously missing, so the campers decide to split up and search for him (naturally). They ominously find the bandana minus the Zmedster, but continue to search anyway. Mark Metcalf (of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video and other iconic achievements) decides to take a break and have sex with his girlfriend in a stream. Some mysterious humanoid goes after a naked Metcalf with a curved blade. Maybe it’s Bigfoot, and he’s offended by gratuitous nudity. Who can say really.

Several from the group happen upon a rundown house and explore it’s decrepit interior. They find a freshly decapitated animal head in a cabinet (maybe a wolf), so they hightail it the fuck out. The group gets around another campfire later that night, wondering what happened to Zmed, Mark, and his girlfriend. Maybe they eloped together as some sort of permanent menage a trois. They are creepily engulfed by a vast expanse of blue mist, pumping up the atmosphere quotient. This movie would really benefit from a blu-ray presentation. Hell, I’d take a letterboxed laserdisc at this point. They go to sleep, but something vaguely furry hovers over Rachel as she dreams some hot chick fantasy. I don't know what this entails exactly, but I doubt Rachel dreams about the same stuff I do (like showing up at high school wearing my pants on my head). She wakes up and screams, and Zmed shows up all of a sudden. I guess he found the weed, smoked up, and fell asleep for 24 hours. Who says pot doesn’t lower your self motivation.

At this point, everyone dresses up in army camouflage, running around the forest in military operation style a la Southern Comfort. They got the fatigues, the face paint, the steel helmets, and the proverbial cherry on top; sticking a leaf on your head. I took these guys for a bunch of city slickers in over their heads, but they quickly transformed into a forest commando unit of sorts. Impressively, they came prepared in case a war happened to break out in the middle of the woods.

Well, they inflate a raft, grab some oars (they were carrying all of this shit in their backpacks too), and head downstream to escape the horrors of the forest (drawing further comparisons to Deliverance). Awesomely, Metcalf’s dead girlfriend falls out of the trees and onto the raft (boy, the killer timed that shit just right), and they bury her before moving along. They finally get back to the bus, but it has been sabotaged (of course), so they decide to stay the night inside. Unfortunately, the beast or whatever crashes through the windows, and so begins the final chase through a dark forest, as the campers run around, trying to avoid traps while engaged in some cat and mouse antics with the killer. They again transform back into commandos, except for Zmed, who rocks the red bandana with the blue beret (I guess he's taking the opposite route, blinding the enemy with bright colors), and they are anything but helpless victims, as they're on the attack as well. There is also an awesome twist ending that I didn’t see coming, but then again, I’m perpetually stuck in a half conscious haze.

The Final Terror is short on plot and long on atmosphere, although much of it is rendered a dark muddle on the inferior versions that are currently available. It treads the line between slasher and Deliverance ripoff, but the proactive characters (most of whom survive) pushes this slightly more into nature survival territory. Remember, it’s not a slasher film if most everyone lives, just as it isn't a survivalist tale if everyone dies. It’s sorta like how a kamikaze pilot isn’t really a kamikaze pilot if he survives. At that point, he’s just some fuck up that flies a plane.


  1. It's kind of hard to explain how I feel about The Final Terror. It tends to bore me, but yet I love to watch it anyways. Maybe it's because it starred Mark Metcalf, Adrian Zmed, and Lewis Smith.

    I was always got a kick out of the "Squeal Like a Pig" sketch. The Kids in the Hall can do anything.

  2. @Morgan
    It's atmospheric, but confused. I'm a massive KITH fan, and I will make further efforts to try and throw in KITH clips that have nothing to do with the review.