Friday, October 4, 2019

#2,506. The Final Terror (1983)

Directed By: Andrew Davis

Starring: John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Ernest Harden Jr.

Tagline: "If you go down to the woods today you're sure of... "

Trivia: The prologue with the couple on the motorcycle was filmed after principal shooting on the movie had wrapped

A cross between Deliverance and Just Before Dawn, The Final Terror is a down-and-dirty, often unnerving horror flick that features a cast any filmmaker would kill for. 

A team of forest rangers: Zorich (John Friedrich), Marco (Adrien Zmed), Nathaniel (Ernest Harden Jr.) and Boone (Lewis Smith), heads deep into the woods on a work detail scheduled to last a few days. Hoping to combine business with pleasure, the ranger in charge of the crew, Mike (Mark Metcalf), brings his girlfriend Melanie (Cindy Harrell) along, and she in turn invites her friends Wendy (Daryl Hannah), Vanessa (Akosua Busia), and Margaret (Rachel Ward) to join them. 

Fellow ranger Egger (Joe Pantoliano), who acts as their driver, reminds Mike that a couple was murdered in that same section of forest just a few weeks earlier, making it too dangerous a spot to set up camp. Mike and the others laugh at Egger, who, in a fit of rage, packs up and leaves. 

It isn’t long, however, before the remaining campers realize there is, indeed, someone lurking in the woods, a dangerous killer who, if the evidence is to be believed, may just be ‘ole Egger himself! 

Shot in 1981 but not released until 1983, The Final Terror marked very early screen appearances for such future stars as Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner, Reckless), Rachel Ward (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Against All Odds) and Joe Pantoliano (The Goonies, The Matrix). From top to bottom, every member of the cast turns in a solid performance, but Pantoliano is especially strong as the backwards Egger, the outcast of the bunch who has a knack for pissing everyone off (his first scene, where he attempts to wake up his sleeping compatriots, is especially tense). From the get-go, Pantoliano’s Egger is clearly unhinged, and like the others, we the audience have no problem believing he might be the killer. Also excellent is John Friedrich as Zorich, a gung-ho Vietnam Vet who is only too ready to take the fight to Egger (there are times when Zorich is even more terrifying than Egger). 

In unison with the cast, the forest itself helps set a convincing, ominous tone. Director Andrew Davis (who also handled the cinematography) offers up a handful of effective night scenes, often setting his camera far away from the characters, as if to emphasize the fact they are completely alone in the deep, dark woods. There are even a couple of creepy set pieces (chief among them an isolated cabin filled with horrific trinkets and severed animal limbs), not to mention an ultra-suspenseful raft trip down the river, at which point the rangers and their female companions realize someone is watching them. Someone who is very, very near. 

Save a handful of scenes, The Final Terror is not a bloody film. It is, however, a real nail-biter, and a movie that deserves a much bigger following that it’s ever received.

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