Horror fans generally don't have a problem with flicks that wear their influences on their cinematic sleeve. On the contrary, we actually appreciate it when a new genre film pays due homage to someone like Val Lewton, John Carpenter, or George Romero. Other flicks, unfortunately, lean way too far in the other direction, and the result is a movie like The Final -- which feels a lot like three dead-obvious homages in one confused package -- and when you're wading that deep in the pool of someone else's work, that's when we start thinking of the word "rip-off."
Perhaps best described as "Saw Goes to Columbine," (although not nearly as fun or as venomous as that concept sounds) Joey Stewart's The Final deals with a broadly obnoxious group of high school outcasts who plan a big party so they can exact brutal revenge on the (even more broadly obnoxious) gang of alpha males and stuck-up prom queens. So already we're stomping around in some well-trod, outdated, and puddle-deep material -- but things get even more annoying.
Although some of the flick's early scenes come close to implying that The Final is a satire (and I hoped that was the case), it quickly settles down and becomes a very clunky, very talky, and only slightly compelling piece of alleged social commentary. "Outcasts fight back," is all the flick has to say under the surface, and as for what's on display ON the surface...
Frankly, the movie looks like a fan club's re-enactment of a lengthy Saved By the Bell episode. The screenplay isn't nearly as banal as that sitcom was, but Jason Kabolati's script follows one clever zinger with a long wheeze of empty clunkers. (Plus, much of the dialogue is just plain old painful.) Well-shot but overwhelmingly reliant on Archie-style color schemes, The Final ultimately starts to feel like a big, broad joke -- but the joke simply isn't funny. As is often the case with low-budget, one-concept horror flicks, the cast members range from not-half-bad to simply inept, and the pacing isn't all that helpful either. All the payloads come in Act III, and while some of 'em are pretty dark and amusing, that also means you've just been subjected to approximately 65 minutes of bickering, pontificating, and random bitchy blather that gets real old real fast.
And while The Final borrows liberally from several horror flicks you've already seen, it seems most similar to a (vastly superior) indie effort from a few years back. That movie was called Murder Party, and I highly recommend it. As for The Final, if you're intent on watching it as a slight and familiar parody of Hostel, Saw, anything involving teens and knives, etc., then you may have a little more fun with the flick than I did. To me it felt like the filmmakers didn't know whether to satirize or cannibalize those flicks, and failed to realize that that they can't have it both ways.