Final Exam – USA, 1981

‘Some may pass the test… God help the rest.’

Final Exam is a 1981 American slasher horror feature film written and directed by Jimmy Huston (My Best Friend is a Vampire) who apparently wanted to go against the norm and decided to feature little on-screen graphic violence. The MPM movie stars Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice and Ralph Brown.

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Plot:

Late at night, two college students (Carol Capka and Shannon Norfleet) are busy making out in a parked convertible. Ignoring the girl’s frequent objections, her boyfriend pushes on. Outside, a shadowy man jumps on top of the car, slicing his way through the fabric roof. Reaching inside, the lunatic grabs the young man and pulls him up and out onto the car’s hood. Brandishing a blade, the killer stabs the young man to death.

Sleepy Lanier College is nearing the end of Final Exam week: a frenzied semester cap time of grades, goodbyes, and pranks. As the students prepare for their tests as well as the coming vacation break, little do they suspect a murderer is stalking them one by one. Plain but amiable Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) is completing her exams and studying hard. Averse to hitting the books, her roommate Lisa (DeAnna Robbins) is busy packing and getting back to the city.

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Meanwhile, Gamma Delta fraternity pledge Gary (Terry W. Farren) has pinned his girlfriend Janet (Sherry Willis-Burch)… and paid for it by being treed by his brothers, stripped to his briefs, awash in shaving cream and ice cubes shoved down his underwear.

As night falls on Lanier, a freezing Gary hopes his beloved Janet will free him from his humiliation. Untied from the tree by an unknown figure, Gary is relieved but is stabbed to death by the man that killed the couple in the convertible…

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

Reviews:

“With the exception of its few minor annoyances, Final Examis entertaining, unique, and makes you wait for the kills. The satisfaction you get from watching its more awful characters die, and the emotion from watching the more likable ones go? It’s earned. Final Exam works for every scare and makes the viewer work for it, too – sometimes, the wait is almost agonizing.” Horror Honeys

“In the annals of early 80s slashers, it’s both one of the worst (worst killer ever, for certain) and one of the best (due to its unparalleled levels of unintentional comedy).” Horror Movie a Day

” …this is hardly the best of the often derided slasher craze but certainly far from the worst as well; it’s a reasonably witty and unpredictable film that compensates for its lack of blood with some peculiar characters (especially the chatty horror fan student named Radish who predates Scream by a couple of decades) and a couple of fairly energetic shock sequences.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

” … Final Exam seems uninterested in the killer as a living human being and instead uses him as a tragic, mysterious force that moves into the lives of those at Lanier College and changes them forever […] The killer actually manages to generate a few decent scares, thanks in part to Huston’s clever direction and Raynor’s minimalistic, yet menacing performance. ” Oh, the Horror!

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“A few problems keep Final Exam from being a really good slasher. The first half is more of a college drama. The only soap opera elements missing are a pregnancy scare and an outbreak of venereal disease on campus. Killer (Timothy L. Raynor) has no name, background, or motivation. He’s just a big guy with a knife. This lack of character development really robs the film of suspense and tension.” Retro Slashers

“A slow burner for sure, but fun all the same, Final Exam may not come to mind when thinking of famous slasher movies, but it manages to deliver some good atmospheric moments. Missing is the superhero element frequently present in slice ‘n dice films, like the unstoppable Michael Meyers, or the zombie-like Jason Voorhees, which gives it a bit of originality in an often stale genre.” Todd Jordan, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“By any stretch of the imagination, Final Exam is not one of the stronger early ’80s slashers. The pace of the first half is rather sluggish, the gore effects are minimal and the characters too cardboard – even for such formulaic stalk pics. But Final Exam does possess a certain charm.” The Terror Trap

“The only kill that has a little flair is when the idiot frat boy gets strangled on a workout machine. Other than that, the murders aren’t much to brag about. Even worse is that most of the kills are weighted towards the last half hour of the film.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

Release:

US theatrical release was on June 5, 1981. Following VHS releases, Final Exam was released on DVD in 2008 and has been available on Blu-ray since May 2014 via Shout! Factory.

Cast and characters:

  • Cecile Bagdadi … Courtney
  • Joel S. Rice … Radish – Christine
  • Ralph Brown … Wildman
  • DeAnna Robbins … Lisa
  • Sherry Willis-Burch … Janet
  • John Fallon … Mark
  • Terry W. Farren … Pledge
  • Timothy L. Raynor … Killer
  • Sam Kilman … Sheriff
  • Don Hepner … Dr. Reynolds
  • Mary Ellen Withers … Elizabeth
  • Elijah Christopher Perry [as Jerry Rushing] … Coach
  • Shannon Norfleet … Student in Car
  • Carol Capka … Student in Car
  • R.C. Nanney … Mitch

Filming locations:

Boiling Springs, Gaffney, Shelby and Spindale, North Carolina

Trivia:

Final Exam is referenced in Scream 2 along with other college-themed slasher films such as The House on Sorority RowGraduation DayThe Dorm That Dripped Blood and Splatter University.

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