So once again we have survived.

Final Exam

tn_finalexamThis year it was a rough start to my annual October quest for decent slasher movies of the ’70s and ’80s that I haven’t seen before. I checked the horror sections at the video store for VHS tapes, figuring if it’s not on DVD yet it’s gotta be obscure. The one I picked though was BLOOD LAKE. I was working on the theory that if it has “lake” in the title it must be a FRIDAY THE 13TH rip-off and therefore the kind of thing I’m looking for. Maybe something derivative but fun like THE BURNING. Wrong. I put it in and turned it off in about 20-30 seconds when I realized it was shot on camcorders. Sorry, I gotta draw a line somewhere. Affordable video cameras may have been democratizing… or maybe they were the first step toward anarchy.

So it was back to the drawing board. I abandoned the VHS idea and went for a school-themed slasher on DVD, a way to ease my transition from my September back-to-school reviews to October’s horror avalanche. FINAL EXAM is one the company BCI dug up and flopped onto DVD. I never heard of it, but it was shot on real film. Isn’t that professional? I was impressed.

Final ExamOther than that, though, it’s a terrible movie. None of the horror works, but it’s good for a few unintentional laughs. You know my theory on slasher movies – formulaic is allowed. Original twists are encouraged, but so are well-executed rehashes of old favorites. The classic slasher structure is built that way because it works, so if you’re gonna restructure it you better know what you’re doing.

FINAL EXAM is only original in the things it doesn’t do, not in anything it does. But it doesn’t feel like a deliberate attempt to subvert the formula – just somebody who didn’t know how to follow it or didn’t want to expend the effort. This movie is actually a good argument for strictly following a formula. It works for a reason. These guys aren’t good enough cooks to go off recipe.

The movie opens with a couple making out in  a parked car near a college, they hear a noise, guy murders them, etc. Then it goes to a different college where it introduces a set of obnoxious one-dimensional characters – a couple fraternity pricks, a couple girls, an effeminate supernerd named Radish who’s obsessed with serial killers and has a bunch of horror movie posters on his dorm wall (THE CORPSE GRINDERS, etc.). Always gotta be somebody that has some horror movie posters in a horror movie, or some Halloween masks or Fangorias or something, or they’re named after a horror director. If you have a bunch of references to a horror movie in you… you just might be a horror movie.

The funniest/worst character is an asshole jock who everybody likes because he burps in class, randomly tackles people and eats whip cream. In other words he’s a total wildman, which explains why he wears a jersey that says “WILDMAN” for the entire movie and why his name is Wildman. Wildman and his frat brothers sell stolen test answers and pills out of their frat house. They also kind of seem like you’re supposed to like them, like they’re the good guys. I’m not sure. We know from PORKY’S and POLICE ACADEMY that good guys are skilled at practical joking, which is the case with these dickheads. They stage a fake massacre that causes Radish to call the police and announce, “It’s happening. The psychopaths are here.”

There’s a whole thing with a hazing and a new couple and other stuff. The dialogue and acting are bad – not in the way that normal people who aren’t into horror movies always accuse horror movies of being bad. I’m talking bad compared to that. So it’s not exactly effective melodrama. I feel confident in saying that you will not have much emotional investment in what happens to these individuals.

I don’t know if I can really convey what the conversations are like in this movie, but I’ll try by quoting a typical line: “I should’ve had a salad… instead of this spaghetti.” This is the type of thing they talk about.

The music sounds kind of like somebody playing “Tubular Bells” wrong. The camerawork is crude except for a couple parts where they try to get tricky – in one scene the camera follows a lunch tray into a dumwaiter and down to the kitchen where it focuses on one of the cafeteria workers and then goes outside to a parked van. It seemed like a red herring shot – “look at this guy, isn’t he suspicious?” – except a red herring for what? Is there even a mystery here? So far there’s no sign that the killer is on campus, or even still killing. Maybe it was a one time deal. He’s not walking around or stalking anyone, we haven’t seen him. In fact there’s not another killing until 54 minutes in. Then the guy shows up – just a guy, no mask or gimmick – and kills most of the characters. Mostly they wander one by one into a dark gym where he is apparently milling around waiting for them. There’s one kind of funny part where a guy tries to shoot an arrow at him from down some stairs, but he catches the arrow and runs down the stairs and stabs the archer with his own arrow.

