FINAL EXAM (1981)
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Final Exam is a 1981 slasher that has a bit of a following, though I’m not sure why. Even with the personal nostalgia of having seen this at the legendary Oritiani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. in 1981, it didn’t impress me much then and it still doesn’t upon a recent revisit.
The almost nonexistent story starts with two college coeds being murdered on campus by a mysterious figure (Timothy L. Raynor). We then switch to another campus where the film changes gears into a lame college comedy for almost an hour before the killer shows up and the film switches gears back to a horror. Our generic coeds are stalked and murdered in fairly uninteresting ways till the ambiguous killer and our final girl Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) face off in the school gym. That’s kinda it.
Written and directed by Jimmy Houston, Final Exam is a rather tame and lame slasher that can’t decide whether it is a horror or an Animal House style campus comedy. It doesn’t even try to mix the elements, but just jarringly switches from one type of flick to another. The killer is so mysterious that his identity is never given and his motivations never revealed. Just a random psycho, killing random kids at colleges. Bargain basement writing with no imagination or ingenuity. Even the most basic Halloween rip-offs gave their killer some kind of identity and reason for their ill deeds. This robs our villain of having any personality or presence, as he is just some big guy with a grudge and a knife and the lack of any reason for his crimes makes the proceedings rather pointless. That might be forgivable if there was any suspense, or, if we cared about the characters, but there is little or no tension and the characters are as generic as they come. The kills are also fairly routine and uninteresting, so there isn’t even anything to boost the film on a gore level. The movie isn’t even funny during the first hour that Houston spends introducing his stereotypical characters in a more frat house sitcom style format before becoming a horror film again in the last act. It’s all rather dull and Houston’s camera offers no style or atmosphere.
The cast are all dull and forgettable, as well. Final girl Bagdadi is perky, but it’s wasted when she comes up against Timothy L. Raynor’s silent and nameless killer, who evokes little fear or impact. The rest of the cast are stereotypical college types portrayed by mostly unknowns, most of whom have stayed that way.
Obviously, I have no love for this movie, even with the 80s nostalgia it now carries. It’s dull, pointless, has little to no story and the killer and victims are equally dull and forgettable. It’s a boring horror that can’t decide whether to be a slasher or frat comedy and fails miserably at both. All due respect to those who are part of this film’s cult following, but I just don’t get it.