The Final Terror 1983 artwork

The Final Terror – Nearly Forgotten 40 Years Later

The ‘80s was a massive time in the world of Horror cinema. With plenty being released by production companies, it was prime time for the Slasher genre thanks to the success of such films as 1980’s Friday the 13th, and a couple of years earlier, 1978’s Halloween.  Naturally studios looked to capitalize on this and released a list of Slasher flicks; some which were good, others that were watchable, and some which were subpar. Looking to break into the Horror genre, Andrew Davis, who would go on to find success in the years to follow with 1988’s Above the Law and 1993’s The Fugitive, directed a little film called The Final Terror. A lesser known Horror film from the era, interestingly, The Final Terror was actually completed as early as 1981, but shelved for two whole years until finally being released in 1983. At last released theatrically on October 28th in 1983, now forty years later it is an interesting film for Horror fans to look back on.

Daryl Hannah and Lewis Smith in The Final Terror
Daryl Hannah and Lewis Smith in The Final Terror (1983)

The story goes that Samuel Z. Arkoff (who was successful as an executive producer on such films as 1972’s Blacula and 1979’s The Amityville Horror), pitched that he wanted to make a Horror film to friend Joe Roth (who would go on to co-found Morgan Creek Productions in 1988). Calling on Ronald Shusett to pen a screenplay, who had co-written 1979’s Alien with Dan O’Bannon, soon the story took shape.

With that, the film casted what was then a team of actors/actresses with little experience. That in mind, much of the cast in The Final Terror are actually quite recognizable now; and this includes Rachard Ward (who would have a leading role in the big 1984 film Against All Odds alongside Jeff Bridges), Daryl Hannah (who became a big star after her role in 1982’s Blade Runner), Adrian Zmed (who found success on the 1982 TV series T.K. Hooker), Joe Pantoliano (known for a slew of roles including on The Sopranos), as well as Mark Metcalf (who went on to become easily recognized for his various film roles, plus his lead in several Twisted Sister music videos).

So, if you missed The Final Terror in 1983, but caught it on VHS years later, you pretty much knew most of the cast. Which leads to the question, why was the film shelved for two long years? Well, in truth, for a Horror film The Final Terror is not all too graphic. Gore sold in the ‘80s, and with little gory content in the film, the distribution companies saw little to capitalize on. A sad reality, ironically Hannah and Zmed’s success outside The Final Terror ignited interest, and Comworld Pictures put it out just in time for Halloween in 1983.

Rachel Ward, Mark Metcalf, Ernest Harden Jr. in The Final Terror
Rachel Ward, Mark Metcalf, Ernest Harden Jr. in The Final Terror (1983)

Given life, The Final Terror did not make all too much of an impact at the box office, and this could be due in part to poor publicities or limited release. This aside, The Final Terror certainly did feel like a mix of films like Friday The 13th and even 1972’s Deliverance; due to the in the woods survival aspect of it. The story itself is not all too complicated, but it works – A mentally disturbed woman is living somewhere in the woods and an unexpecting group of campers find themselves fighting for their lives.

In all, there is not much more to The Final Terror, but looking closer, it does have a pretty strong atmosphere and is well presented by a solid cast of actors and actresses. Released to VHS in the mid-80s, for Horror seeking fans to find in their local video store, it was later released to DVD in 2005 through Trinity Home Entertainment. A rather dark transfer of the film, making it hard to see much during night scenes, in 2014 Scream Factory released it once more as part of a Blu-ray/DVD set. Perhaps the best edition of the film you will ever see, apparently the original negative and interpositive were all lost, so Scream Factory had to sort through six film prints lent by film collectors to deliver the best imagery possible. Seems about right for a film that time nearly forgot, right?

All in all, in the grand scheme of ‘80s Horror The Final Terror had little impact. However, if you are someone who likes to comb every corner of the era to see if there is some hidden gem you may have missed, then The Final Terror is a treasure hunter’s dream come true even forty years later.

The Final Terror movie poster 1983
The Final Terror (1983)

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