“Final Exam” is one of many slashers that came out of the 80s which attempted to follow up on the massive success of hits such as “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.” For many of these imitations, it hardly mattered if there was any plot at all, something we clearly saw with “The Slumber Party Massacre,” whose simple formula had an escaped mental patient showing up at the titular party. With “Final Exam,” there’s once again barely any plot to speak of. This time we merely have a group of college students trying to finish off finals week, only to be interrupted by a random killer. Nothing more, nothing less.
The problem with most of these “get rich quick” slashers is that there was hardly any thought put into them. As I’ve said before, many filmmakers thought that all it took was putting a bunch of young people in one location so that they can be killed off one by one. Basically, they believed that no story was necessary, but as we’ve clearly seen with those that would go on to become classics, such a thing is necessary so that it doesn’t become just another forgettable slasher among many.
Taking a closer look at “Final Exam,” we have a film that starts off with a kill (to be honest, this is the main reason that those who are fans of the genre watch a film like this), but then takes nearly a full hour until another one occurs. In between, we have to slog through meandering scenes of a fraternity playing a couple of pranks, students taking a test, and other such filler until we finally come around to the final 30 minutes in which the killer gets serious. Another disappointing element, much like in “The Slumber Party Massacre,” is that the killer is just a random maniac going around killing people, one that we see in full sight throughout the entire film. He has no backstory (which isn’t always a bad thing, though a smidgen usually helps), nor do we ever learn what the purpose of his rampage is, making him just another element that had no thought put into it.
As for the final half hour, it’s not badly done. There are some good moments (and a couple of hilarious ones) of the killer stalking his victims around the college campus at night, which just ends up making you wish that the filmmakers had gotten around to doing such things sooner instead of stretching the film out with completely unnecessary fluff. One can’t help the feeling that “Final Exam” is a bit of a missed opportunity, but when filmmakers get this lazy, the result is hardly a surprise.
“Final Exam” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer from the original camera negative. As usual, Shout! Factory has put a lot of time and effort into this restoration, resulting in an incredible looking picture that couldn’t possibly look better for a low-budget slasher that’s over 30 years old. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio sounds fantastic, allowing you to hear every high-pitched scream and every creepy note of the score perfectly.
Audio Commentary with Cast Members Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch
Interviews with Cast Members Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch
Both of these extras have the same three cast members reminiscing about the making of the film, discussing such topics as how they got their parts and how their careers have been progressing since. This is some pretty solid supplementary material given that they’re pretty informative looks behind the scenes from the people who were there. Both are definitely worth taking a look at.
While Shout! Factory has once again done an impressive job with the restoration and special features, “Final Exam” is just another drop in the bucket of cheap and forgettable slasher flicks. It’s the kind of film that feels as though the filmmakers threw the idea together in about five minutes, then started shooting right away without giving it a second thought. The 80s resulted in many obscure horror films, but once seen, the reason for that obscurity is usually all too clear. “Final Exam” is just one such film, one that would have been best left gathering dust on a shelf somewhere.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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