Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #424
Also known as Bump in The Night, Carnivore, Campsite Massacre
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: May 1, 1983
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher/Survival Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 82 minutes
Director: Andrew Davis
Producer: Joe Roth
Screenplay: Jon George, Neill D. Hicks, Ronald Shusett
Special Effects: Kenny Myers
Cinematography: Andreas Davidescu
Score: Susan Justin
Editing: Erica Flaum, Paul Rubell
Distributor: Thorn EMI, Shout! Factory (Blu-Ray)
Stars: Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, Adrian Zmed, John Friedrich, Mark Metcalf, Joe Pantoliano, Ernest Harden Jr., Lewis Smith, Akosua Busia, Cindy Harrell, Irene Sanders, Richard Jacobs, Donna Pinder, Jim Youngs, Lori Butler, Anthony Maccario
Suggested Audio Candy:
Susan Justin The Final Terror
You don’t need a degree in rocket science to work out that Keeper has a soft spot for slasher movies. As a teenager, still finding my feet with horror, these films offered infinite enjoyment and inspiration and many of my favorite films from the era fitted this particular criteria. The Burning, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine, Madman, and predictably Friday the 13th, were all favorites of mine and these frontrunners all worked from a similar template. Teenagers in peril. While these genre classics all amassed a cult following, there were plenty of other less prestigious offerings doing the rounds as the market became flooded with cheap knock offs and misfires.
However, there are always exceptions to any rule and Andrew Davis’ The Final Terror is one such diamond in the rough. Shot in 1981, this sat in limbo for two years before finally finding distribution in 1983 after a number of its stars began to find fame elsewhere. The cast, including Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, Adrian Zmed, and a gloriously deranged Joe Pantoliano, were all up and coming and suddenly Davis’ film found its market on VHS, before disappearing through the cracks of time until recently, when Shout! Factory pieced together half a dozen different prints which were assumed to be lost forever and patched together a Blu-Ray transfer for all the completionists among us.
The Final Terror, also known under a slew of other titles, was something of a one-off and Davis is deserving of praise for trying something significantly different from the droves of copycat films appearing during the short-lived slasher boom. It actually had more in common with tense backwoods survivalist thrillers Deliverance and Just Before Dawn than anything else and a number of key factors ensured a unique experience, which stood on its own merits as opposed to walking the line as was customary. Many of its strengths could be considered weaknesses dependant on your stance on certain slasher traits and, should body count be tantamount to expectations, then you will likely be left sorely underwhelmed.
It focused on a group of forest rangers and their significant others who took an excursion into the wilderness on work detail and unwittingly entered into a game of cat-and-mouse against a rogue psychopath. Sound familiar? Well this is where things got a lot more interesting. Instead of the usual cookie-cutter teens, the group were more mature, far more resourceful, and discouraged from exploring any bumps in the night on their lonesome. They stuck together, muddled through, and ultimately assumed the role of hunters as their pragmatic actions afforded them the opportunity to turn the tables against their assailant. This, in itself, was a breath of fresh redwood air to Keeper. The fact that the cast performed entirely their own stunts was another.
The kills may well have been at a premium but that just made their plight more investable as they clearly weren’t cannon fodder although a number of them remained grossly underdeveloped if I’m honest. Where things pepped up considerably was the manner in which Davis, also on cinematography duties under the pseudonym Andreas Davidescu, bled every last drop of tension from his open-ended scenario. The forest itself was vast and towering, not the usual handful of ferns and a lone mulberry bush, but instead a complex mass of high-rise foliage which drank away the sky. This blessing also proved a curse for the director as natural light was at a severe premium but it also supplied an infinite yet insular playground for any guerilla warfare to play out.
Despite the group’s rousing camaraderie there were a couple of notable loose cannons in hardened Vietnam vet Zorich (John Friedrich) and the mildly unhinged Eggar (Pantolanio). The former led the group on a mercy mission after guzzling magic mushrooms and his presence threatened to compromise their solidarity while still moving them forward. Our survival savvy killer, who will remain unnamed to uphold any mystery, was resourceful in the extreme and one particular standout moment using camouflage to launch a surprise attack on the rafting wayfarers provoked a squeal of satisfaction from Keeper which was quite something considering any time-worn slasher confines.
The Final Terror attempted something markedly different in a time where individuality was decidedly scant and for that Davis has my eternal respect. The director has gone on to far greater things with a résumé which includes The Fugitive, Under Siege, and Collateral Damage but his deft of hand and eye for detail were just as evident here. Some may find his film too meandering where I would suggest this affords a greater sense of tension, while Susan Justin’s sparse and unobtrusive musical arrangement adds a certain eerie charm which is indisputable. Was it a classic? More of a curate’s piece if truth be known. It won’t appeal to all but what it will do is provide you antithesis to conventional slasher which dared to think outside of the box and, by and large, succeeded.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: If you head down to the woods today, you’d better not expect a campsite massacre as you’ll invariably be left wanting. The kills were spiteful in their own way and various gnarly traps provided some uncommon dispatches but instances of splatter were few and far between. Likewise, the usual rampaging hormones were kept largely in check so those looking for some T&A are pissing up the wrong oak. I must hold my hands up, while admirable that Davis didn’t conform to the norm, a few more inventive dispatches, a few more quarts of cruor, and the odd brace of perky chest torpedoes wouldn’t have gone amiss but that’s just Keeper being pernickety.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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