Final Stab (2001)
AKA Final Scream, Du bist tot!, Scream 4 (Bootleg Title), Scream 4: Final Chapter (Bootleg Title)

Starring Jamie Gannon, Melissa Reneé Martin, Erinn Hayes, Laila Reece Landon, Bradley Stryker, Chris Boyd, Forrest Cochran, Michael Lutz, Brannon Gould, Donnie Eichar, Scott Hudson, Britt Soderberg

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low. Scream clone? No thanks.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:

Along the path to reviewing all of Full Moon’s films, I’ll also be reviewing some related stuff that’s not exactly a Full Moon film. This is one of those, but it was supposedly executively produced by Charles Band (uncredited) and it’s directed by David DeCoteau, one of Full Moon’s most prolific directors back in the ’80s and ’90s. He has continued to work with Charles Band off and on after that period, but mostly he’s off on his own making low-budget horror flicks starring as many hot young people as he can find. This is one of those movies, and from the poster and alternate titles you might gather that it’s a Scream clone. It does share some of the self-aware character types of the Scream series, as well as the simple idea of a knife-wielding killer (who’s definitely one of these teens) running around in a Halloween mask, but actually its plot is more like a self-aware April Fool’s Day. Oh, and technically these people aren’t teens, they’re college students, but y’know… same difference in a horror movie.

Final Stab is about a murder mystery weekend in which people are actually getting killed. The thing is, unlike April Fool’s Day, we’re in on the joke almost immediately. This awareness on the part of the characters and the audience allows for some interesting situations, but ultimately it does take a lot of the tension out of the film. This knowledge subverts the general horror trope of running from the killer though, as each character knows the killer to be fake, they all greet him with a “Hey, man, how’s it going in that suit?” or some approximation of this kind of small talk.

This allows the kills to be more than simple sneaking up and stabbing (or chasing and stabbing). In Final Stab the kills are more hard-hitting as almost everyone takes it completely unaware while facing the killer as a friend in disguise. Getting killed is one thing, but having your safety ripped from under you in a moment of relaxation is another thing entirely. That’s a lot of fancy words for, “The kills are brutal,” but brutal suggests that they’re gory and they most definitely are not. This works to the advantage of the film though, as the limited blood and gore allows the film to take on a feel closer to reality than the staged exaggerated violence that grand practical FX would bring.

That all being said, I’d rather have had wild, over-the-top FX in this one because Final Stab is really quite boring and incredibly talky. It needed something to spice up its droll proceedings, and quality gore FX would’ve definitely helped. I love that DeCouteau tried to create real atmosphere and tension in the kills, but the story is so weak (and yet convoluted) that it’s never engaging enough to sustain this type of reserved horror. It all wraps up rather well, keeping you guessing until the final moments, but it’s too little too late, as clichéd as that is. I also appreciated where the story ended, as any attempt to lend some ambiguity to a low-budget horror film is always an interesting and daring choice. I thought it worked well in Final Stab too, and was one of the more intriguing aspects.

DeCoteau’s come a long way since his first feature Dreamaniac, as Final Stab is well shot and atmospheric. Unfortunately, the copy that Netflix Instant streams is full screen when the actual ratio is 2.35:1, so any quality shot composition is completely lost in the translation. In these fortunate days of widescreen DVDs I rarely get to see my old friends “Half Cut-off Face” and “Middle of the Screen with Nothing in it,” but watching Final Stab in its pan and scan “glory” quickly reminded me just how much I always thought they ruined every party they crashed (they were never, ever invited). Thankfully, their good acquaintance “Digital Panning” was nowhere to be found. Anyway, due to this I am unable to say if the incredible overuse of close-ups is DeCoteau’s fault, or if I just noticed them more because everything else that was supposed to be in-frame was cut off. I’m gonna give DeCoteau the benefit of the doubt and cite the transfer.

If you’ve got a group of horror friends coming over and absolutely nothing to watch, there’s probably something better on Netflix Instant than Final Stab. If you’ve exhausted all other resources though, you could definitely find a worse movie to watch. It’s competently made, and contains some genuine good moments, but what kills it is just how boring it is. Even my DVD player was bored of playing it, as about an hour into the movie — and right as I was typing a note about how boring I thought the movie was — my DVD player completely froze and went unresponsive. I had to restart the entire thing to get it going again, and maybe I’m imagining this, but I thought I heard it screaming, “NO!” as I hit play again.

Next week and the week after will be all Ice Fest so there won’t be a Full Moon review until August 21. So I won’t bother picking something until then, but it’ll probably be something like Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity or Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle of Death. I’ve eyed those for a while now.