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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Final Interview

September 5, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Final Interview

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #522: The Final Interview

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Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Review Marathon: Week 2

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been interviewed by, well, anyone (because, really, who the hell would do it? And what would we even talk about?), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and twenty-two, the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Review Marathon continues with the low budget psychological thriller The Final Interview, directed by Fred Vogel.

The Final Interview

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The Final Interview is an odd movie that, at least on paper, probably shouldn’t work and sounds boring as hell. A TV news host interviewing a death row prisoner for ninety minutes? How is that a movie? And is it just going to be one guy talking, then the other guy talking, then the first guy talking again over and over again? How is that a movie? That structure barely works in most TV news documentaries, so how is it going to work in a fictional movie? While the actual The Final Interview does contain all of those elements, there’s actually something else going on beyond just the back and forth TV interview thing, and it really is something brilliant.

The Final Interview stars Grainger Hines as Oliver Ross, a down on his luck douchebag TV news reporter who is set to interview serial killer and death row inmate Darius Tidman (Damien A. Maruscak) live on national television mere hours before Tidman is executed. It’s a major opportunity for Ross and his weekly news interview show The Ross Perspective, but Ross isn’t too keen on the production. The interview was set up by one of his ex-wives Rhonda (Diane Franklin), and it’s set to take place inside a maximum security prison in Pittsburgh. Ross doesn’t want to be around Rhonda at all (she’s his ex-wife for a reason), and he absolutely hates the idea of being in Pittsburgh. But, at the same time, the interview is a big deal and, if it works, could help reignite his career, so Ross has to do it. He doesn’t really have any choice, at least if he wants to keep being a TV newsman. So Ross goes along with the plan and shows up at the prison in Pittsburgh. Ross complains the whole cab ride to the prison and directly afterwards, but starts to sort of act like a professional once he gets inside the prison. Ross meets the warden (Moyer, as played by Edward Pfeifer), finds out what the dos and don’ts are in the prison and being face to face with Tidman, and tries to get on with the whole thing.

So Ross goes to the interview area, talks with the crew, meets Tidman for the first time, and starts the interview. At first, the show and the interview goes well. There are no production screw ups, the live remotes from various locations go off without a hitch, and Ross develops an easy back and forth with Tidman. It’s amazing to watch because Tidman, with his scarred up face and stoic/smart ass demeanor, is a scary and uneasy presence to be around. Ross, being the old pro that he is, knows how to control the scene and keep things moving, even if it seems like Tidman is being uncooperative and tentative (and Tidman is being all of those things because you get the sense that he really doesn’t want to be there). And Rhonda, both producing and directing the show and speaking to Ross via his earpiece, is happy with the way the interview begins. This whole thing could actually work out. And for Rhonda that would be terrific as she took a big risk pushing for Ross to do the interview in the first place. The network had other reporters in mind for the show, but Rhonda made an effort to get Ross the spot.

So the interview keeps going, Ross asks various questions and Tidman answers them, and, again, the whole thing seems to be going well. The show goes to its first commercial break. And that’s when the shit hits the fan. Ross, in between interview segments, is agitated and ornery, and that’s putting it nicely. He’s incredibly rude to the crew, to Rhonda, and to Tidman. Sure, some of that rudeness may just be Ross trying to control the situation even more (you know, that whole “alpha male/top jock” where the lead guy is a fucking prick to everyone because who is going to stop him?), but some of it is the result of Ross taking multiple pills between interview segments and his desperate need for a drink. And on top of that, Ross starts getting personal calls from his mistress, and those calls agitate him even further.

Now, when the camera is turned on and the interview is being conducted, Ross believes he’s in control of the situation, and just about everyone else around him believes this, too. The only person who isn’t impressed by any of it is Tidman, who maintains a fairly steady calm throughout the interview. Even when he’s describing the horrible things he did to multiple people during the killing spree that landed him in prison and his own life story (which is just awful), Tidman is pretty much the same throughout. Is Tidman up to something?

To say any more about what happens in The Final Interview would ruin the surprise of how the movie ends, because it doesn’t end the way you expect it to. The ending makes sense. The ending doesn’t come out of nowhere. But did I see the movie ending differently? Absolutely. I really thought there was something else going on in the background that would then manifest itself at the end, but that background information is a bit of misdirection. There’s actually quite a bit of misdirection going on at the end.

