Watching this film made Appellate Judge Tom Becker consider a Final Exit.
Some may pass the test…God help the rest.
Welcome to Lanier College.
Lanier: The College Where No One Dies.
Lanier: A College So Safe, Even Roaming Serial Killers Leave the Students Alone.
Lanier: A College Where Armed Lunatics Co-Habit Peacefully With Vulnerable and Stupid Students.
Lanier: A College Where Co-Eds Can Sit in a Dark Room in an Empty Dorm, and the Guy with the Machete Will Merely Make a Few Creaky Noises.
Lanier: Where Smart, Sexy Slasher Action Is as Commonplace as a Kegger at Bob Jones University.
Final Exam is one of the least slashery slasher movies I've ever seen. The gore is almost non-existent, the T&A barely there, and the killer so bland, he might as well be made out of Wonderbread.
We open at "March College," with a long scene of a couple of students making out in a convertible. They have issues; she wants to go somewhere more private, he can't afford it; she says she loves him, he gets nervous; on and on, until they finally put the roof up and climb into the backseat.
We then have the requisite slaughter, as an unmasked guy comes out of the woods, carves through the ragtop, and pretty bloodlessly minces up the boy while the girl unconvincingly screams. And I mean unconvincingly: Watching this ineptitude, I was sure that we were in parody land, that maybe the camera would pull back and we'd see that this was a (bad) film within a (bad) film. But it was not to be.
Why am I spending so much time describing the opening murder? Because it is the only murder until the end of the film; after this intro, we shift to "Lanier College," where we enjoy an hour-and-change of campus hijinks about frat boys and jocks and nerds and girls and whatever forgettable nonsense happens at the end of spring semester. The killer's there too, and while the kids go through all the slasher tropes—sneaking into deserted buildings, hearing sounds in deserted dorms, frolicking in deserted woods—he bides his time until right near the end, when we finally get an orgy of blood and death.
Only, it's not an orgy. It's more like a middle-school slumber party with a vegan snack tray. All the sneaking and frolicking take up around 90 percent of the run time, and then the killer just starts killing people for no apparent reason. It's like a feature-length version of Saved by the Bell: The College Years with Ted Bundy showing up in the last reel.
It even features a guy who looks like an early prototype of Screech…
…As well as a guy with Sideshow Bob's hairdo.
There's not a whole lot for slasher fans here. I get the idea of building suspense by not having a killing every four minutes, but that trick gets old pretty fast. The characters aren't interesting enough that we care about them, even with all the time spent alleging exploring their personalities; the kills themselves are pretty ho-hum; we know who the killer is, so there's no suspense; and there's no motivation given for the killings, it's just something he does. The film also boasts some horrendous continuity errors, including day/night switches within scenes.
Final Exam comes to us courtesy of Scorpion's "Katarina's Nightmare Theater," a series of low-budget horror movies hosted by former wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters.
While films like Victor Fleming's Red Dust, John Cassavetes' Love Streams, the Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and Sundays and Cybele are currently unavailable on R1 DVD, as are trash classics like Moment by Moment (Tomlin and Travolta) and Who Killed Teddy Bear (Sal Mineo), this is the second release of Final Exam in three years. The first, from BCI Eclipse, had negligible tech, but it did boast a fun commentary with cast members Joel S. Rice, Cecile Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch, as well as on-camera interviews with them. For this release, the interviews are ported over, but the commentary—according to Judge Christopher Kulik's review, the highlight of the disc—has been replaced. Here, we get an interview with producer Myron Meisel, moderated by Katarina. It's an interesting track, very different and more informative than the one on the BCI disc. The tech here appears to be an improvement over the BCI release.
Listen, I have a simple directive for '80s-era slashers: Take your clothes off and die screaming. Is that really too much to ask?
Apparently, for the folks behind Final Exam, the answer is a resounding "Yes."
Final Exam is a low-impact slasher that can't even get the conventions right. Katarina does her best, but it's just not enough, and why Scorpion would toss this out as double dip is beyond me.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
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