But other than that there aren’t really “good kills” or Savini-style effects. And there’s no question or explanation of who he is, where he came from or why he’s doing this. He’s just some dude. Maybe that’s more realistic, but it’s less interesting. I mean, this almost doesn’t count as a character, he doesn’t have a personality. He’s just a guy who walks and kills, there’s nothing else. Give us something here. Throw us a bone. We’re watching the movie, you might as well have stuff in it, in my opinion.

There are some laughs with Radish though. He’s a good slasher movie nerd, like Shelly from FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D combined with McLovin from SUPERBAD. I like when he finds a body, calls the police, but they think he’s crying wolf. When he gives up on convincing them to help he says, “Okay then, I’ll be in charge!” Then he goes and gets himself killed. (Spoiler.)

The release year was 1981 (the year after FRIDAY THE 13TH), the writer/director was Jimmy Huston, who also did MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE. I don’t think he’s related to John Huston, except in the sense that all men are brothers. It’s hard to really say I’ve seen worse, but I’ve definitely seen more boring. So I don’t regret watching this one that much. Even if it doesn’t pass the test!

You get it? Because of Final Exam.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 8th, 2009 at 12:18 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

46 Responses to “Final Exam”

  1. “We’re watching the movie, you might as well have stuff in it, in my opinion” is my new mantra. I know it’s a bold statement, but I’m pro-stuff.

  2. Man, I missed the boat on Back to School movies.

    Johnny Be Good is pretty damn good.

  3. If you’re looking for obscure horror, albeit of the recently released kind, check out THE KILLING ROOM. It’s a production near and dear to my heart, and might interest you because it’s the movie Jonathan Liebesman made instead of the Platinum Dunes FRIDAY THE 13TH …

  4. For shame about the killer. A slasher’s only ever going to be as good as its antagonist’s ability to excite our imagination and stir our fears. Doesn’t mean he’s got to have a reason, but if it’s just some guy, then there’s not much of a hook, is there? Not enough stuff, I think. That’s the problem. I second the pro-stuff agenda. Especially if its also a pro-THE STUFF agenda.

  5. May I suggest “Splatter University?” From “Men, Women, and Chainsaws:”

    “[skip spoiler] So meticulously are the conventions observed, and then so grossly violated, that we can only assume sadistic intentionality. This is a film in which…only females are killed and in highly sexual circumstances.”

  6. Wasn’t ‘The Burning’ supposedly written before ‘Friday the 13th’ (by one of the Weinsteins, no less)? Either way, I think it’s better than any of the ‘Friday the 13th’ films. That raft scene is just about my favorite scene in any slasher film. Well, maybe not any, but it’s the only thing coming to mind right now.

  7. I bought a four-pack of horrible slasher movies at Wal-Mart last year. Unfortunately, I do not remember any of their names so I cannot recommend any.

    They are all terrible.

  8. Good stuff.

    The review, not the movie. It sounds awful.

  9. For a while I thought you were reviewing Final Examination (2003) DTV slasher movie. But the film you reviewed seems to be better. I saw the aforementioned film back to back with Cheerleader Massacre, and it made Massacre come out looking like The-Godfather-with-very-big-breasts. If you’re in the mood for a challenge, locate Examination, and then try to sit through it without leaving the screen.

  10. So does this film have anything to with a final exam at all? If so, do they pass? Nice poster, by the way. That’s some Asylum Entertainment worthy plagiarism there.

    Maybe you should check out some giallos? They’re a bit more stylish and exploitative than slasher films, plus they have the most sleazy and flamboyantly awesome titles ever eg STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, FOUR FLIES ON BLACK VELVET, SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT’S EYE, WHAT ARE THOSE STRANGE DROPS OF BLOOD DOING ON JENNIFER’S BODY? and my favourite title YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY.

    My all time favourite giallo is THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE followed closely by PROFONDO ROSSO. Mario Bava’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE might be worth checking out since it was massively influential on slasher films and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 copied two of the death scenes shot for shot. Plus it’s good.

    I still reckon you should check out PIECES too. It’s terrible and not particularly obscure but that movie is bugfuck crazy. “BAASTAAARD!”