The prison sequences look terrific as most of them were filmed in an actual prison. And the run up to the prison, basically Pittsburgh at night, provides an uneasy feeling about what the heck is about to happen. The Pittsburgh we see looks, well, kind of generic in that it could be anywhere but, at the same time, we know that it’s Pittsburgh. The music that we hear from composer Paul Joyce is not what you expect to hear in a low budget thriller that takes place at some point in the 1980’s. Where’s the synth? Why does this opening tune sound like something from the 1970’s? You just don’t know what the heck is going on or what to expect. It helps set the tone for the rest of the movie.

The The Ross Perspective TV show looks like a cross between a news magazine show from the 1980’s and a kind of syndicated news program/sleazy Geraldo Rivera type show. If The Ross Perspective had been a real show back in the day, I probably would have watched it (I watched that kind of stuff all of the time back in the 1980’s and into the 1990’s). And Hines certainly looks like the kind of guy that would have hosted a show like that in the 1980’s (check out the Hines mustache. He’s like an older Geraldo here). The real commercials that pop up during the commercial breaks help create a sense of “Hey! I might have watched this show back then! I remember that!” (how much did the producers have to spend on that Pepperidge Farm commercial?).

The sections of the movie where we see Ross start to unravel during the commercial breaks are well done and are super tense. When Ross achieves maximum douchebag asshole, holy shit. That’s all I’ll say. I do wonder, though, why the crew didn’t walk out on Ross when he went full asshole. Yes, they’re professionals and they don’t get paid if they don’t do their job, but you can only “be a professional” for so long in a bad situation before you quit and freak out yourself. I’ve already said too much. You really have to see The Final Interview.

Grainger Hines is just so damn good as Oliver Ross. Hines has this character down pat. He knows exactly when to be an old pro, when to be charming, when to be a fucking prick while also being an old pro, and when to go maximum asshole. And, man, when Ross goes maximum asshole, watch out. I would so be down for more Oliver Ross movies, where we see Oliver Ross reporting on various stories and incidents. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but I think it’s an idea worth exploring. Because, you know, what else has The Ross Perspective dug into?

Damien A. Maruscak is terrifying as Darius Tidman. Yes, part of it is the scars on his face, but then the scars only help exacerbate the man’s eyes. Tidman’s eyes are both wildly alive and soulless at the same time. He’s only a movie character in, well, a movie, but you’re glad anyway that he’s chained up because he could do anything at any moment. And Maruscak manages to sell all of Tidman’s backstory, actually making you sympathize with him a bit. You only do that for a few moments, though, because Tidman is a serial killer, you hear about what he did, and those eyes… my God, those eyes.

Diane Franklin is awesome as Rhonda, the TV producer and Oliver Ross’s former wife. She’s smart and tough and, like Ross, an old pro at the TV thing, and it’s a joy to watch her try to get the most out of her live TV project. She also has an easy back and forth with Hines, so it’s totally believable that they used to be a couple and, on some level, they still have a thing for one another. Oh, God, they hate each other, that’s obvious, but, at the same time, there’s still a spark between them.

Edward Pfeifer is transcendent as the prison warden Moyer. There’s a certain real world stiffness to Pfeiffer that makes him stand out from the bigger deal actors Hines and Franklin. Pfeiffer comes off as a guy who really could be a prison warden in Pittsburgh. His voice, his clothes, the way he explains the rules when interacting with Tidman, it all comes off as something you would encounter if you actually entered a real life prison. And check out Pfeiffer’s little moment where he asks Ross if he wants to team up for more interview opportunities. Just what has Warden Moyer seen and done during his tenure as the head of this particular Pittsburgh prison?

I loved everything about The Final Interview. It’s such an unexpected movie watching experience. If it’s playing at a film festival near you, make an effort to see it. It is well worth your time. Director Fred Vogel has crafted a thrilling, uneasy masterpiece. The Final Interview is awesome.

See The Final Interview. See it, see it, goddamn see it!

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 1

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A leisurely cab ride at night, Pittsburgh hate, a big argument about a pen, talk of a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake, homophobia, backstory, multiple phone calls, more backstory, misogyny, pill taking, booze drinking, a story about Italians, barfing, a meltdown, unexpected blood, mop handle hooey, and a great ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Grainger Hines, Diane Franklin, Pittsburgh, a big argument about a pen, putting on makeup, a TV interview, The Ross Perspective, a Pepperidge Farm commercial, the 1980’s, protesters, Albert Camus, urination, the prison bathroom, and a great ending.

