DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Jimmy Huston
Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown
Writing Credits:
Jimmy Huston

Some pass the test...God Help The Rest!!!

At Lanier College, the semester is almost over. Exam week is coming to a close when some upper classmen play a prank by staging a phony terrorist attack. It’s super funny. But the next moment of excitement at the school won’t be a prank. And it’s something a lot more final than an exam. Students are falling prey to a knife-wielding maniac stalking the school, bent on making sure that for some, school is out…forever!

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $24.97
Release Date: 5/13/2014

• Audio Commentary with Actors Joel S. Rice, Cecile Bagdadi and Sherry Willis-Burch
• Interviews with Cast Members
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Final Exam [Blu-Ray] (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2014)

For a slice of early 1980s horror, we head to 1981’s Final Exam. A prologue shows a bloody murder on the campus of March College before we head to nearby Lanier College, where the end of the semester nears. The students go through finals and have the usual personal and academic concerns. They seem more amused by the March College murders than upset.

Perhaps they should’ve been more concerned. Inevitably the same psycho from March sets his bloodthirsty sights on the remaining students at Lanier. We follow the body count.

Question of the day: did anyone actually see Final Exam in the theaters? Apparently it got a short run, but I have no memory of this movie at all. I was 14 in 1981 and loved the era’s slasher flicks, so this one must’ve gone under the radar.

Second question of the day: did my teenage self miss out on anything? No – no no no no no. I’m happy I never saw this atrocity, as it might have stunted my growth – and I was already pretty stunted anyway.

Going into Exam, I expected a duplicate of 1980’s Friday the 13th. That was the era’s most recent horror hit, and the poster art for Exam echoes the ad for Friday, so I anticipated something along the lines of the influential 1980 smash.

To be sure, Exam offers a copycat, but it rips off a different source: 1978’s Halloween. Much of Exam traces the Halloween template, as we find an abundance of similar elements. Heck, the murderer even moves/kills/looks more than a little like Michael Myers.

The biggest difference comes from motivation/backstory. While Halloween gives Michael a history and a catalyst of sorts, Exam doesn’t bother with any of this. Its maniac comes from nowhere and we never learn anything about him. Like Michael, he remains mute, but unlike Myers, Exam never even bothers to give its psycho a name; it simply bills him as “Killer”.

After I watched the movie, I checked out a few viewer comments and learned that some people really liked the anonymity of the murderer. They felt this made him scarier, as we couldn’t ascribe his motivations to childhood trauma or whatnot. They believe Exam’s “Killer” delivers the scariest kind of horror villain: one with absolutely no rhyme or reason – though like Myers and countless others in the genre, he sure does seem to hate attractive young people.

Perhaps a better movie could’ve milked the anonymity of “Killer” for chilling results, but the incompetence at the core of Exam scuttles those possibilities. I get the impression that “Killer” lacks personality or exposition not as a thematic statement; instead, this appears to occur because the filmmakers just were too lazy or unimaginative to come up with a real character.

The movie’s creators sure didn’t skimp on the potential development of the college students, though. They get tons of screen time before any of the Lanier murders happen; bizarrely, we wait almost an hour into the proceedings before “Killer” finally does his thing at that school.

For a movie like this, that’s nuts. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that we’d care more about the students if we really got to know them, or that the slow build to the actual murders would create a higher level of tension.

If so, they were wrong on both accounts. The movie does hint at potential villainy before something actually occurs, but those moments feel neither tense nor chilling; they just come across like cheap teases.

All that time spent with the students goes nowhere. We learn nothing about them beyond the usual easy stereotypes – the nerd, the good girl, the bully, the spoiled preppy, the slut, etc. – and we never care about them in the least.

Because of this, all the time spent pre-murders leaves us with an exceedingly dull film. Hoo boy, does Exam move slowly, and without any interesting characters or situations, extreme boredom results.

But when we do finally get to the murders, they’re vivid and terrifying, right? Nope. Exam avoids the big, elaborate murders that became a staple of the Friday franchise and subsequent horror efforts. Maybe this was another nod to the nearly bloodless Halloween, but it just means another strike against the film. Without either the elaborate gore of Friday or the delicious tension of Halloween, the killings in Exam fall flat.

The review’s over, and I never even got to the amateurishness of the acting! To single out the cast would be a mistake, as everything about Final Exam screams “cheap, bargain basement filmmaking”. This one seems to exist in an attempt to rip off other flicks and make a quick buck. It boasts zero creative success.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio D/ Bonus C

Final Exam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While much of the film looked good, print defects created a lot of distractions.

Although these never became extreme, the source flaws popped up more frequently than I’d expect. Throughout the film, I saw specks, marks, hairs, and other debris. Again, these could’ve been heavier, but they presented consistent concerns.

The rest of the image seemed mostly good. Sharpness was fairly satisfying, as the majority of the flick showed appropriate accuracy and clarity. Occasional softness occurred, but not to a substantial degree. I saw no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.

Colors were adequate. Though the hues lacked great vivacity, they showed perfectly decent clarity. Blacks were reasonably dark, and shadows presented acceptable smoothness. Without the print flaws, this would’ve been a solid “B” image, but the defects knocked it down to a “C”.

I found fewer positives in the film’s awful DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack. Speech consistently came across as sibilant and edgy; I needed to turn on the subtitles to make sure I understood the lines. Effects were also rough and without much clarity.

Music worked a bit better, but just a little. The score showed stronger delineation but still tended to be shrill and discordant. I heard examples of hiss, clicks and pops throughout the movie. Even when I considered the movie’s budget and age, this was a poor soundtrack.

We get a smattering of extras here, and these open with an audio commentary from actors Joel S. Rice, Cecile Bagdadi and Sherry Willis-Burch. Along with moderators Julia Marchese and Deron Miller, all of them sit together for a running, screen-specific look at experiences during the shoot as well as locations, other cast and crew, additional thoughts about their lives, and related filmmaking areas.

Recorded for a 2008 DVD release, the commentary becomes likable enough but not especially informative. We do learn occasional details but these don’t prove to be terribly insightful, and the track sags as it goes. Fans will probably enjoy it, but I think it’s a pretty average chat.

In addition to the film’s “red band” trailer, we locate more interviews with cast members. This domain offers additional info from Joel S. Rice (6:47), Cecile Bagdadi (3:43) and Sherry Willis-Burch (4:58). Across these, we learn about how they got their roles, elements of the shoot, reactions to the final film and other aspects of their lives/careers. The interviews deliver a smattering of decent notes but they’re too short to tell us much – and they repeat more than a few details already heard in the commentary.

Some forgotten movies deserve to remain that way, and 1981’s Final Exam falls into that category. A boring, amateurish slasher flick, it offers nothing of value. The Blu-ray provides average picture and bonus materials along with problematic audio. I guess the film’s cult of fans will be happy with this release, but I never want to watch this stinker again.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main