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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Final Exam (1981)

The Slasher marathon continues with a personal favorite of mine, Final Exam. Many fans don’t like this movie, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. I think it checks off all the boxes of must haves except for maybe one. Though that is debatable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This movie opens like many other Slasher flicks with a couple making out, this time in a car. The ‘I love you bomb’ is dropped and of course someone comes along to murder the hell out of them! Then the action changes to a college, miles away, where it is finals week. That is a good excuse to explain why campus is deserted and why we have such a small cast of characters. After introducing them and establishing who they are we get to see the killer arrive on campus. Eventually (more on that later…) the killer starts to pick the kids off one at a time until there is just the final girl. What happens? She kicks his butt! Haven’t you ever seen a Slasher movie before?

Before I get to the review I have to mention something that I noticed watching Final Exam this time around. Remember this was made in the early eighties and couldn’t have anticipated the sorts of things that we are seeing on the news on an almost nightly basis. In the movie we get a professor joking about a sniper on the roof, a student that is obsessed with mass murder, and worse yet a fraternity that pranks campus with a fake mass shooting to cheat on an exam. Obviously, the filmmakers couldn’t have predicted the world we are living in thirty-seven years later, but it still made me cringe a bit. Now onto the silly stuff.

One of the criticisms of Final Exam is that the plot is very uneven. After starting off with a bang we have to wait fifty-five minutes for the next kill. That is a legit argument, but I would counter with the fact that the last half hour of the movie is insane. After getting the lay of the land and stalking the characters the violence does eventually get rolling. When it does the movie squeezes seven of its nine kills into thirty minutes. They come fast and furious and in my mind it more than makes up for the almost hour of buildup. But I also respect the formula of giving a kill or nudity every few minutes that the best entries in the genre. I suppose Final Exam breaking that rule just doesn’t bother me that much.

The killer is just a regular guy!
Final Exam is also the earliest example of the horror nerd trope character. The student that is obsessed with mass murder also has a bunch of vintage posters in his room for flicks like The Toolbox Murders and Corpse Grinders. He is the one that knows what is going on and sadly is also the first example of that character getting offed for his knowledge. Just wanted to point this out.

Another issue some fans have with Final Exam is the lack of explicit gore. The kill that lingers the most is a Jock getting beat down in the weight room. He is basically strangled to death with some exercise equipment, nothing too gory about that. The rest of the kills are basic stabbings. I get that fans want innovative kills and I normally make a big deal about that as well. But with Final Exam we have a very nondescript killer and realistic take on the Slasher genre. There aren’t any un-killable murder machines in this movie. It is just a guy with a knife that is murdering the crap out of college students. This has always been the best and scariest part of the movie. It could really happen! Super complex unrealistic kills wouldn’t have fit with this killer or plot.

I like Final Exam and am recommending it. There are flaws but it’s entertaining and compared to some others in the Slasher genre I’d consider it a gem. Check it out and let me know what you think.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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