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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
One of the Best-Kept Secrets of the Golden EraJuly 30 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
For me, this is among the very finest of the lesser-known early 80's slasher films. Among those more obscure movies, my favorites are 'Happy Birthday to Me' and 'Hell Night', with this one coming in third. This is a typical slasher film (although I regard it as substantially better than most). What I mean is, if you are looking for something revolutionary, then by all means look elsewhere. You won't find anything new here.
Personally, I like slasher movies that adhere to the classic precepts, but then make them their own. After all, there is plenty of room for variation within the traditional slasher motif.
A terrific example of this would be the film's heroine. Most of these types of films have a virtuous,likeable heroine. 'Final Exam' falls within that tradition. However, even though she is similar to others we find in the genre, she is still unique. In fact, she is among my absolute personal favorites. She has a kind of sincerity about her that I find very refreshing. She is a lovely, pleasant, authentic girl, and she elevates the film beyond what it could have been without her.
Yet another cornerstone of the great slasher films has always tended to be effective musical scores. Final Exam holds its' own extremely well in this regard, too. The score is quite good. It is more understated than something like Friday the 13th or Halloween-both of which set the standard for slasher film scores, in my estimation-but this one is outstanding in its' own right. It serves to set the appropriate mood for the film. For instance, when the heroine is walking down the hall to her dormroom, about halfway through the film.........the music adds so much to the scene, because it seems to suit that moment so well. It is reminiscent of Halloween, and the classic moments where Laurie Strode would be walking here or there......and the music would add a cryptic dimension to the scene, a little element of mystery or danger that is always present, whether it is seen or not. Final Exam manages to achieve something similar with its' own musical theme.
'Final Exam' takes the classic slasher concept-inserting a mysterious killer into an otherwise unremarkable setting-and executes it quite effectively. The idea is very similar to 'Halloween'. Don't get me wrong........it's not NEARLY as good as 'Halloween.' But the basic structure is similar-namely, a bunch of people going about their business, with a killer always lurking off on the periphery. As with 'Halloween', if you want buckets of gore or tons of nudity, then you'll be disappointed.
But if you like that traditional slasher motif, of a seemingly safe, tranquil environment-but with a hulking, mysterious figure, always off to one side, always waiting, but who always seems to vanish before anybody actually starts to worry about his presense-then there's a lot to like about 'Final Exam.' If you don't like slasher movies, this is certainly not the one that will change your mind. But if you do, this one features all the traditional elements.
As to the elements themselves.......well, when it comes to the Final Girl or the musical theme, this film really distinguishes itself. The score is terrific, and the film's heroine is one of my personal favorites. As for some of the other traditional slasher elements......the killer, the violence, the atmosphere, the secondary characters........these are all in the average to good range. There is really no glaring weak spot in the movie, aside from a bit too much time wasted in the first half of the proceedings. They seemed to have hired some locals to act in the movie, and in some scenes the effect is excessively rural. These segments should have focused more on the killer and his stalking of the campus periphery. This misplaced emphasis serves to keep the film from being as strong as it should have been. But it's still a very good film, as is, for people who happen to like this kind of thing.
I am one of those people.
'Final Exam' manages to take those traditional elements, and place its own stamp upon them. The film creates a sense of time, and place, and carves its own distinctive niche within the slasher pantheon.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The most underrated slasher film of the early 80'sJuly 1 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
When you see a list of favorite slasher films of the 80's, very rarely do you see Final Exam on any of those lists. Final Exam is personally one of my favorites, and it really deserves more fans than it has.
The plot of Final Exam is simple. A killer is stalking a college campus. Will anyone survive the night? That's it! There's no twists, there's nothing complex, there's not even any surprises, Final Exam is just a very simple slasher film. But don't let that turn you away! There's alot to love here aside from the fact that the film is pure entertainment. One of Final Exam's biggest strengths was that it actually had a decent amount of suspense and dread. The director was clearly a big fan of Halloween, and though the killer here is no Michael Myers the film does at times keep you on the edge of your seat. Another thing I liked was the setting! Out of all the dorm slashers out there, Final Exam has one of the most realistic dorm settings I've seen, and the director fully utilizes the whole campus to create the perfect atmosphere. There seems to be shadows everywhere, and it works. The director did a fantastic job all around. Now the film gets a reputation of being a bit slow, but I didn't find it slow honestly. Sure the killer takes awhile to get going, but the cast here is very good, and keep things fun to watch. The acting is all around good too, and I really liked the film's lead. Some may say she's no Laurie Strode, but there was something very real and likable about her. Also you can't mention the cast without mentioning Radish. Clearly an inspiration for Scream's Randy, Radish is definitly one of the more memorable early 80's slasher film characters, and he's very likable and easy to root for. His character could've easily came off as somewhat annoying, but instead he's anything but annoying.
