The Saw franchise meets the Columbine massacre in The Final (2010), a competently handled (if rather familiar-feeling) endurance horror which takes the entrenched social hierarchies of the American school system as the basis for its forays into torture.

As a teacher discusses 'responsibility for one's actions' and 'cosmic retribution', we are introduced to our protagonists: 'geeks' Dane, Emily and Ravi have a miserable time at the hands of their 'jock' tormenters, but they have a devastating revenge planned. Seems Dane has come into some property: a relative left him a large house in its own grounds, and together they have decided to convert the house into a party-venue with a difference, a complicated maze of tortures and traps. Meanwhile, we are shown in no uncertain terms that the bullies they hope to entrap are deserving of what's coming, and we get some almost comically overblown performances from them as they ponder what to wear to the mysterious upcoming fancy dress party…

After a slow build-up, we're pitched into what feels like familiar territory. The masked torturers, the drugged drinks, the meticulously planned torments and the intense scrutiny of personal suffering all come into play. There is atmosphere here, though: this is a nicely-shot film which makes clever use of light and shadow, and as the bullies start to reconsider their past actions they feel much more like characters and less like props, with some good performances developing. However, the film certainly didn't need the protracted, rather contrived psychobabble which is put into the mouths of the avenging geeks at this stage. There's lots of irritating spiel about 'living in the shadows' and 'being empowered' which feels like unnecessary padding: my impression is that, having set up an elaborate premise and several torture scenarios, the pace dips somewhat, and turns to (perhaps unnecessary) spoken sequences to chivvy things along. Likewise, when one of the partygoers escapes, the rescue party he goes in search of is held at bay for the requisite ninety minutes by some unwieldy sequences, including his enlisting the assistance of a Vietnam vet, who likes to talk about his time in the military!

The tortures themselves are pretty gruelling; they're not quite as nastily-ingenious as some of the Saw sequences, but we do get acid face packs, finger-severing and tongue-cutting (aided and abetted in their impact by some unpleasant and well-placed sound effects). If this style of horror is your thing, then The Final will not disappoint you.

Moral lessons duly learned then, the film moves towards its inevitable conclusion…There's certainly something rotten in the American schools system which is perhaps more horrendous than the justice meted out in the film, but this is a decent effort, one which obviously owes a great deal to the so-called 'torture porn' films which have taken hold of horror in recent years, and a film which can boast high production values. It falls down because of those derivative qualities, and also because the central premise - responsibility for one's actions - is hammered away at far too hard throughout, especially as this would have been implicit anyway.

The Final - out on Artificial Eye - is presented in 16:9 2.35:1 PAL, with Dolby Digital sound, a high-quality transfer with vibrant colour and good sound quality.

Review by Keri O'Shea

Released by Chelsea Cinema
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review