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1 review, 4 user ratings

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Final Terror, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"Sometimes-Arresting Slasher Pic"
2 stars

Completed in 1980, not released until three years later, it didn't manage to get too many people into theatres, so if you haven't heard of it you're not alone.

The Final Terror isn't really recommendable, but it isn't a bad slasher picture as far as these things go. Set in the Northern California Redwood Forest area and populated by a capable cast playing a group of forest-ranger trainees terrorized by a largely-unseen feral adversary, it's got a fair amount of ominous atmosphere and a few scares to its credit. The director, Andrew Davis, who also did the cinematography (under the name Andreas Davidescu), keeps everything darkly lit but not impenetrably so -- with the impossibly tall trees blocking out most of the sunlight, we're afforded just enough visual information to get a proper reading on the given surroundings. The story opens with a couple on a motorcycle crashing due to some blockage on a trail, and when the girlfriend arrives back at the scene after seeking help for her injured boyfriend, he's found with a throat slit strung up on a tree, and a knife-wielding figure viciously takes her out, too. We then forward to the next day where an equal number of young men and women are setting off on a bus for a hike-and-raft expedition to a "wild, untouched" spot called Mill Creek, a place the foul-tempered mechanic tries warning them off of. But, of course, nobody listens and once the bus leaves them they're systematically picked off one by one. Some of this is arresting, some of it clunky. Lacking the creative kills of Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th and sustained eeriness of Tony Maylam's The Burning, The Final Terror isn't as consistently suspenseful as it should be. Granted, the screenplay-by-committee (three writers are credited, among them Alien's Ronald Shusett) could've been penned on the back of a matchbook, but Davis doesn't get much in the way of momentum going once bloody mayhem breaks out -- it's only his second theatrical effort, and like a lot of cinematographers-turned-directors he has trouble "keeping the picture in his head." Every scene should fluidly segue into the other with narrative drive in mind, and half the time Davis seems interested only in giving us "moments," thus a good many dead spots abound; we should be held spellbound, but a lot of the tension subsides to make way for enervating, too-lengthy dialogue scenes with characters not nearly as frightened as they should be (to pad out the proceedings to a proper feature length, probably).

I liked the discovery of a dilapidated cabin containing slain animals along with some canned food that gives us a clue as to the relationship of one of the characters to the murderer. There's a finely staged sequence where everyone isn't as safe holing up in the bus as they believe. Davis employs sound to interesting effect in punctuating certain scene transitions, with his slow horizontal and vertical pans increasing the sense of isolation. And the acting is a cut above what we normally get in this genre, with Sharky's Machine's Rachel Ward, Blade Runner's Daryl Hannah, Grease 2's Adrien Zmed solidly contributing. The picture isn't negligently made, but even at a mere eighty-four minutes it feels overextended: it comes off more as an "exercise" than something organically sound. You can picture Davis taking on the assignment saying to himself, "Okay, if I'm going to break into the big leagues I'm going to have to 'do my time' with something this generically undemanding." The problem is that this is evident in the picture's unevenness because the director hasn't thrown every ounce of himself into the material regardless of its numerous weaknesses -- he's surrendering to them instead of attacking them with true moviemaking gusto. We don't want overactive camerawork crassly accentuating incidentals, yet we're not exactly craving abysmal bits like a stupid gratuitous sex scene that comes out of nowhere -- it involves who we think will be the hero and heroine, who just a couple of scenes back have berated the trainees for not concerning themselves with the disappearance of one of their own; we're soon watching their libidinous selves sexually going at it, and it's so poorly framed (not to mention, contextually nonsensical) I thought these were new characters we hadn't been made privy to until now. A director who cared about the totality of the piece would've shaped it so this wasn't so; Davis, however, sublimating his instincts, slops it onto our laps like a glop of seedy-diner mystery meat onto a dirty plate -- his attitude is akin to, "Hey, don't blame me, I just work here." Still, in a Deliverance kind of way, The Final Terror rouses itself to a satisfying action conclusion where the hunted aptly turns the tables on the hunted with one of its own barbaric devices. It's nothing spectacular, mind you, but it has a kind of logicality that provides the ending credits with an acceptable lead-in.

Better than several of the "Friday the 13th" sequels, at least.

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originally posted: 04/10/13 23:05:13
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell seen this in 84 it was ok best i remember 2 stars
5/16/12 keith miron It wasn't that bad ! 2 stars
1/01/06 Jeff Anderson Absolute garbage & worthless! It's no wonder director Davis went on to better things! 1 stars
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  02-May-1983 (R)
  DVD: 22-Nov-2005



Directed by
  Andrew Davis

Written by
  Ronald Shusett
  Jon George
  Neill Hicks

  Adrian Zmed
  Rachel Ward
  Daryl Hannah
  Joe Pantoliano
  Mark Metcalf

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