The Scorpion dvd itself is also very good. The picture looks good overall, and the extras are solid. The film comes with a producers commentary, a few cast interviews, a trailer for Final Exam, and some trailers for other 80's horror films. Not bad at all.
Overall Final Exam is terrific slasher fun. If you're not a fan of slasher films then this film won't convert you. If you're just starting out on the genre then I'd probably tell you to watch something else first. But for 80's slasher fans, Final Exam is pure bliss. Definitly worth watching for fans of the genre.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
old school slasher but lacks plot.March 13 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
just your regular slasher movie but no plot to it, no reason why the killer is killing the college kids. Its sort of like halloween because of the way the killer stalks them, it starts of with a killing scene but it gets kind of slow with the horror then it finally picks up with a rash of kill scenes. If you want a plot do not order but if you just love slasher movies i highly recommend this movie.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
B+ for this nice little Retro-SlasherJune 11 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Growing up in the 80's was an awesome time for me. After seeing Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, at age 12, and being horrified to walk down my street during a bright sunny day because of John Carpenter's Halloween, I was forever marked by this genre. Big time~!
I adore old slasher films from the early 80's. They are so much a part of me. Many people have songs that take them back to a certain time or special moment. Horror movies do that for me. However, sadly, I will have to admit, I somehow missed out on seeing 'Final Exam' at the theater. Of course when it arrived on video, I watched it a handful of times. I liked it back then, but didn't love.
But now, after buying it from Amazon on DVD, and watching it a few times, I keep asking myself what is it...(?)...about this low-budget film that I keep coming back to so much. It IS a total Halloween rip off. Right up there with 'He knows your alone'.From the score to the style.
The 'Final Exam' killer stalks in shadows and watches, and waits, and watches some more, just like Michael Myers did in Halloween. He's not in any big hurry. And he doesn't even wear a mask. It's just some big, poker-faced guy. Matter of fact, not much happens till the last ten minutes or so, and even then, during the big chase scene, it's very low-key.
I think that's what I like about it. It's quiet style. Almost like a TV movie. Like one of those stories you may see on a true-crime show like 20/20. A dramatized version, if you will. It tells it's story and then it simply ends.
I can't explain it but the movie has a lot of heart. It also, for me, has to do with the characters. Yeah, they are dull, but not in a bad way. The teens on campus just seem to be more 'realistic' than other bodycount films from that time. You kind of really care for them. I really like the little nerdy guy, Radish and his little crush on the leading lady. Even the blond tramp is likable.
There's a quiet scene, right before she gets killed, where she is playing the piano, in an isolated part of the building that is just, sincere and gentle. Here's another moment when it feels like a docu-drama. You're almost expecting to hear commentary from a grieving relative about how she loved playing music. There's alot of scenes like this. Granted, most people would think this to be boring for a slasher film, and, to be honest, in many ways, it is. But for me, I like these scenes. It gives the film a bleak feel.
What's also interesting is the way the film is cut. Almost like a Jaws-effect. As our tramp plays the piano, the film cuts to other places around the campus, allowing the viewer to wonder where the killer is, or, when the shark is gonna pop up. Another girl gets a soda, more flash cuts appear. Earlier that evening, a boy is tied to a tree partially naked. As he begs for help, the scene takes its time, showcasing a variety of close-ups and wide-shots of the dark grounds around him. Here, again, in crime-drama style, could be another insert of a grave voice, perhaps a police man, reporting that it was nine-fifteen pm, or something like that, before the male was attacked. What's interesting is that this movie could be 're-edited' and turned into a grim police file like 'The Town that Dreaded Sundown' did years back.
There's also this great little shot where the leading girl ditches her tray on the way out of the cafeteria and the camera then follows the tray into the kitchen, and, eventually, into the dishwasher's hands. Then, the camera follows the dishwasher out of the building and down the steps to a nearby garbage can, where he then, crosses the leading girl who just arrived out of the cafeteria. Okay, big deal, right? Sure. Maybe to most. But the traveling-trick was also laying out something important.It was showing you the battle grounds for where the killer will later pursue the leading girl.(Where that tray went earlier...so will the killer.) I thought this was kind of neat. For a low-budget movie, far from Hollywood, there was creative thought that went into this scene.
Matter of fact, it happens a lot throughout this film. For instance, we are introduced at the beginning of the movie to the leading girl sitting inside the top of an old tower. That said tower will also play an important part in the finale of the film, sort of creating a 'book-end' like effect for the movie. Simple, but, well thought out. I've always liked films that come full circle. 'Halloween 3:Season of the Witch' did it beautifully! (Characters in panic showed up at the same gas station in the beginning of the movie and at the end). A terrific film-circle!
Another big reason why this movie has suddenly turned me on after all these years was listening to the actor's comments on the dvd's special features. These people reflected back with loving memories about the shoot, especially the actor who played Radish. You can tell by listening to him how proud he is of the film. Everyone, including the makers involved in the film, seemed proud and humble. They laughed, they joked and really seemed to be having a great time talking about this little movie and their five minutes of fame. This made me like their characters even more. It sort of rounded them out for me.