  11. “We’re watching the movie, you might as well have stuff in it, in my opinion.”

    Man, that was funny.

  12. You’re an agitator, Vern. First you want films to be shot on film, then you want “stuff” to happen in the movie. What’s next, real characters and accomplished acting? Maybe you ask for too much.

  13. One Guy from Andromeda

    October 8th, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Great review. Weirdly i got the notion from it that i feel the vague desire to watch Police Academy again.

  14. I don’t know about you guys but I laughed out loud thinking about some dude catching an arrow and then using that arrow against the archer. That killer guy must be Jackie Chan or something because who else can catch an arrow.

  15. Sho Kosugi can catch an arrow. In fact he can catch many arrows.

  16. Yeah, even Seagal had to chop that arrow in half in BELLY OF THE BEAST. Catching one one-ups that, although I’m guessing the killer was lacking in the ponytale department. Plus, Seagal at least knows to put stuff in his movies. Maybe too much stuff sometimes, but you’ll never see a stuff-less Seagal pic. Well, maybe TICKER.

  17. I don’t think he’s related to John Huston, except in the sense that all men are brothers.

    It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back for your reviews bud
    Cheers

  18. “I don’t think he’s related to John Huston, except in the sense that all men are brothers.”

    Ha! Nice one. You’ve had some zingers lately. Must be all that stuff.

  19. Wow, deja post, there. First time that’s happened to me. Great minds think alike, dieselboy?

  20. Can I suggest Cutting Class, starring Brad Pitt. Seems to tie in quite nicely.

  21. japanese title: “final exam/5 days of slaughter”

    original japanese: ファイナル・イグザム/惨殺の5日間 (fainaru iguzamu/zansatsu no itsuka-kan)

  22. ‘FINAL EXAM is only original in the things it doesn’t do, ‘

    ‘These guys aren’t good enough cooks to go off recipe’

    ‘The music sounds kind of like somebody playing “Tubular Bells” wrong.’

    Stuff just doesn’t get any better.

  23. The question is, how did he catch the arrow? In order of descending impressiveness:
    A. In his teeth (the Ace Ventura)
    B. Between the palms of his hands, by clapping them together (aka. to Sho Kosugi the arrow)
    C. By grabbing a random passerby and using their torso to catch the arrow (the Verhoeven effect)
    D. By snatching the arrow out of the air with one hand (the Jet Li technique)
    E. Catching it in his own arm and then pulling it out for re-use (the Rambo technique)
    F. Letting it hit the wall, and then pulling it out (the Chris Farley)

  24. Darth Irritable : You forgot ” catching an arrow with the handle of a shovel ” , like in American Ninja , aka the Dudikoff Effect , but frankly Kosugi is way cooler .

  25. D, if memory serves.

    I second CrustaceanHate’s Italian horror recommendation. If you have yet to delve into that deep end of the swimming pool (DEATH AT THE DEEP END OF THE SWIMMING POOL is another memorable title from a genre full of them), there are many varied treasures waiting to be discovered. If it’s straight-up slasher fare you’re seeking, have you seen Michele Soavi’s STAGEFRIGHT from ’87?

    PIECES is actually Spanish I believe, but that doesn’t make it any less dumbfounding.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgLICoFgb2s

  26. You know , I was re-watching Shaun of the Dead the other night , in anticipation for Zombieland and for Vern October horror movie reviews , and I was thinking : what if one of the survivors in a zombie apocalypse movie is a slasher/killer like Jason or Myers ? He joins the group of characters later , with full mask ( or different gimmick ) and he helps them out , because with an all out zombie apocalypse he’s already full of targets , but he’s still a killer , so the others are suspicious of him. Better yet , what if one of the others is a werewolf , and another one is a vampire ? All of this in a group of mostly human survivors , with zombies everywhere ? No one is safe and everybody is suspicious , like in the Thing . There’s some movie similar to this concept , already ?

  27. That might be cool. Could a Michael Myers/Jason type learn boundaries? If the world were full of human flesh he was encouraged to mutilate, would his blood lust be sated at last, or would he tire of slicing up creatures who didn’t fear him and felt no pain? I’m going for the latter. You might pacify him for a while with a constant supply of zombie meat, but he’d eventually find it dissatisfying and turn on his fellow survivors.

