Remember when nerds took vengeance via panty raids and peeping tommery? Thems were the good old days...
Quick Plot: Fed up with being teased and occasionally abused, a group of outcast teenagers plot an intricate night of vengeance against the popular kids. The nerdy ringleader just so happened to inherit a rural farmhouse, making it oh-so-easy to throw a mysterious costume party where only the jocks and cheerleaders are invited. Before you can say pig's blood and ruffled collars, the nerds have the pretty people drugged and shackled for an evening of face melting, finger chopping, and paralysis.
The Final is a tough film to review. As the directorial debut for the industry experienced Joey Stewart, it's certainly well-made and far sharper than a whole lot of Netflix Instant's other horror offerings. Jason Kabolati's script is also better than expectation, giving us a few stand-out characters (including a genuinely nice guy clique circulator played in a refreshing touch by a black actor) with maybe self-aware dialogue that generally falls flat ("All's fair in sex and high school" is clearly something a screenwriter, not 17 year old would say). There's also a fun black and white framing device that sets a unique stylized mood. I would have rather seen more of that within the body of the otherwise fairly by-the-numbers The Final, but any breath of fresh air is appreciated when you're dealing with high school horror.
That being said, I can't really say I 'enjoyed' The Final. See, it does that thing that I generally despise in movies: it acts MEAN.
Our outcasts-turned-killers offer very little in terms of sympathy. Yes, they're unfairly bullied, but unfortunately, we're never given any real glimpse into who they are. The ringleader is just cold, and while actress Lindsay Seidel brings a warm vulnerability to her Strangers-masked victim, there's nothing else to really know about her. There are about three others who blend in with hardly any screentime and no backstory. On one hand, I could write this off as the movie trying to make us see only what their cruel tormenters see. On the other, I feel like I'm just making an excuse for poor character development.
In addition to the retro framing device, there are a few more interestingly styled choices that makes The Final stand out from the herd of high school horror flicks, including a Charlie Brown/Muppet Babies* approach to never showing any parent in full frame
In a film that has its unloved characters make such a point about their bullies not getting to know them, I guess I just really wish that the film, well, got to know these kids
Red meat is for people who don’t care how they look
Never attend a party if you didn't get an invitation
If you're feeling sick or fat, just remember: things always perk up after a night of drinking and hot sex
Chekhov's Rule of Bear Traps
You can't set one up without seeing it go off in the third act!
The Final is perfectly fine a low maintenance stream on Netflix Instant. As a teen horror film, it's decently made and offers some new touches that you don't normally find in what can be a very rote genre. By no means is it anything particularly groundbreaking or perfectly executed, but in this day and age, it's nice to see some energy from new horror filmmakers.
Remember when any popular form of children's entertainment could be seen ON ICE? As a child, I recall seeing an advertisement for such a program featuring Muppet Babies and longed to see for myself what Nanny's head actually looked like, considering the cartoon would only give us glimpses of her kneecaps down. In my mind, they HAD to have an actual FIGURE SKATER playing the part, meaning I would finally learn the truth about her face or lack thereof. Though I doubt the show actually revealed this, allow me to use this space to make a 25+ years in the making plea:
IF ANYONE SAW MUPPET BABIES ON ICE, HOW DID THEY SHOW NANNY?!
Thank you for your time and consideration.