Finale review: A psychology student finds herself the unwilling main star of a devious and deranged stage show.

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‘The following deals with the boundaries of good entertainment and the morbid curiosity of the human mind. It may shock or horrify you’. These are just some of the warnings that precede Finale, a film which screens as part of Frightfest Glasgow. Based on the novel by Steen Langstrup, the plot tells of psychology student Agnes (Anne Bergfeld) that gets more than she bargained for on her last night shift at her father’s gas station. Agnes and fellow employee Belinda (Karin Michelsen) are abducted by a madman whom wants to use their torment to entertain the masses.

The story unfolds simultaneously between the present setting of a twisted performance, and the past events leading up to the abduction. The two contrasting stories, and methods of story-telling, work to balance one another. Were this to be a stalk and grab set only in the gas station, the run-time would drag. Similarly, were this to be a straight torture porn affair, it would be too much victimisation and rather distasteful. Switching between the two tones elevates it to more than the traditional version of both stories individually.

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First time feature director Søren Juul Petersen’s debut offers an interesting insight into themes of voyeurism and violence. Although it boasts a strong first half, that runs mainly as a cat and mouse thriller, the film gets muddied around the halfway point. Here Finale descends into madness, and some of the slow intrigue that has been building-up deflates.

The second half, which really is like some sort of Carnivale of the Macabre, is bold, bloody and theatrical. It’s a little too OTT in places, pulling the viewer out of the film. It’s also slightly rushed, and all faults combine to make the second act the weaker half. This means that of the two halves, it’s the petrol station section that is stronger. It’s a slow burn build-up. Given the story is interwoven with Agnes’ post capture ordeal, the audience know where things are leading, but it doesn’t make it any less exciting to watch it unfold. It’s fairly naturalistic in shooting style, and has an almost Clerks vibe. For those that may questions the women’s actions, and their lack of calling the police after they have a creeper encounter with a customer, try working in retail… there are some pretty creepy customers out there.

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The interaction between the women is great, the pair believably portray that relationship that many have with their work colleagues. They couldn’t be more different people, but have to foster a relationship to get through their job. This bond then strengthens when their lives are on the line. Both actors inject life, personality, and guts, into their on-screen counterparts. Bergfeld has a particularly tough time as Agnes, especially towards the end, but she handles it well.

A strong start for a first-time feature director, Søren Juul Petersen’s Finale shows a lot of promise.

Finale review by Kat Hughes, March 2019.

Finale screens at Glasgow Frightfest.