"Final Exam" Passes the Slasher Test…But Just Barely
"Final Exam" begins with two college students (Carol Capka and Shannon Norfleet) busy making out in a parked convertible. Ignoring the girl’s frequent objections, her boyfriend pushes on. Watching this scene I couldn’t help but think of Slasher Studios’ own "Popularity Killer." Crazy how slasher minds tend to think alike as I had never seen this slasher before writing own film. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there is a sound outside…a shadowy madman jumps on top of the car, slicing his way through the fabric roof. Reaching inside, the lunatic grabs the young man and pulls him up and out onto the car’s hood. Brandishing a blade, the killer stabs the poor man to death. Cue opening credits and we are off to a decent start to a decent slasher that you will forget about ten minutes after you are done watching it.
Sleepy Lanier College is nearing the end of Final Exam week, a frenzied semester cap time of grades, goodbyes and pranks. As the students prepare for their tests as well as the coming vacation break, little do they suspect a psycho in a black van is stalking them one by one. Plain but amiable Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) is completing her exams and studying hard. Averse to hitting the books, her roommate Lisa (DeAnna Robbins) is busy packing and getting back to the city.
Meanwhile, Gamma Delta fraternity pledge Gary (Terry W. Farren) has pinned his girlfriend Janet (Sherry Willis-Birch)…and paid for it by being treed by his brothers, stripped to his briefs, awash in shaving cream and ice cubes shoved down his underwear. As night falls on Lanier, a freezing Gary hopes his beloved Janet will free him from his humiliation. Untied from the tree by an unknown figure, Gary breathes a sigh of relief…and is then stabbed to death on quadrangle lawn. The fun has now begun!
The problem with “Final Exam” is that the last thirty minutes of this film are pretty damn good: suspenseful, fun, and very entertaining. The deaths are mainly bloodless but the suspense is plentiful. Unfortunately it takes an HOUR of lame college hijinks to get the fun stuff. I love character development in horror movies but the little we get to know about these characters in this hour could have easily been covered in twenty minutes tops. That’s not to say this isn’t worth a watch. The acting is pretty solid all the way around and the film is never truly boring. Nonetheless, there is a great slasher here just waiting to be unleashed. This is a film that I would kill to see a remake of. As is, this movie is fairly run-of-the-mill. Nothing special, nothing great, but nothing all too terrible either.
To buy on Amazon: Final Exam (1981) (remastered edition)
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