  28. Another hilarious review! Thanks!

  29. Yeah, sometimes the worst movies make the best reviews. Bless you, Final Exam.

  30. Mr. Majestyk : Well , Jason pretty much kills everything that moves in his field of view , he’s just THAT funny . He’s not very smart , and he may be okay with killing zombies , as long as they are dressed as teenagers , cheerleaders , stoners or some other juvenile stereotype (especially if the actors playing them are 25-30 years old ). Myers is a completely different animal . He may be willing to help,maybe as an outsider , an unseen helper , but as soon as they hole up somewhere , the game of cat and mouse begins . Now throw a vampire in the mix , and even the place where they hole up may be a problem : if the group wants to fortify an abandoned church,for example , he will do everything in his power to stay away from it , maybe splitting the group , creating more opportunities for himself ,the zombies and the slasher/killer to strike !

  31. Yeah, Jason enjoys the simple things. He would just have to be pointed in the direction of the zombies and he would just chop the shit out of them until there weren’t any left. It would be the closest thing to happiness he’d ever experienced in his tortured existence, half of which was spent at the bottom of a lake. I agree that Michael Myers’ reaction would be more complicated. Sure, he likes killing, but mostly he’s in it for the evil, and killing zombies definitely isn’t evil. He’s also a bit of a rebel, so once he saw that everybody was doing it, he’d only do it in self-defense, or if one of the undead was about to kill somebody he’d already called dibs on. There would be a lot of cat-and-mouse, because he’d know that actual living victims were few and far between, so he’d want them to last as long as possible.

    I’m not really seeing what the vampire and werewolf are adding here. I think zombies and Jasons/Michael Myerses are enough for one movie.

  32. Well , I was thinking of this while watching Shaun of the Dead , a zombie comedy , so the idea of classic horror monsters ( slashers , werewolves , vampires , mummies , Frankenstein and so on…) working together against the horde, in a comedy horror setting , seems fun . But I agree that if you take the more serious route , Myers + zombies is more than enough !

    And there’s even a precedent ! In the comic “The Walking Dead” ( soon to be a telefilm , it seems ) one of the survivors IS a serial killer , but , sadly , only a “regular” serial killer , without mask or some other gimmick.

  33. I thought they were turning Walking Dead into a TV series? That would make the most sense, since the whole point of the comic is to show that a zombiepocalypse isn’t a one-time thing. This is your life from now on, so you’d better get used to it. The sequential nature of comics and TV makes it a perfect match, but making it into a TV movie seems to defeat the purpose.

  34. Yeah , I’m sorry , here in Italy we call a TV series “telefilm” , my bad . They’re turning The Walking Dead into a TV series, that’s right. It’s funny because The Walking Dead itself is kind of a mix of elements , in one of the last numbers I was able to find , there’s a martial arts/ninja woman , carrying a sword , traveling with 2 zombies on a leash! I really want to see that on TV.

  35. Jason, being something of a Zombie himself, might just identify with the undead. Perhaps as a slightly more driven killing machine, he would rise through their ranks and become their king. How sweet would it be if he organized them and armed them with machetes of their own? Obviously, Michael Myers would be a harder sell, though, you guys are right that he’s a loner and a rebel.

  36. I like to think that Jason would undergo some sort of existential crisis. Not needing to eat or sleep, he would just hack and hack for weeks, possibly months on end, until it finally hits him: Is this all there is? All he’s ever wanted is the chance to kill everything in sight, but now that he’s got it, it feels kind of empty. For one, the zombies don’t beg for their lives, which takes a lot of the fun out of it. For another, they never have sex, so Jason kind of feels like he’s lost the mission here. Somewhere in the world, he reasons, there must still be people getting drunk and screwing in an attempt to repopulate the earth. That’s when he decides to mobilize the zombies into an army to eliminate humanity and its accursed humping once and for all. As Jason leads his moldy brethren into battle against the survivors at Camp Crystal Lake for mankind’s final stand, he feels his rotted facial muscles stretch into a smile. He’s made his mama proud at last.

