Artisan // 2003 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // November 22nd, 2003
You fail. You die.
In order to celebrate that most important of post-collegiate milestones, the gals of Gamma Gamma Gooble Gobble meet for their five-year -- that's right, five year -- reunion at a swanky resort in the pseudo state of Hawaii. A skin magazine executive wants to photo the femmes for a layout about loose sorority skank. Since our BJ queen quintet fit the bill perfectly, they are given the STD/VIP treatment. But right before they can get risqué and ribald, a masked killer starts selectively slaying the Greekettes. Soon the local police and a couple of derivative detectives are snooping around the herrings (red and otherwise) to try and figure out the mysterious murdering. Turns out that these pledged pals are all linked to an ex-classmate candidate for Student Council President who killed herself over allegations of sexual misconduct (a college girl caring about her reputation? Whodathunkit?). But the source of the scandal, the old Professor, may also have something to do with the dead co-ed and the Diamond Head thrill killing. It's up to these flop cops to find out who's behind the matriculating massacre, to sew up all the wobbly plot trimmings, and have random sex with suspects and witnesses, all in the name of deductive reasoning, all before our masked marauder has everyone failing this Final Examination.
Final Examination is one of those movies that, upon reviewing the genre parchment its particulars are printed on, indicates that it should work perfectly, titillating and terrorizing at the same time. After all, it's a film filled with naked chicks, exotic locations, pseudo softcore sex acts, and a slasher-style horror paradigm, each one battling for film fan predominance. We should be covering our eyes in suspense-filled fun as the libido is equally sensated by multiple shots of large breasts glistening with water and/or sweat. But just when you think the perfect peanut butter and chocolate combination of whore and horror has been located, you take a big fat bite out of this overstuffed confection and find the crunchy frog buried in the middle. Final Examination fails to capitalize on its craven corporeal constructs and squanders the skin, the sin, and the slice and dice for numerous scenes of boring exposition and dunce cap detective logic. When we want to see more moist mammary glands being man and/or woman handled over an ersatz cool jazz soundtrack, we instead get brain dead B-actors conversing about possible suspects. When we want gory throat ripping and intestine spewing gut gouging, we instead get some dolt in Michael Crawford's old Phantom mask strangling and drowning their victims in the most completely bloodless fashion possible. Sex scenes are interrupted for pointless reasons and each killing is more pedestrian than the previous. If an award were given for "Most Wasted Opportunities" in low budget film, Final Examination would win, hands down.
And the strange thing is that Fred Olen Ray, the miscreant mastermind behind such cinematic celebrations of salaciousness and slaughter as Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (a classic!), Haunting Fear, and Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold directed this dumb drool (under the pseudonym Ed Raymond). If anyone knows how to mesh the tit with the throat slit in a way that celebrates the value in both, it's Mr. Ray. But Final Examination feels like it was helmed by the drunken, farsighted phantom of this insane non-auteur. No one will ever confuse Ray's films with real cinematic art, but they usually have a goofy level of campy fun that makes the stylistic missteps and atrocious thespianism seem like a purposeful choice. But there is no amusement in Final Examination. Aside from a bossy police chief with the name "Hugh Janus" (pronounced Huge Anus), everything here has an aura of erotic thriller seriousness that definitely can't cover up the piss poor snail's pacing. Ray proves that a ten-minute shower sequence in which a nubile nude soaks her skin balloons with all the sensuality of a sitz bath can be as tedious as advanced trigonometry, and his soft focus male on female mattress mother scratching would need a super dose of over-the-'Net Mega-Viagra to provide possible stimulation. The only saving grace here is Debbie Rochon, who outperforms the entire cast as the combination villain/vixen/victim, easily showing up the post-Remote Control led coquette qualities of a completely playing it straight and stilted Kari Wuhrer. The rest of the cast appears to be waiting for Silk Stalkings to be remade and Ray's compositions and framing make first grade fingerpaints seem like Picasso's "Guernica." Final Examination is a movie that should be sordid, shocking entertainment. Instead, it's just like taking a test: taxing and torturous.
For once, Artisan breaks out of the skinflint shell that it has inhabited for lo these many months and provides a DVD (be it of an incredible crappy movie) with some semblance of packaging normalcy. Final Examination is offered in its original 1.85:1 letterboxed image and it is indeed anamorphic, so those of you with 16x9 setups can stupefy your brain cells by experiencing this film in all its widescreen glory. There is a choice between Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and 5.1 soundscapes, but neither is very impressive or immersive. As for bonus material -- yes, Artisan did provide some added retail incentive here, it's not a lie or a ruse -- we get some trailers. Now, while the notion of a trailers-only DVD presentation would send most purchasing purists into fits of flim flam mouth frothing, remember, this is Artisan we are talking about, the studio that championed "subtitles" as a special added attraction. For them to even consider adding a couple of coming attraction mini-movie ads to their usually paltry product is enough to signal the second coming of Christ and/or personal shame as an ethical standard. Too bad all this windfall is in the name of a terrible film that had all the necessary trappings to be good, gory fun. But Final Examination creates a bell curve of crud that no amount of extra credit can save. It's a trip to cinematic summer school for this flaccid flunker.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R