Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finale (2009)

Avid readers of Ninja Dixon knows I can be a very enthusiastic reviewer. I rather love moies than hate them and can find something good in almost everything ever produced. That's just my style and I just don't want to waste time with writing about bad movies. I mention this because John Michael Elfers Finale is probably one of the most visually stunning indie movies I've seen in years. I'm sure there's few other movies in this budget scale and with such a small crew and shot over a length of two years that can rival the visuals in this one. It's far from a perfect movie, but it so well-made that it's hard to not love it in one way or another.

The oldest son of Helen (Carolyn Hauck) and Peter (James Johnson) takes suicide after having a nervous breakdown. Their only daughter, Kathryn (Suthi Picotte) tries to cope with the loss of her brother and handles it much better than Helen, who's convinced foul play is behind her son's death. Kathryn joins the drama class at school and is offered the lead in a play, but something is not ok with the group - at least that's what her mother thinks. Soon Helen starts to see stuff, something demon-like in every reflection in the house - and like her dead son she starts painting everything black to stop this evil force from reaching her. But is she mad, or is she just getting insane because of her sorrow?

Eh, no. There's real supernatural stuff going on in this movie and makes it even better. No pretentious stuff about "it's all in her mind" or crap like that. This is the real deal.

The story is actually more complicated than this, and Elfers fills the movie with atmospheric scenes of both intelligent drama and strong horror. The scares themselves might not be that new, I've seen it before and after this movie, but it's made with so much talent and imagination that it stands out a lot from the rest. Most effects are done in-camera, just like "the good old days" (which I despise, the story is everything - not how you shoot it), but because the whole movie has a vibe of European genre film from the seventies and eighties (some reviewers has gone so far as compare it with Argento, I personally wouldn't go so far - the style is very different) and it helps that it's shot on film and not digital video (which I have no problem with, believe me).

The theme of the movie is also very retro. A satanic cult, demons, conspiracy, a young woman who enters the world of theatre - this feels like something from 1979 and not 2009. The acting is also top-notch and it never, not once, feels like a smaller production with less experienced actors. There's no way to tell that the whole movie was shot over two years either. Finale is just a very well-made horror movie. However, don't expect any gore. Blood and violence, yes, but the lack of graphic violence takes away one thing that Finale would have been even better with. It just fits the story and atmosphere, and the few blood-spurts and beatings wasn't enough for me. Here Elfers could have gone more Argento.

Don't be fooled by covers and reviews, this is neither a slasher or a Argento-esque movie. It stands on it's own two legs and is one impressive piece of American indie film history. 

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