  37. Mr. Subtlety : Come to think of it , you’re right , Jason IS a fucking zombie (without the brain eating hobby ) ! I can totally see him chopping zombies for an hour , then thinking ” You know what ? This guys are really cool , just like me !I like their lifestyle ! I want to hang around with them ! Fuck the other guys , let’s kill them instead !”. And you KNOW one of the survivors has some pot in his pocket , and another is a horny teen……

  38. I must steal the Jason-as-king-of-the-zombies idea.
    Wait a second. Did I write that?
    Holy shit! I can control the computer with my thoughts! I’m a fucking superhero! Or am I a villain? Hahahahahahaha!
    Oh no. I…can’t make it stop! The computer is still writing everything I think! And it does nothing else! What a lame superpower. No! Stop it! Don’t write this! Stop! Bad computer! No! Und warum denke ich überhaupt in englisch? Nah, whatever. Could be worse. At least nobody will ever read this. I mean, it’s not that my thoughts can click on the “subm

  39. Imagine the survivors at Camp Crystal Lake : a collection of the most stupid dipshits EVER . Somehow , the only survivors are NOT the smartest , more prepared humans , but a bunch of jackasses singing ” Uhh , baby..” inside toilets , making pranks with funny masks and costumes , drinking ,flirting and chasing girls with issues and uncontrollable psychic powers! Totally unaware of the incoming zombie shitstorm! Jesus , there’s not even a wall at the camp !

  40. The reason the people at Camp Crystal Lake managed to survive that long is because all the local corpses were too badly mutilated due to Jason-related injuries to effectively stalk prey when they came back to life.

  41. Also, I think CJ’s computer may have made his head explode mid-post. Oh CJ. My brother. I pine for you.

  42. CJ Holden : I was thinking of stealing this idea too , for a Left 4 Dead modification !

  43. Holy shit, here’s a thought; what if the army of Zombies jason leads is an army of his former victims, brought back to life by (plot device) and now under the command of the one who sent them to a bloody death in the first place. Imagine, hundreds of the dead rising out of the lake, all creatively mutilated, to aid Jason in his ghastly mission.

    CRISPIN GLOVER ZOMBIE.

  44. Scientists say that your subconscious can’t distinguish the difference between the real and the hypothetical. Therefore, according to my brain, this movie really exists. Man, I envy my brain.

  45. Hello there, you beautiful people you.

    Well, you’ve got this ball rolling, so here’s my two cents. You can take Mr. S’ Gloveriffic idea of victims back from the dead, but spin it in a Crow angle, so that you have the victims returning to avenge their deaths at the hands of Jason. However, since most are dumbasses they get hopelessly confused by the directions on their make-up kits, and expend all their necro-energy (a Halliburton patent) on eyeliner and Cure B-sides. All except for Glover, because he’s so awesome. Then you’d have Crispin Glover in grizzly clown make-up, maybe in a team up with Brandon Lee but man none of the other crows. You can even do a “River’s Edge” riff to real milk the Glover for all he’s worth.

    Picture: Glover and Lee, on Crystal Lake’s edge shortly after resurrection. Glover’s first line: “We’ll hide the body, so that it’s never found.” Alas, he touches off a zombie apocalypse by accidently burying Jason (after a brutal knock down drag out fight of course) in a haunted Indian Burial ground behind Winn Dixie, bringing about the apocalypse. Glover and Lee go on a desperate Midnight Run-meets-Zombieland journey to recruit the one man with the awesome wisdom to bring down the dead for good—Ash! Ash, who spends his days designing Killdozers in his own custom cabin in the backwoods; Ash, welcomes our mimes with open arm(s), as in the background, chainsaws sing. The battle for mankind’s future is on.

    Oh, and Freddy pops up, still hellbent on making sure everyone dreams. Because, you know, he doesn’t want to sit this one down and stuff, and box office will be huge. And the cannibal family from texas Chainsaw joins the heroes, because the zombies are contaminating the food supply. Or something.

    Fellas, I thank you again for allowing me to participate in the single nerdiest thread in the history of this site. Really, it’s a wonder any of us sees daylight. Oh, and Vern, I highly recommend “Deep Red.” It’s easily my favorite Gaillo, absolutely perfect and by the one and only Argento, back before he started using horrible CGI and Hot Topic witches to make a movie (I’m looking at you, “Mother of Tears”). “Tenebre” is also good.

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