31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #2: Final Exam (1981)

Posted: October 2, 2018 in Movie Review

2. Final Exam (1981)

Director: Jimmy Huston

Starring: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown, DeAnna Robbins

As I have already indicated in my review of “Graduation Day,” 1981 was a huge year for slasher movies… in quantity, anyway. The problem that even these early slashers can run into is the percentage of eye candy. I’m not just talking about the actresses that get hired, but also the death scenes. If the audience in any way finds itself unsatisfied by one or the other, or both, it’s panic time. “Final Exam” was not content to fail merely in these departments. No, it also had to go the extra mile of making me angry before it even once delivered on anything positive. This is when you know you’ve found a truly rotten tomato.

After an okay opening kill (which, for a time, I thought would be the only good scene in the movie), we switch gears to the campus of Lanier College, which as the title suggests is entering its final exams week. Enter several characters whose names you’ll never remember (apart from one or two whose names HAVE to be nicknames), and none of which you’ll find appealing. In fact, the boys of the Gamma Delta fraternity are particularly loathsome. They’re so bad that they make you feel as though the Alpha Betas from “Revenge of the Nerds” and the Omegas from “Animal House” weren’t so horrible after all. But just wait, because the worst is yet to come.

The Gammas have been more concerned with partying than with studying, of course. They need more time, and so a distraction is needed. Literally anything would have been less evil than what they choose. While other students are burying their noses in their books, the Gammas are busy faking a school shooting. Let me repeat that: The Gammas faked a school shooting! To make things worse, when a concerned student (under the presumption that this is real) calls the cops, only one redneck cop shows up… and the only person he reprimands is the one who phoned it in!

Okay, timeout! I grew up during the age of Columbine. That event, though it happened on the opposite side of the United States from where I live, had a profound impact on me. To see such an event depicted as a college prank in a movie, I came close to throwing something at my television! It was at this point that I was rooting for every single character involved in this hoax to die a horrible, bloody death. I didn’t quite get my wish. Oh it’s a fact that almost every character introduced in this movie gets bumped off, right up until you get to the one who is supposed to have the final showdown with the killer, but the fact that most of the movie is darkly lit means that you are kept from seeing the (mostly) bloodless kills clearly. That’s another strike against this movie. The one death scene that is admittedly both creative and satisfying is the death of Wildman (Ralph Brown), who is garroted with a weight-lifting machine.

Lastly, I want to mention the killer himself. It’s not always necessary for the killer in a horror movie to take center stage, nor is it necessary for his name to be spoken or even the motive for why he does the things he does. Allowing this particular killer’s face to be shown without so much as a word about who he is and why he’s after these particular college students only serves to diminish what little strength either the killer or the movie itself might have possessed. “Final Exam” was an absolute chore to sit through, and I would not recommend it even for the most avid of slasher fans. But don’t worry, because although this marathon includes several other kinds of horror films, there are other slashers left on the list, and at least some of them have to be better than this… Right?

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