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The Final Terror Blu-ray Review (originally published 2014)

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. (From Scream Factory’s official synopsis)



Andrew Davis’ The Final Terror (1983) wasn’t very popular upon its modest release (two years after it was finished), doesn’t have a particularly vocal cult following, and isn’t particularly obscure. However, it was an early entry in the careers of actresses Daryl Hannah and Rachel Ward (it was shot in 1981, the same year Sharky’s Machine was released and one year before Blade Runner), character actor mainstay Joe Pantoliano, T.J. Hooker co-star Adrian Zmed, and director Andrew Davis (who worked with Pantoliano again on The Fugitive [1993] and Steal Big Steal Little [1995]). Davis’ career is all over the place in terms of genre types and box office/critical success rates, but it seems pretty easy to divide his films between pre and post-Fugitive timelines, when he went quickly from inexplicably popular Steven Seagal movies to a worthy Best Picture nominee (in The Fugitive) before de-evolving back into schlock, albeit on a much larger scale. The Final Terror is an oddity, though, as the only horror film he ever made. It’s patchy, including tepid scares and some expositional scenes that are so badly edited that they verge on the avant garde, but shows signs of approaching glory in dynamically framed shots of an empty, rain-soaked forest (Davis acted as his own cinematographer) and a couple of energetic action sequences. It’s easy enough to see the same potential B-action producers saw.


The by-the-numbers screenplay was co-written by Jon George, Neill D. Hicks (the gentlemen behind the Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot, 1982), and Dan O'Bannon collaborator Ronald Shusett (Alien [1979], Dead & Buried [1981]). I assume that all of their efforts were put into characters and dialogue, both of which are above average for a cheapo slasher. The performances are also better than normal, but more expected, based on the future success rate of the cast. None of this makes up for the tedium that rolls along between kills. You’d think combining elements of Deliverance (1972) and Friday the 13th (1980) would’ve made for a more entertaining exercise – it certainly worked for Walter Hill and Peter Carter when they made Southern Comfort (1981) and Rituals (1977, aka: The Creeper – an alternate title for The Final Terror) – but there’s little here to distinguish Davis’ film from a glut of early ‘80s slashers, besides the killer’s cool costume design (and you only see her for about a minute total).



Video

The Final Terror isn’t the best movie, but this Blu-ray release is a pretty big deal for collectors that only had grey market, open-matte DVDs to choose from. This is the first widescreen (1.78:1) version ever available in the US and fully digitally remastered to boot. The film opens with the following special message:

Unfortunately all of the original film elements for The Final Terror – the negative, the inter-positive – are all lost. Scream Factory went through six film prints, lent to us by film collectors, to find the best looking reels to do the transfer you are about to watch. We hope you enjoy this presentation.

This warning sets us up for a pretty miserable experience, but, looking at samples from the older DVDs, I can verify that this is a sizable upgrade. The composite print is inconsistent – some reels are scratchy, some are water damaged, and others are relatively clean – but the most common problem is the pulsing color quality that ebbs and flows between vivid and washed out. This is a pretty small price to pay for a massive increase in clarity and detail. Older releases were overwhelmed by the blackness of the nighttime sequences, to the point that it was literally impossible to tell what was going on, whereas the bump to 1080p allows for much richer texture and sharper elemental separation that makes these darker scenes more discernible. Based on the limited resources at their disposal, I’d say Scream Factory did a fine job (I only wish they had the funds to do their own masters of some of their ‘bigger’ releases).


This Blu-ray features an 82-minute, R-rated version of the film. According to various internet sources, there were some minor cuts made to secure the rating from the MPAA and rumors that the unofficial DVD releases included some of these cuts, but I can’t verify that and don’t know what to look for here to verify that this release is cut or uncut.



Audio

The uncompressed, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack fares better than the video quality in terms of consistency. Dialogue is clean and as consistent as possible, based on what appears to be a lot of ADR work. The incidental and environmental effects have a decent amount of depth for a low-budget feature. Susan Justin’s musical score, which includes a catchy opening/closing title rock tracks and some typically John Carpenter-esque piano motifs, is warm and clear. I noticed no obvious high-end distortion or gain issues.


Extras

  • Commentary with director Andrew Davis – Davis takes this track pretty seriously, running down the basic facts of the production from a mostly technical point of view. His tone is a bit flat and there are long silent stretches, but I enjoyed the track for the lesson it gives in low-budget, director-for-hire filmmaking. Davis is also quick to credit other crewmembers with directing some of the better scenes, specifically the opening sequence.

  • Post Terror: Finishing The Final Terror (23:00, HD) – Interviews with post-production supervisor/uncredited editor Allan Holzman (who is somewhat apologetic and open to discussing what didn’t work about the film) and his wife, composer Susan Justin (who demonstrates her incredible vocal capabilities),

  • The First Terror (16:20, HD) – Interviews with actors Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith, both of which are charming (though, I could probably die happy if I never hear another actor vehemently tell me that he doesn’t like horror movies).

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Behind-the-scenes image gallery



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