Monday, June 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Final Terror (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Can You Survive The Blu-ray?

The Final Terror falls into this unfortunately too large a category in my personal horror record: movies with which I am only familiar with the cover box or cover box movies for short. I essentially stalked video stores when I was a kid. I started with my family's video store of choice Long Valley Video (which was next to the town pizza place to boot) and moved on to the surrounding towns hitting Strictly Video and Video Plus in Hackettstown, Five Star Video in Washington and Palmer Video in Kenilworth to name a few. You can imagine the number of titles you pick up and only glance at the cover box, read the back and then put down. It wasn't for the lack of interest in The Final Terror that I didn't rent the movie.  Most movies on this list are there as victims of circumstance; there just so happened to be something better on the wall that day. Well now I've seen The Final Terror and those pointy boobs on the cover and that ominous vanishing-point title on the cover have meaning or at least a moving picture image to go along with the classic cover box art. Scream Factory's release on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is a very strange beast indeed created as a Frankenstein from various prints and including some interesting kills in the backwoods tradition that borders on hillbilly horror.

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

A group of young campers out for what they hope to be a fun-filled weekend find their plans spoiled by a disguised, merciless killer who stalks the forest in search of new victims. Soon they are caught in a terrifying sequence of bloodshed and murder. It is up to the remaining few to defend themselves and put an end to the terror filled weekend.

Was the wait to watch The Final Terror worth the internal hype I had created? I mean once your adult mind becomes aware of a title like The Final Terror again, that it isn't out on Blu-ray or DVD, you begin to create a legend around that title in your mind assigning value to it that it may not necessarily have earned. There are clearly moments in this film that warrant at least one viewing. The killing in the movie is clearly low budget but done with such fervor that the movie transcends its modest kitty. The issue I take with The Final Terror is the pacing. It sort of meanders between death sequences, casually strolling and never building up the fever pitch that makes a slash and hack woods adventure stand out. It has a strong opening with a rather unusual (and perhaps unbelievable) murder. Can you really kill someone with canned veggie and bean leads tied to a string, rigged up like a face high trip line? This is the horror-verse, and I suppose anything is possible. That's the kind of thing that makes The Final Terror enjoyable. There's an off the wall approach that plays at reality, but then pulls you into a very entertaining place.  The tag line seems to suggest a supernatural picture. "Without Knowing They Have Awakened an Unknown Force... Can Anyone Survive?". I assure you that the force will become very known and maybe the reason The Final Terror didn't become a breakout (aside from some quality control issues) might be that it was marketed outside of its subject matter.

The film boasts a cast of famous actors and actresses including Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, Adrian Zmed, Mark Metcalf, Lewis Smith and Joe Pantoliano, but you may not feel as though you're really seeing the same faces with which you have become familiar. It's like staring at the high school yearbook photo of people you see everyday. They're sort of there, but these are not the accomplished professionals that have honed their craft or worked their way into your memory banks. That being said, it's nice to get a fresh take on young actors trying to make a name for themselves as so many big names have, in horror movies.

One key thing to note about this release it that it is a composite from six different prints. Scream Factory is very clear about this upfront, disclaiming the fact before the movie begins. I'm simply glad that they chose to bring out a movie that might otherwise be considered a lost piece of horror history. The Final Terror isn't Scream Factory's most beautiful transfer, but that's more than likely due to a lack of original camera negative and the condition of the source material. As with many of the Vinegar Syndrome horror releases as of late, you almost come to appreciate a movie more seeing it beat up and looking grimy. It supports the cult classic nature of a movie like this, and gives that grindhouse look at that so many aspiring directors aim for with digital aging and degradation. This should only add to the mystique of The Final Terror's release. 

Extras include interviews with Adrian Zmed, Lewis Smith, Post Production Supervisor Allan Holzman and Composer Susan Justin. The autio commentary is provided by Andrew David, director of The Final Terror who would later go on to direct one of my childhood favorites (because of the cake scene) Under Siege, Holes and The Fugitive. Sorry fellas, no Daryl Hannah in this package. Maybe too busy filming Splash 2? For a release that couldn't find a solid complete version of the film, it's nice to see the outpouring of talent to back it up and provide a well rounded extra package that can help guide us through the release for those of us who didn't catch it in 1983 or the years shortly thereafter. Note: 1080p HD, DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu. The reverse of the classic VHS cover include stills from the movie. 

The Final Terror is filled with moments of unintentional comedy, and it seems to show its budget time and time again, but the finale of this "final terror" (what's so damn final about it anyway?) is actually pretty friggin amazing. It's worth the wait. Where the pacing is my only real concern with the movie, the last act of the movie does pick up the tempo and provides enough horror for your woods-horror buck. Consider it Deliverance Lite and nobody has to squeal like a piggy. Scream Factory has staged the ultimate comeback for a terror so final that it almost didn't make it out of the VHS box. I'm glad I had the chance to see a movie that won't be in the "cover box only" category in my horror history.

Out July 1st.

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