THE FINAL INTERVIEW
In the nature of true crime interviews previously carried out with serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the like, Fred Vogel’s latest feature film “The Final Interview” delves into the mindset of violent mass-murderer Darius Tidman (played stoically by Damien Maruscak), who has been arranged to be executed in just a few short hours. Hot-headed egocentric veteran reporter, Oliver Ross (Grainger Hines) of “The Ross Perspective” is given the high profile job of conducting a final interview with Darius. What was thought to be an easy ratings spike for the network proves to be anything but, as tensions rise throughout the course of the night where two alpha personalities go head to head resulting in a surprise conclusion. The film also stars Diane Franklin (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Edward Pfeifer, and Ross Putman.
Fred Vogel is a guy whose been involved in independent filmmaking for the better part of twenty years. Perhaps best known for his venture into the extreme with the early 2000’s “August Underground” series, which by all accounts were each explorations of sadistic violence and depravity – depicted as snuff films if you will (as you can gather I, myself, have not seen them). Conceived on the lowest of budgets but evidently remaining staples amongst extreme horror fans and many a budding filmmakers in the genre to this day. However, it’s this mature doco-style Drama/Thriller that serves as my official introduction to Vogel as a filmmaker – and it’s a damn good one. Written by Vogel and Rebecca Swan, The Final Interview radiates of early 40’s/50’s film-noir. Not necessarily in terms of its content, nor is it presented in black and white, but more in respect to its overall aesthetics and approach to compact storytelling. DP, Jason Prowell’s two decades of on-set experience shows, in this, his first cinematography credit for a feature length film. The coverage is varied and everything intimately framed, that when combined with the tight edit and wonderful color grade results in a production value likely well beyond what the budget would suggest. The audio track is clear and concise and Paul Joyce’s 70’s inspired jazz/blues orientated score sounds like something out of “In The Heat Of The Night” or “Anatomy Of A Murder” – I loved it!
The difficult assignment with something independent and dramatic in nature like The Final Interview is finding the right actors to carry the film. What’s that old saying? Casting is 90 percent of your film? (or something to that effect). Said notion has never rang truer, especially when working in this type of low-budget environment. Suffice it to say, I’m pleased to say that Fred and Co knocked this one out of the park by casting both Hines and Maruscak who drive this one to home plate (I’m Aussie, why the hell am I opting for a baseball analogy?). Hines has had regular appearances in recent years on shows like “Hell On Wheels” and “The Knick”, in addition, he featured in the Stan Original series “Dr Death” and at age 73, is showing no signs of slowing down. He initially caught my eye with a memorable performance in a segment of The Coen Bros little known masterpiece “The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” (I urge you to seek it out if you can), and yet again he delivers a really engaging showing here. His character is a sort of amalgamation of the best and worst of the mainstream media. A charming veneer disguising a holier than thou asshole that you can’t help but love to hate. As for Damien and his depiction of Tidman – it’s refreshing to see a relatively inexperienced actor adopt the mindset of less is more. There’s no outbursts or over the top antics from Maruscak and if I had to wager why, I’d say because more often than not that’s just not how these individuals act. The approach here is much more tightly drawn, Darius weaving from flippant in regard to certain lines of questioning, then unyielding when it comes to sweating the small stuff.
There’s a few additional nice touches to The Final Interview. For instance, some stylish credits to accompany the fictional “Ross Perspective” show, as well as Vogel/Swan’s satirical undertones through their depiction of the media, and its at-times, inner triviality. The addition of Oliver’s station assistant and ex, Rhonda (Franklin) is a worthy one too. It serves its purpose two-fold. Firstly, as somewhat of a psychological layer to his overall arc (as she communicates with him primarily through an ear piece), and secondly symbolizing a plot device for which to share information and thoughts through. The two ideas come together in an interesting way as the film reaches what can only be described as a dark climax, though one still open to a bit of interpretation. What negatives can be said about this little-known gem? If I had any real criticism it would perhaps be that early in proceedings there’s an excessive amount of profanity, not all of which was necessary in order to set the scene. Another small thing to note is that Joyce’s score feels a little too loud and prominent in the mix during some of the interrogation scenes. A few momentary flashbacks depicting Darius’s exploits may have been a welcomed addition as well (budgetary constraints might have had something to do with that).
The Final Interview is simplistic filmmaking at its finest. Interestingly written, sublimely filmed, and very well-acted. I wish there were more films being made like this one in order to help showcase high-calibre unknown artists and creators such as Vogel and the members of his team. I’ll leave a link below to the official website where you can purchase either a digital copy of the film or a 3-disc collectors special edition. If you’re a fan of anything true crime related, even if it is fictional, The Final Interview is something you’re going to want to see. You can check out the official trailer below as well!
The Final Interview 8.5/10