|The Final Terror (1983)
|Jon George, Neill D. Hicks and Ronald Shusset
|John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Ernest Harden Jr., Lewis Smith, Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, Akosua Busia, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Metcalf and Cindy Harrell
“I told them not to come” – Eggar
A group of rangers go for a work assignment on unfamiliar forest grounds and plan to extend their stay and go on a camping and river rafting trip with a few girls in tow. The rangers consist of Dennis (Friedrich), Marco (Zmed), Nathaniel (Harden Jr.), Boone (Smith), Mike (Metcalf) and Eggar (Pantoliano) but Eggar only handles transportation back and forth. The girls in tow consist of Margaret (Ward), Vanessa (Busia), Windy (Hannah) and Melanie (Harrell). Soon Mike is killed by an assailant and Melanie is kidnapped. The group thinks that Eggar may somehow be responsible and try to flush him out as well as staying alive in a harsh environment.
There’s a certain X-Factor with “The Final Terror” that makes it an enjoyable watch. I call this a slasher film in denial as it uses the same scenario and setting as “Friday the 13th” (1980), “The Burning” (1981) and others but it refuses to adhere to the required dose of T&A, gory set-pieces and multiple body counts that these films tended to offer and plays more like a conventional thriller. But it’s not like the film is going for a “Deliverance” (1972) type of vibe but the closest I can think of is it kinda’ resembles a movie called “Rituals” (1977) starring Hal Holbrook. “The Final Terror” falls into a between space in that it isn’t gory or trashy enough for the slasher crowd and nowhere near sophisticated enough for the elite thriller seeking crowd. It’s not surprising then to learn that the movie was completed in 1981 and shelved temporarily as it didn’t fit neatly into any category and had completely unknown actors.
In 1983 three of the film’s stars (Zmed, Ward and Hannah) had attracted attention and so the film was released and marketed to the slasher crowd. To up the body count a bit a prologue was shot and some re-editing applied to make the film more accessible as a thriller/slasher. The end result is a bit puzzling for those expecting anything traditional from the genre but the film goes by pleasantly enough for a number of reasons. Director Andrew Davis (future director of “Under Siege” – 1992 and “The Fugitive” – 1993) also handled cinematography duties and “The Final Terror” has a gorgeous look that immediately creates the desired atmosphere for a movie of this kind. From a technical standpoint the movie is great and well handled with action set-pieces whether in the thick woods or on the river. It’s a much more polished effort look-wise than expected and belies it’s low-budget origins. Some of the actors deliver fine performances although the script leaves awfully little for them to work with. Zmed is very appealing, Pantoliano displays this early in his career just how forceful a performer he is and Friedrich really makes an impression as a very loony character. These characters really are the personification of one-dimensional but as a group they work well enough.
I also like the one surprise element that’s woven into the campfire story told early on. This is no great mystery but what little there is is well handled and sets the story up for a neat surprise climax that’s also an admirably pulled off set-piece. There are long stretches in the film that drag on without too much happening but thanks to the technical polish and overall good dynamic from the cast these lull moments go by well enough. When the set-pieces do occur the movie springs to life and there are a couple of nicely timed seat-jumpers. Thanks to some heavy duty restoration work the movie’s nighttime scenes also provide some eerie atmosphere and up the suspense. These are no amateurs that are working behind the scenes. In the end; “The Final Terror” is well worth the watch for cult enthusiasts.