Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don't Go In The Woods

Some junior forest rangers pick up some girls and head deep into the woods to clear brush and go rafting. Joey Pants strands their asses in the wilderness, and a psycho roams around killing them, though unfortunately not nearly enough of them.

THE FINAL TERROR is a bad movie made worse when you pay attention to the credits. It was filmed in 1981 when most of the creative team were nobodies, but was finally released by Aquarius in 1983 when several cast members were becoming hot Hollywood names. Between the time THE FINAL TERROR was filmed and the date it hit theaters, Adrian Zmed was zooming around in a squad car with Bill Shatner on T.J. HOOKER, Daryl Hannah had done BLADE RUNNER, Rachel Ward got big with SHARKY'S MACHINE and THE THORN BIRDS, and Joe Pantoliano was Guido The Pimp in RISKY BUSINESS. Mark Metcalf had already been Niedermeyer in ANIMAL HOUSE, and striking co-star Akosua Busia went on to marry John Singleton. Audiences must have been stunned to see the classy Ward stumbling through the mud and the dew in this crummy horror flick.

Behind the camera, the pedigree is just as interesting. Director Andrew Davis jumped briefly onto Hollywood's A-list with action hits like THE FUGITIVE and UNDER SIEGE. Producer Joe Roth went on to direct films and run Walt Disney Studios and Revolution Studios, as well as produce the Academy Awards telecast. Roth was married to the daughter of legendary AIP owner Samuel Z. Arkoff, who "presented" THE FINAL TERROR (one wonders if Arkoff was supposed to release it himself, but balked for whatever reason). Ronald Shusett, who co-wrote ALIEN, receives a screenplay credit, and New World's resident post-production fixer-upper Allan Holzman (who directed FORBIDDEN WORLD and Jillian Kesner's nude scenes in FIRECRACKER) supervised post. That job entailed hiring one of the few women ever to score a horror movie, Susan Justin, who provides a very nice musicscape that is probably the best individual aspect of the movie.

So. If I told you the director of THE FUGITIVE and the writer of ALIEN had teamed up to make a slasher movie with Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, Joe Pantoliano and Adrian Zmed, to be released by Sam Arkoff, you'd probably think it had to be at least somewhat interesting. It really isn't, though I admit it contains one or two brief scares and a somewhat effective though unfinished ending. Its story is confusing to the point that you don't really know who the characters are or why they're in the woods. Davis even misses the point of a post-FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher flick, in that THE FINAL TERROR drastically skimps on the sex, nudity, gore and body count. It could play easily on television with just a couple of seconds snipped out (though so could FRIDAY THE 13TH, come to think of it).

Davis was a director to watch for awhile. A few years after THE FINAL TERROR, he got a Chuck Norris movie for Orion, CODE OF SILENCE, which turned out to be a very effective urban action movie, not just for a Chuck Norris movie, but for an action movie, period. He then made Steven Seagal's debut, ABOVE THE LAW--the same plaudits for CODE OF SILENCE apply. Then, the entertaining THE PACKAGE with Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones before hitting it big with UNDER SIEGE (also with Seagal) and THE FUGITIVE.

Davis hasn't made a film as good since. Though I feel comfortable saying they're all better than THE FINAL TERROR.

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