Final Terror, The
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: July 1st, 2014.
Director: Andrew Davis
Cast: Adrian Zmed, Daryl Hannah, Joe Pantoliano
Year: 1983 Purchase From Amazon
Following in the footsteps of backwoods slashers like Jeff Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn and Peter Carter’s Rituals comes Andrew Davis’ The Final Terror, a low budget horror picture that, like The Burning, would interestingly feature quite a few recognizable faces before they’d go on to much bigger things in their respective careers. On top of that, Davis would go on to helm some pretty successful action movies working with Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movie begins when a group of park rangers led by Mike (Mark Metcalf) and made up of Marco (Adrian Zmed), Boone (Lewis Smith), Nathanial (Ernest Hardin Jr.), Dennis (John Friedrich) and a potentially crazy guy named Eggar (Joe Pantoliano) escort a group of pretty young ladies out into the woods. What ladies? Margaret (Rachel Ward), Windy (Daryl Hannah), Vanessa (Akousa Busia), Melanie (Cindy Harrell) and Sammie (Irene Sanders) – those ladies! The plan is to head thirty miles into the woods of the Pacific Northwest to clear the river and enjoy some peace and quiet but Eggar tries to convince them to go to a closer, less remote location. They’re not having any of it, even when they pass a weird old mental hospital on the way to their spot.
Things are fine at first – they clear some brush and then enjoy a nice campfire where one of the guys tells a scary story about a woman who get pregnant and locked up in that mental hospital. Rumor has it her kid was taken away from her but came back as an adult and sprung her. Maybe, just maybe, they’re still in the area. Of course, that night everyone hunkers down except for Marco, he heads out into the woods in search of weed but the next morning, he hasn’t come back. The group heads out into the woods to look for him, with Mike getting a little action from his lady friend in the process, but soon enough it becomes readily clear that someone is stalking them with the intention of making damn sure none of them ever make it back to civilization…
This one was shelved for a couple of years after it was finished and then eventually released with an opening murder set piece tacked on but once it vanished from theaters, it never quite got the love on home video that a lot of other slasher pictures did. While this isn’t the most original backwoods horror story ever told, the movie is nicely shot making great use of the locations used in Southern Oregon and Northern California to help create a decent air of desolation for all of this to play out in. The film also scores points for featuring a genuinely eerie and memorably weird killer and by throwing in a couple of creative kill scenes.
Of course, this one is going to be of more interest than it would be otherwise because of the cast. There’s definitely an appeal to seeing Zmed and Hannah show up in an early eighties slasher film and it’s fun seeing Mark Metcalf play a role straight (and partially nude at one point!) compared to his iconic turn in Animal House. A young Joe Pantoliano is pretty good here too and yeah, that is Rachel Ward from Against All Odds and Lewis Smith from The Heavenly Kid running around the woods with the rest of them. The movie never gets as gory or as trashy as a lot of diehard slasher fans are going to expect, but this one is a pretty entertaining if ultimately derivative horror picture made more interesting simply because of who appears in front of the camera.
The Final Terror was released on DVD by Trinity Entertainment years back and by all accounts, that transfer was terrible. That disc went out of print but the film is back in circulation thanks to Scream Factory. A text screen shows up before the feature starts notifying us that both the negative and inter-positive materials for the feature are gone and that as such, they had to assemble this transfer from six different theatrical prints, all of varying degrees of quality. The end result is that this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer, framed at 1.78.1 widescreen, is taken from materials that we can kindly say were less than pristine. That having been said, this is perfectly watchable and at times actually looks pretty decent. Yes, there is print damage and emulsion spots and some scenes where the colors are more faded than others but the picture is at least stable. Detail is pretty good in a lot of the close up shots and the sometimes overbearing greens of the forest setting are generally reproduced quite well. There’s some occasionally distracting flicker but no obvious noise reduction, so expect a fair amount of natural film grain. So, flawed or not, fans should probably wind up fairly pleased with the effort that went into putting this one together. It doesn’t look perfect and at this point in time, until better elements surface, it would seem unlikely that it will. This transfer, however, is more than adequate under the circumstances.
The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality here is generally pretty solid. Dialogue stays easy to understand and to follow and the score has better range and depth to it than you might expect. The levels are properly balanced and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion. There are one or two synch issues that are noticeable but that’s likely got everything to do with the elements used rather than the disc itself.
The extras on the disc start off with a commentary track from director Andrew Davis, and while he’s got a few solid stories to tell here, he might have done better with a moderator as the track suffers from the dreaded ‘dead air’ syndrome. When he does perk up, he’s got some decent tales about the making of the movie, offering up some information on what’s happened to the various cast members involved in the picture, the shooting locations, how the opening murder set piece came to be and more. There are definitely some pacing issues, however.
More interesting are the interviews, starting with a twenty-three minute piece called Post Terror: Finishing The Final Terror which is made up of interviews with post-production main man Allan Holzman and composer Susan Justin. This is worthwhile just to hear how Holzman describes the issues that existed between the director’s intentions and the producers intentions as to how the film should turn out. Justin, of course, covers her work on the score and there’s quite a lot of interesting information here about their respective contributions to this picture.
The second set of interviews is the sixteen minute featurette entitled The First Terror With Adrian Zmed And Lewis Smith, the title not so subtly but very accurately reflecting that this was early work for both of them and their first horror picture. Zmed talks about how he took the role after his sit com died after six episodes while Smith talks about how he went into this one pretty much completely green and without much in the way of genre knowledge to prepare himself. They both discuss working on location in the forest, how the cast and crew all lived together in a motel, how the movie was shelved after being completed and how the shoot was generally a whole lot of hard work.
Aside from that we get animated menus, chapter selection, a still gallery and trailer for the feature. Additionally, as this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie with identical extras is included inside the Blu-ray case.
The Final Word:
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Final Terror is a solid one, offering up a better transfer than you might expect given the film’s history, along with perfectly decent audio and a pretty choice selection of supplements too. The movie itself isn’t really all that original but it is entertaining enough and yeah, seeing a host of eighties and nineties stars appear here before their careers took off adds another element of interest. A pretty enjoyable release, all in all.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!