As a huge fan of 1980 horror/slasher films I was very, very eager to watch “Final Exam”. I had heard so much about it, both good and bad things. In addition, I had seen the trailer/preview on other DVD releases but wasn’t able to get my hands on it. The only DVD available at the time was out of print and being sold at a hefty price. Adding insult to injury, I wasn’t able to rent it anywhere. Therefore when this most recent addition became available I gobbled it up.
The story is very simple and basic, but aren’t all of these horror flicks from the 80s? It is the end of the semester at Lanier College and most of the student body has left the campus. The remanding students are studying and/or cramming for final exams, when they aren’t joking around. Enter the killer who roams the campus slowly taking out each student one by one.
As for the characters, there is the usually gallery of college students (victims); the dumb jock, the obnoxious frat guy, the eager frat pledge, the nerdy guy the easy girl, the love struck girl and the nice girl. The nice girl is Courtney and is played by Cecile Bagdadi. Courtney is a pretty girl in a “girl next door” sort of way. She is sweet and actually the film gives time for her character to develop a bit, which makes her a great “final girl”.
As for character development, this movie actually has it. This might seem odd for a slasher film but it is true. All of the characters have apt amount of screen time before they meet their demise. I actually found this refreshing, different and interesting. I will return to this notion in a moment.
As for the killer himself, he is just some guy, some random dude killing people. He doesn’t wear a mask or costume. There is no complex origin of how or why he became deranged, he just is. Actually from a distance he could be a stunt double for a young and frumpy Jim Belushi.
I recall hearing/reading that “Final Exam” is a failure in the slasher genre due to the following elements:
I must say I loved this movie for the same reasons it is disdained.
Extremely slow pace
I found the slow pace a ruse to promote character development and build tension. Not to mention the college campus setting was extremely different. At believe at this point in time slasher films only took place at a camp. The lighting and mood created many eerie aspects in this film. The shot under the basketball score board is a prime example.
Lack of gore
As for the lack of gore it really didn’t bother me. There was blood in this movie, but there weren’t bucks of guts, blood and entrails. I love gore in a flick but it isn’t a deal breaker.
Banality of the killer
The “insipidness” of the killer I found interesting. Many times in these types of movies there is a long and winded story of why the killer came to be. In this movie the guy is just blooming nuts. No rhyme, no reason, and no explanation he is just crazy and that is all there is to it.
A wannabe “Halloween”
As for a “Halloween” rip off, no it really isn’t. Michael Myers is a complex character and Bootleg Jim Belushi is not. The only comparison I can make to “Halloween” and “Final Exam” is the catch phrases in the trailers. In “Halloween” it is “The Night He Came Home”; in “Final Exam” it is “He’s Come Back”. Since there is no background on the killer in this movie it is sort of silly to state “He’s Come Back” but whatever….
As for this DVD edition, it is pretty cool. As for the transfer of the film, it is wonderful. The picture is crisp and clear, as is the audio. The movie has a “play only” option or watch the movie with an intro and outro by Katarina Leigh Waters. KLW use to be on WWE, I don’t really watch wrestling so this was my first exposure to her. I found her intro to be great mainly because she gave some basic info about the movie but didn’t provide any spoilers. I found her remarks witty and insightful. The outro was also pretty cool. She also provides a commentary track with one of the producers of “Final Exam”. I haven’t heard the commentary yet. Another feature is some interviews with some of the cast from the film. There are also some trailers for other movies in this DVD series.
I absolutely loved “Final Exam” I loved the dualism within the title of the motion picture. I will be watching this movie again and again for years to come. I do think slasher and 1980s horror fans should give this a go. This movie if nothing else is a testament that I have no plans to go back to college.
What did you think of this review?