The horror genre is at best a tricky one to navigate, as sometimes you get some surprisingly entertaining, genre bending stories and other times you just get some lazy, banal filmmaking that willfully just wastes 90 or so minutes of your life. Out on Blu-Ray today for the very first time, "Final Exam" takes us back to 1981 on a serene college campus when exams are being taken and almost everyone has gone home, but all this clichéd set up provides is an excuse for us to have a nap.
At Lanier College, the semester is just about over as exam week is coming to a close when some upper class men fraternity types play a prank by staging a phony terrorist attack. However nothing comes of it other than an annoyed local sheriff, but little does anyone know that the next moment of terror at the school won't be a prank at all. Much more dangerous and stressful then an end of semester exam, students are falling behind on their grades, but instead under the knife of a homicidal maniac who is stalking the school and is hell bent on making sure that none of these kids ever graduate!
I'm the first to acknowledge that there is a market for this kind of film but it certainly isn't me as "Final Exam" was really an amateurish venture into horror that honestly took itself far too seriously and made it incapable to get genuinely invested in the material that borrowed way too heavily from similar films that came before it.
Writer/director Jimmy Huston starts it all off simply enough, and there is nothing that is out and out terrible as he takes into the meat of this thread bare narrative but with a mostly inexperienced ensemble cast and a very basic script that didn't develop any genuine characters or even create a reason us for to care why this random killer is offing these kids, it simply goes nowhere and it doesn't go all that fast.
It mostly feels like a hastily rushed production meant to capitalize on the popularity of the "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" franchises as it is directly ripping from them both in a variety of ways. It's sound enough visually and technically, but there has to be SOME kind of character development in order for us to get invested in the proceedings. It's not the inexperienced casts fault, there simply isn't anything on the page for anyone to grab a hold of.
The picture and sound quality are actually pretty darn good considering this film is 33 years old and it was a very good HD transfer from the original camera negative which must have been in pretty good shape. Special features include a feature length commentary track with cast members Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi and Sherry Wills-Burch, interviews with the same cast members and the theatrical trailer.
At the end of the day, I can see how "Final Exam" could be fun if a bunch people get together have a few cocktails and make fun of it a la Mystery Science Theater 3000, because if you don't this film takes itself far too seriously and the material is ultimately too weak for us to genuinely care about it.
1 out of 5 stars.
"Final Exam" is now available for purchase on Blu-Ray from all major retailers.