The FrightFest strand at the Glasgow Film Festival always throws in a few surprises and this year it is Finale. It is an adaptation of the award winning novel by Steen Langstrup novel and is brought to life by Danish director, Søren Juul Petersen.
The opening titles set the tone in its declaration to change the perception of Denmark. We also have before the film begins a little homage to the original Frankenstein. It is a nice nod to a true classic.
The initial setting for the film is a petrol station out in the middle of nowhere. And from here we meet Agnes Berger (Anne Bergfeld) and Belinda Anderson (Karin Michelsen). We follow the pair who are working the nightshift on the same night Denmark are in the final of a non-specified sport event. So no expectation of a lot, if any, customers until we encounter three strangers.
There is a slow and calculated build in a setting that is particularly chilling. As tensions rise it gives way to a great line where Agnes declares to a spooked Belinda that “Fear destroys reality”.
There are two simultaneous timelines where one shows what is happening now and the other showing how the characters got there. It is executed in a very clean way that avoids overcomplicating or confusing matters.
There are a few scares that are actually scary instead of the usual sustained moments of silence followed by a loud bang. As we move into current events as they happen things get rather meta.
Under the glare of several cameras, Agnes is strapped to a chair in a room with our main villain, the Ringmaster (Damon Younger). This character is a literal Ringmaster, of sorts, complete with costume and face paint who is acting as a reality TV host.
It is a rather unexpected development that is interesting but somewhat of a concoction between The Purge, Hostel and SAW. There are also elements of inspiration from Wes Craven and his knack for breaking the proverbial fourth wall.
The horror we witness is visceral and disturbing. But more significantly avoids the pitfall of the genre of showing gore for the sake of gore. It is, however, a sequence that is a little drawn out.
The Ringmaster himself does become less terrifying as the more theatrical he becomes and seems to be channeling the Joker in a lot of ways. The film draws on the theatre where each act is announced in what is quite a quirky feature in Finale.
As we enter the final third of the film it losses some of its charm where it does become rather formulaic as a fightback sequence begins.
The ending of Finale limps on much like one of its characters in a film where the first half is scary, unpredictable and tense all at the same time.