Best lines: “Somebody’s going to die tonight, and I can’t wait,” “Guy Oakley is a fag,” “And don’t call me baby doll,” “Jesus Christ! Pittsburgh? Give me one of my pills,” “You’re a fan or urine and sweaty balls I take it? Yeah, it’s a real passion of mine,” “Oh, it’s time for the bitch in my ear!,” “Women. They are the destroyers of men,” “Death is natural. Nothing to be afraid of,” “Murder can be very emotional,” “Watch your language, Oliver! We’re not on a delay!,” “Get an abortion,” “Mexico? Now that sounds good right about now,” “Later tonight my dick is going to be in her mouth. I think we all know where you’re going to be,” “Children are the ultimate wicked,” “Suicide is for pussies,” “Murder was the only answer?,” “There is no better time than right now,” “Show us your demon,” “Nah, I’d rather take a shit and forget the fucker,” “You can go straight to hell,” “Fuck you, Rhonnie,” “Look, Darius, I’m a fucking clown,” “You know, you’re doing a real good job at being repulsive,” “Ten seconds. And don’t slur your words or I’ll kick you in the nuts,” “Oliver, are you an alcoholic?,” “For the record, I didn’t want the crippled girl to suffer,” “So, you see, you’re not the only killer in the room,” and “Would you just let me piss?”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

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Things to Watch Out For

IntoTheAshesDVD

Into the Ashes: Luke Grimes and the great Frank Grillo star in this low budget thriller about a man (Grimes) with a shady criminal past who ends up taking revenge on his old criminal buddies when they come to him looking for money. The bad guys also apparently do something to his wife, which is a good a reason as any to seek revenge. I will have a full on review for this movie soon, so be on the lookout for that. Check out the quick scene in the trailer where Grillo rams a knife into the top of a guy’s hand. No matter the movie that kind of thing is always cool to see, am I right?

MaDVD

Ma: I missed this horror flick starring Octavia Spencer when it was in theatres, which I’m still bummed about because the trailers for it were crazy and fucked up. Octavia Spencer as a wacked out woman menacing teens that she allows to party in her basement? Who wouldn’t want to see that? The movie got goodish reviews (lots of people praised Spencer’s performance), so now that it’s on home video I think I have to make effort to see it now. Anyone out there see this? Is it as fucked up as the trailer suggests?

TheChildRemainsDVD

The Child Remains: I saw this horror flick at the 2018 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and it was pretty good. It was a tad too long (it should have been about ten minutes shorter) and it bogged down a bit in the middle, but the movie is filled with plenty of creepy atmosphere and brilliant performance from Shelley Thompson as an inn owner and host who is not what she seems. Thompson’s stare and voice will freak you the fuck out and give you nightmares (that’s what happened to me. Yeah, I’m willing to admit it). And Geza Kovacs is awesome in the movie, too. Certainly not the greatest of these kinds of movies, but definitely one worth checking out.

NightmareCinemaDVD

Nightmare Cinema: This horror anthology from Shudder features five great directors (Alejandro Brugues, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, and David Slade) and five weird tales about fear and horror and whatnot. Mickey Rourke, Patrick Wilson, and Richard Chamberlin are the big names involved acting wise, and it has received some good reviews, so it has that going for it, too. There have been several low budget horror anthology movies over the last few years, so it’s nice to see one that has a bit more budget (not much but more than usual). And, holy crap, Mickey Rourke looks freaky as hell in the trailer. Did anyone out there catch this at a film festival or in a theatre (it did receive a small theatrical run earlier this summer)?

ColdBloodDVD

Cold Blood: The great Jean Reno stars in this action flick where Reno once again plays a hitman that has to save a young woman from certain death. The difference in this flick is that it takes place in the mountains somewhere. There’s snow, snowmobiles, and all of the usual cold weather whathaveyous. Yes, it looks kind of generic in a way, but it still could be a solid action flick. Should probably rent it first, though. Just to make sure. I’m hoping that it rocks. The world doesn’t need a bad Jean Reno movie.

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Next Issue: Widow’s Point!

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Final Interview

Grainger Hines– Oliver Ross
Diane Franklin– Rhonda
Damien A. Maruscak– Darius Tidman
Edward Pfeifer– Warden Moyer
Billy Cahill IV– Guy Oakley

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Fred Vogel
Screenplay by Rebecca Swan (as Scott Swan) and based on characters by Fred Vogel

Not Rated
Runtime– 90 minutes

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