Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Final Terror Blu-Ray/ DVD review

Every few months I break down and buy a couple of Scream Factory Blu-Rays. They're hit or miss - in fact, around Christmas, I ended up giving a stack of three to a friend (The Nest, Final Exam, Night of the Demons) because I didn't think I'd ever watch them again, and I thought sharing them with someone else would make me feel less foolish for having shelled out actual money for them (it beat trading them in for $2 each, which just adds insult to injury). There are bonafide classics on the imprint, mind you - I'm still grateful for their Nightbreed Director's Cut - and a few films I haven't seen since I was a teenager (like Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse) that I've been glad to revisit, but a lot of the films they're releasing are pretty obscure, which is part of their appeal, for me. I mean, The Nest is only okay - some very Cronenbergian special effects and lots of cockroaches that add spice to a somewhat silly story - but how can one resist a film where the box art (however misleading) looks like this - especially if you've never bloody heard of it before?
Another example of a film I hadn't seen before risking a Scream Factory purchase is The Final Terror. A film believed more or less lost, with no negative or interpositive to restore it from, Scream Factory compiled the best surviving elements from six prints owned by collectors to restore the film. It looks pretty decent, considering. A lot of horror geek reviews online mention that there is a very low body count and very little gore for a 1980's slasher film, which leads said reviewers to dismiss it as boring and uninspired, recommending instead films like The Burning (which this does resemble, but which I actually found vastly less interesting). If your love of horror really does involve wanting to see novel ways for your stalker of choice dispatch of campers, you might not care much for The Final Terror either, though you'll have to credit the beautiful scenery (California redwood forests), and the lush photography (by director/ DOP Andrew Davis, who went on to direct The Fugitive with Harrison Ford, and the tidy cold-war thriller The Package, with Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones). And you won't fail to notice the cast. You can sort of suss out what kind of movie geek is writing the review in question if they single out Mark Metcalf, Daryl Hannah and Joe Pantoliano, and neglect any mention of Lewis Smith (Stuckey* from Southern Comfort, itself the subject of a terrific Scream Factory Blu-Ray/ DVD package). In fact, if you're a fan of Southern Comfort - if your idea of brilliant backwoods ordeal films is Southern Comfort, Rituals, Deliverance, and Clearcut (my faves, in no particular order), then this is a must-see: a slasher film with craft and style and an interesting subtext (which I'll leave you to puzzle out for yourself). It stands up as a nicely crafted piece of cinema, full of suspense and convincingly executed details, doing fresh things with a genre that mostly was content to repeat a fairly stale formula. 
What remains a little confusing to me, however - I have not scoured the extras thoroughly to see if this is fully explained, but from what I can see, it is somewhat understated - is that apparently what Scream Factory is presenting to us is a re-imagining of the film, edited into its present form by "Post Production Supervisor" Allan Zolman, who talks in one featurette about how the original film  - which had languished un-distributed from 1981 to 1983 - was tedious, had overly-long torture scenes that weren't "fun" (!), and generally needed re-imagining. When exactly in the process this re-imagining took place is a little nebulous, but the version of the film put on Youtube a couple of years ago seems identical (though vastly inferior in image quality) to what's on the Blu, so I'm guessing it happened in the 1980's. At the same time, puzzilingly, while this is apparently a tinkered-with version of the film, you have the participation of Andrew Davis, providing a commentary where he waxes cranky about an early scene added without his consent back in the early 1980's, but - in the first twenty minutes or so, anyhow - doesn't breathe word one about how someone else has apparently re-edited his film after the fact. He seems entirely accepting, speaks of it as if it were his film, and not Zollman's take on it. (The reviewers who don't mention Lewis Smith don't know about this either, apparently, because I can find no enlightenment online). I'm also left wondering if the "original" version of the film is out there in some way, and if anyone has seen it. I've only seen the Scream Factory release, but those missing torture scenes could have been exactly what the gorehounds out there needed to swing their vote in favour of this film!
Anyhow, this is the most pleasant surprise I've had from a blind buy movie purchase in a long time. Good thing I don't read other people's reviews! (I would have read Stephen Thrower's but he doesn't deal with it in Nightmare USA). Being sold for 2/$30 at HMV Metrotown, if that's any help (though whatever you do, don't pair it with George A. Romero's The Dark Half (Romero's first terrible film, which I yawned my way through this evening. Three minutes of excellent gore as the bad guy is devoured by SPARROWS, for fucksake, is not enough to salvage a plodding, repetitive, dully-literal imagining of what surely must be a fairly self-indulgent and mediocre Stephen King novel (if this film is any indication). 
*You know, Stuckey:

1 comment:

Allan MacInnis said...

Oops, Thrower does mention it, it's just not in the index. He lumps it together with "bland efforts" in the genre. Au contraire!

The whole film is on Youtube, but be aware, that first kill is NOT part of the director's vision! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D95L7kpdQGs