FilmQuest Review: Finale (2019)
by Mahdis Marzooghian
Directed by Soren Juul Petersen and adapted from Steen Langstrup’s award-winning novel, Finale is not for the faint of heart. The movie even opens with a warning to the audience, a familiar trick of horror cinema intended to amp up the scare factor. However, Finale doesn’t need to fall back on such tired devices; it truly is quite disturbing.
The film opens with a scene in a dark, small room where a young woman is held captive. That scene is immediately followed by a bright Danish landscape while a cheery track accompanies a couple’s car ride; we assume this is a few hours earlier. Here we meet Agnes Berger (Anne Bergeldt), the woman from the film’s attention-grabbing opening. Agnes is a snobby psychology student who takes herself too seriously. Her father, a gas station owner, has asked her to manage the gas station for the night, as well as its employee Belinda, beautifully played by Karin Michelsen.
Since the entire country’s watching the soccer finals, it’s going to be an especially quiet and uneventful night. We soon feel the thick, delicious layer of tension, which stays consistent and builds throughout the film. Finale has both a slow-burn and fast-paced style as it weaves in and out of past and present scenes. We know certain events that took place at the gas station hours before have led up to Agnes’s present predicament.
The night takes a turn for the worse when two young men driving a van show up, one of whom films his interaction with Agnes on a handheld camera. He makes Agnes uncomfortable and after asking the men to leave several times, they eventually do without causing trouble. Belinda then claims she saw a woman gagged and bound in the back of their van, but Agnes ignores her concerns. The escalating tension is thrilling and effective.
Without giving too much away, we find out Agnes, Belinda, and Agnes’s boyfriend Benjamin (Kristoffer Fabricius) have been taken captive by a psychotic man dressed as a deranged circus Ringmaster (Damon Younger) who, in classic Hostel-fashion, tortures and kills people for a sadistic online community and live audience. Without getting into the gory details, it’s necessary to say that some of the scenes are truly disturbing to watch — a compliment when it comes to horror.
Besides the excellent tension, the acting is wonderful and convincing, especially Michelsen’s gutsy Belinda. Finale grabs you from the start and refuses to let go, even at the film’s effective and chilling conclusion. If there is any point of criticism, it’s that the slow burn of the second act made the “finale” scenes with the Ringmaster feel a little rushed. Slowing those scenes down would’ve better provided a clearer sense of the horrible, hopeless situation of the characters and the truly sadistic nature of the Ringmaster and his audience.
Overall, Finale is a thrilling ride from start to finish, with excellent performances from the cast. Petersen presents a thoroughly enjoyable, tension-filled flick. Its most shocking moments aren’t its torture scenes, but its sharp depiction of the human psyche — of humanity’s deepest, darkest desires and the lengths to which we’ll go in order to survive. The ending not only packs a punch, but refuses to accept that the fun is over.