Director: Jimmy Huston
Screenwriter: Jimmy Huston
Cast: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, DeAnna Robbins, Sherry Willis-Burch, Ralph Brown, John Fallon, Timothy Raynor
Rated R | 89 Minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2013
It’s the standard opening to a low-budget ’80s slasher flick: Two college kids (Carol Capka and Shannon Norfleet) are making out in a convertible. While things are gettin’ hot and heavy, a burly lunatic jumps on top of the car, slices through the soft-top and stabs them to death.
Meanwhile, at Lanier College, it’s finals week. As the semester comes to a close, a fraternity plays a prank by staging a phony school shooting/terrorist attack. I know what you’re saying, “A terrorist attack!?” Yes, a goddamn terrorist attack. I’m talking ski masks, machine guns, a black van – the whole nine. Only in the ’80s could a silly slasher flick draw on real-life events like the U.S. embassy hostage situation in Tehran and President Reagan’s feud with Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi for a punchline.
Anyway, an escalating series of pranks and hazings distract everyone – including the town sheriff (Sam Kilman) – from the presence of a lumbering, knife-wielding psychopath intent on slashing up a few student bodies. That’s pretty much all there is to Final Exam, a forgettable film written and directed by Jimmy Huston (My Best Friend Is a Vampire).
Of all the college slasher flicks, a massive sub-genre including such gems as The House on Sorority Row, Graduation Day, The Initiation, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, and Splatter University, Final Exam is the cinematic equivalent of a college dropout. After films like Halloween and Friday the 13th popularized the slasher genre, there were thousands of knock-offs. These films often looked the part – with nubile coeds being hacked to pieces by maniacs – but few managed to muster up enough originality and character to be as memorable.
That’s Final Exam – a tedious, generic slasher that fails to move the needle in any way, unless you count truly ridiculous dialogue. Early in the film, it’s revealed that Lisa (the stunning DeAnna Robbins) is having an affair with her professor, Dr. Reynolds (Don Hepner). They meet in his office where one of the film’s more humorous moments happens:
Lisa: Why pull down the shades? There’s nobody left on campus that we’re fooling…
Professor Reynolds: You don’t think I kiss and tell, do you?
Lisa: [they kiss] No, but I do…
Professor Reynolds: I don’t care who knows around here – but if that redheaded wife of mine ever finds out, I’m dead.
Lisa: So, how about a little nightcap tonight?
Professor Reynolds: Oh, I dunno…
Lisa: It’s your last chance for some nice, firm flesh for a while. I leave in the morning for the big city and you’re gonna be left with nothing but that saggin’ old wife of yours. She must be almost… 30 by now?
And scene. Incredible. That saggin’ 30-year-old redheaded wife! In addition to the award-winning dialogue, all the genre tropes and stereotypes are there: the studious virgin, the frat douche, the slutty blonde, the beer-chugging jock, the pencil-necked geek. As you might imagine, they fall victim one by one in a variety of college-themed locales: classrooms, dorms, gymnasiums, locker rooms – you know, typical locations you would find dead college kids in the ’80s.
Final Exam is now available on Blu-Ray thanks to Scream Factory, a branch of Shout! Factory dedicated to releasing cult horror and science-fiction films. Scream Factory has released a slate of obscure, fan-favorite titles from the ’80s, many of which have never been available on Blu-ray (or even DVD) before.
As with most of Scream Factory’s releases, Final Exam looks way better than it has any right to. The brand new high definition transfer is from the original camera negative, with strong contrast and deep black levels. This release also features audio commentary and interviews with cast members Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch, as well as a theatrical trailer.
This release is only for diehard horror-hounds and Scream Factory completists. In terms of presentation, Huston’s 1981 slasher flick has never looked better, but that doesn’t make the movie any better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to see a man about a saggin’ 30-year-old redheaded wife.
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