On the day that Denmark are playing in a final, at a remote petrol station, two women find themselves targeted for some strange events, But is there more to it?
Torture Porn. It’s a part of the horror genre I’ve never been a fan of in truth. It probably became a subgenre of horror, when the Saw films started, along with films like the Hostel series. You could maybe argue films like Wolf Creek and probably Martyrs would fit into this subgenre too. To be clear, it’s not that the stories for these films are bad, it’s just over time, violence for violence sake has been a turn off for me for the most part.
Finale is based on a novel by Steen Langstrup. The film is written by Carsten Juul Bladt and Soren Juul Petersen (Petersen also directs). I haven’t read the novel (though have subsequently downloaded it). The film structure cuts between events at the petrol station and elsewhere. According to the director, this is taking from the novel itself, though there it changes with each chapter.
The early scenes at the petrol station are well done, as the two women, Agnes and Belinda, get some creepy visitors, including Belinda’s boyfriend Kenny as their night goes on, which has a lot of tension involved. The scenes set elsewhere slightly undercut some of the tension in part as we, the audience, know certain characters will turn up elsewhere. I realise I’m wording this badly, but in some ways knowing as little as possible going into the film will add to the sense of dread and unease and you have to credit director Soren Juul Petersen for that.
And then the violence kicks in and Petersen doesn’t hold back. It may not be up there with Martyrs as an example, but it is very brutal and certainly not easy to watch. Scenes when one woman has to torture another really get to you, as violence like this should The final act, as the victims fight back is just as brutal as the violence inclicted upon them. In some ways, you could argue it is cathartic in a way, seeing the victims being as brutal as their assailants.
That alone would make it tense, disturbing film. But what elevates it more, what makes it even more disturbing is that the torturer is putting on a show, for clients who are watching in person and also online. In some ways this recalls films like Hostel, Untraceable and Feardotcom. I’ve had a long held feeling, without any evidence to support it I might add, that there are places like those in the Hostel films or websites on the dark web where bad things happen to people and you can watch it happen. Finale ties into that feeling, when at times on the side of the screen we see messages from those watching online scroll up the screen. When the victims fight back, those watching online enjoy it as do those watching in person. They and as the film shows, humanity, enjoys watching people suffer and they don’t care who suffers for it.
The ending is chilling in its own way, hinting that those behind everything will keep putting on the shows for those who want to watch.
The performances from the two leads, Anne Bergfeld as Agnes and Karin Michelsen as Belinda are both superb. The supporting cast, particularly Damon Younger as The Ringmaster are good.
Finale has a lot to like about it. It is tense, gripping, unsettling, brutal and uncomfortable. It’s not a film that will be for everyone certainly. Even though I’m not a fan of the so-called torture porn film, while I can’t say I enjoyed the film, I certainly found it compelling.
At the beginning of the film, it warns us, the audience, we are going to be made uncomfortable watching it. It even tells us that it will change our views on what Denmark and the Danes are like.
It may not quite manage that, but what it proves is that anyone anywhere can make a brutal but rather good horror film.
I’m just not sure I would watch again.
Rating : **** out of 5