If you're looking for gore, forget it. Like I said, it's sort of like a Halloween clone. But dry. Lots of mysterious shadows, wide shots of the campus and soft jingle, Halloween-style music.
There's the usual chit chat among college girls, a few randy sorority boys and a really obnoxious actor playing a big haired, jock named 'Wildman' who seems to be acting from no script in particular. Just kind of doing whatever he pleases. He's very unhinged and touchy-feely with most of the other actors. Especially nerdy Radish. He likes to bully Radish around quite a bit. But at the same times, seems to really like the little guy. Radish seems to be sweet on him as well, but, that's another story for another time. And, of course, because 'Wildman' is so over the top, he's gotta die horribly.
And finally, I have to note how much I love the murder scene of the trampy blond in the art gallery. It's very...on purpose. By design. Almost impressionistic. I think anyone studying horror films would find it very interesting. It's like a 'paint by numbers' Psycho homage. It's hard to explain. The girl looks up...the knife comes down...her leg drops...knife comes up...white sheet turns red...knife comes down...white sheet drops. It's a very robotic scene, motorized like, not at all interested with nudity, or gore, but fashion and manner. To many gorehounds, this murder scene will appear cheap and empty, but to me, it's odd and dreamlike. If you're a visual artist, and can appreciate things on a very low scale, you should check it out. If anyone out there fits this mold, and sort of gets where I'm coming from, write back, let me know. I would love to hear other people's point of view on this kills scene, or the movie in general.
When it comes to early slasher films, 'Final Exam' doesn't have much to offer to the formula, but if you look closely you can see a few things, here and there, where the makers had more than just exploitation on their minds. But once again, what's that old saying? Something about the 'eye of the beholder'. And this film definately pleases my eye. Thanx for reading...kEVIN bRIAN
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Very good-but suffers from Self-Imposed LimitationsJune 3 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I liked this film very much. It is aimed directly at the slasher audience. For me, at least, it was an effective slasher film.I guess different people prefer different things.It is not the goriest, although there are a few brutal moments. But it has the sort of ambience I like. The action unfolds as a killer stalks people on a relatively small college campus. The pace is natural and subdued, as we watch the students going about their business during the day.......and as we see the killer arrive on campus and begin stalking them. They take the time to establish the college campus as a safe, pleasant environment. Dorm life, among the girls in particular, is presented as warm and comfortable and relatively free of infighting and pettiness. I think that this helps to make the movie much stronger. This is a place where the people are accustomed to feeling safe and secure.
This placid environment sets the stage for a stark contrast once the carnage begins.
You get a typical collection of the usual stock characters-the 'nice' girl, the cheap blonde, the obnoxious athletes, and the stupid hillbilly cop.Of course, what would a film about young people be without-you guessed it-the requisite bespectacled geek. In this movie, the geek is a sort of Alpha geek. A time or two, it actually seems that the heroine might be showing a glimmer of interest in him. And he comes painfully close to getting to play hero......but he IS a geek, and this IS a movie, so you can guess how that turns out.
Anyhow, I liked this film quite well. But it seems to me that it places restrictions on itself that keep it from being as good as it could have been. For example:
This movie features a killer with no apparent motive. I have no problem with that. I actually like it. But I believe that killers in slasher films should wear a mask. This serves to heighten the mystery that surrounds the figure, and makes him a bit more macabre. Now, the killer in this movie is a big,burly guy. He's rough, and he's violent. But he would be so much more interesting if he wore a mask. As it is, he just looks like some disgruntled guy who got laid off from the mill or something.
My other pet peeve about Final Exam is that they waste too much time. Too much time on college antics, and too much time on hillbilly cops, hillbilly coaches, hillbilly security guards, etc. It would have been much better if they had devoted those minutes to the unfolding story. People who want frat house antics, or people who want rednecks, can always watch movies that cater to those folks.
But my overall impression is very positive about Final Exam. I especially liked the heroine. Personally, I liked her substantially better than Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween or Adrienne King from Friday the 13th. She is a lovely girl, and the movie would not be the same without her presense. She comes across as thoughtful and strong, and very much her own person. And when she IS a little awkward, or a little uncertain.........well, these qualities wind up having an endearing quality about them, owing to her sincerity. Some of the scenes between her and the geek are actually quite good. There is a degree of depth, and warmth, in their interaction, that you don't often find in a slasher film.
Put a ghoulish mask on the killer, and subtract a few hillbillies, and you'd have had a classic. But it's still very good as is. Among the more obscure, lesser-known slasher films, it is among my absolute favorites. They succeed in establishing a powerful sense of time and place. It kind of reminds me of my own college experience, especially what it was like on a late Friday, when lots of people had left and the place was kind of desolate.And the movie holds up extremely well to repeat viewing. Like most of my other slasher favorites, I continue to like Final Exam better over time.