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Final Exam Review (1981)

My History With the Film:
Final Exam is a film I first saw streaming on Amazon Prime sometime around 2018. I had spent an evening bingeing all sorts of low budget 80’s slashers when I started up Final Exam. I made it through the first scene before falling asleep. I was worn out from such a long movie marathon and it wasn’t the film that knocked me out.

A couple years later, I decided it was time to check out Final Exam again. This time I watched the entire flick and found it be quite interesting.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A campus is terrorized by a killer with no apparent motive.

What I Liked About It:
-Radish (Joel S. Rice) was definitely the pre-cursor to Randy in Scream. Almost instantly I recognized his hyper aware almost meta understanding of how the world works and I was thrilled to learn later that he was an inspiration for the character.

-The film features a scene that would never fly in 2020, which is a mass shooting on a college campus. It takes a lot of shock me, but I wasn’t expecting that in this film and it was by far the most memorable scene.

-I really enjoyed the rundown college set. I find that if I enjoy the setting, I’ll probably enjoy the movie when it comes to slasher films.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-I watched a mini documentary about the making of this film (which I’ve embedded below the review) and it explained all of my complaints. The acting was atrocious at times, the killer has no explanation, and the story is a bit disjointed. This was all by design. When MPM Productions set out to make a film, they wanted to mimic all the popular slashers and make a film and distribute it within six months. The movie was shot during the SAG strike so it featured actors and actresses with no experience. This explains why the star Cecile Bagdadi (Courtney) is running from the killer with no look of terror on her face and at a jogging pace.

-I like the Halloweenesque idea of having a killer with no real motive, but it wasn’t as effective in this film as it was Halloween.

Additional Notes:
-The film was shot over six weeks.

-The movie was designed to have every scene copying an existing successful slasher movie.

-The movie was shot in order, that way they could send the actors home after they were killed off. The cast would gather around to sing, “Another One Bites the Dust” to send them off.

Final Exam is not a great movie. It’s a little long and the kills are quite weak. The one thing that Final Exam truly does have going for itself is its characters. They are all memorable and unique and that’s not something you can say for all slashers.

I’d rate Final Exam a two out of five and say skip it, unless you are a huge 80’s slasher fan.

I highly recommend watching this twenty minute documentary found on YouTube. It explores the behind the scenes of this film’s production which I think is more entertaining than the film itself. It really made me appreciate what I saw on screen even more and is a very worthy companion to the movie.

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