Final Exam (1981) – By Baron Craze

 

Very quickly the horror genre switched the gears into producing massacres on screen at the rate of an assembly line all thanks to incredible success of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), tons of copycats (a few rip-offs) flooded the market, and later with explosion of VHS and furthermore DVD more slasher formulaic became a worn-out standardization in horror. While Scream (1996) reinvented the subgenre, much later, a vast grouping of these films remain undiscovered by horror fans, and with schools letting out soon, why not cover Final Exam, which came and went quickly, even in the golden age (early 80s) of slashers. The movies change little plot points, switching up masks, and weapons, locations, and even the reason for the gathering, some made the honor role while others failed, destined to repeat at Night School (1981) before advancing to Graduation Day (1981). As one can see quickly, numerous slashers revolved around the school theme, as that was the studios, intended target audience. Now this brings us to Final Exam, directed by Jimmy Huston who also did My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1987), and the only horror screenplay he ever did, and while Embassy Pictures distributed in theaters, Shout! Factory gave the film some love with a Blu-ray release in 2014.

The setting for the film a college campus on the last days for finals, hence the title, with various taking the exams, and the killer hiding in the shadows, meanwhile the continuation of hazing a student, Gary (Terry Farren) by it seems the fraternity on campus occurs. Gary made to steal test exams, and torture while tied to a tree in his underwear with real ice poured down the front of them, teased by security and everyone, don’t worry our killer has plans for him. Once the killing starts, things escalate upward quickly thankfully, with a body count of over ten. The killer (actual credit in film) Timothy L. Raynor chosen for his martial arts skills and knew how to handle a real knife, shows up conveniently to find his victims throughout the campus at just the right time, amazing he knows the grounds so very well. Of course, there’s the nerdish odd student, Radish (Joel S. Rice) obsessed with death, and picked on by a frat guy named Wildman (Ralph Brown), even his shirt says his name on it, but this element of stereotype common then as it is now, no difference. One will see the film feels as if the running time had more scenes added to beef up the overall storyline.

One scene which occurs in the movie, proves perhaps the hardest to suspend disbelief and those familiar with this movie likely know which sequence, this refers to and if not spoiler alert. The so-called harmless prank of a van driving around on the campus and group of men jump out wearing ski-masks and firing blanks (no one knows it) from assault weapons. Funny – in what world – the police even afterwards criticize a student for wasting their time on reporting the event. Recalling for a moment that it is 1981, school shootings not happening right, sorry wrong University of Texas, Charles Whitman “Texas Tower Sniper” August 1966, killing 17 and wounding 31 in 96-minutes. Too long ago, fine subject of school shootings dates back to the 1764 and prior to 1980s, 164-incidents with over 186 deaths and 211 injuries, therefore the utter disgust of the scene in the film, as completely insensitive. [1]

Huston’s film feels as two different movies, the first half, gives an early brutal kill, then settles into a nice slow ratcheting of suspense, slips over to some sluggish pacing, making sure to identify all the principle characters, especially the fraternity. However, in this subgenre the audience requires a few things, such as who to root for and why, why is the killing happening, the motivation. Jason Voorhees kills for his mother beheading and trespassers, Michael started with wanting his sister dead, and so on, this killer appears without the mask or disguise, no name, no dialogue nothing noteworthy about the guy, just an average guy. Even the final girl lacks any worth of the viewers’ time, wouldn’t care if she lives or dies just more endless cannon fodder for the dull killer. As for a movie in the category of slasher little of it really occurs on the screen, and hence hinders the atmosphere often associated with these films.

This flick not likely to earn a high grade with most fans, aside from those which grew during the era of the unbridled avalanche of massacres, a slaying paradise of rampant nudity, b-movie luxuries and killing with every possible blunt weapon. Take the time and a make day of watching school day slaughter-fest reminisce about the glory gory times in the horror genre history.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082378

[1] Reference chart from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States