Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Final Exam 1981 (the GOLDEN year for the SLASHER film)

Jimmy Houston gives us something a little different than your normal slasher fare. A lot of people think the character development and the time it took the director to give us insight on our characters detracts from the film, making it seem like a talky television movie. In some respects this is quite true.While going a different direction in regards to characters, Houston still gives us the already clichéd shot of two love bird co-eds getting all hot and sweaty in the back seat of 'jock boy's' car. Familiar territory already.Wouldn't you know it? After the star quarterback for his college football team finally talks his date into the back seat, someone starts fucking with them - pushing and bumping the car. The dude's first instinct is that it was probably one of his jealous team mates, but he soon figures out it probably isn't when someone jumps on the hood of his car and slices a huge hole in the canopy of quarterback's convertible with a big butcher's knife. He then realizes he should get the hell out of Dodge and jumps in the front seat, but is quickly jerked through the hole in the canopy and manhandled onto the hood of the car. The killer lunges his silvery bladed butcher's knife deep into quarterbacks chest as his girlfriend watches in horror

We then witness a close-up of the screaming chic in the back seat. The camera zooms in on her ugly face while her annoying scream goes on until our next fade in.It's the next day and a group of co-ed acquaintances are discussing the murders that took place at the rival college. (ala Scream) There's a pretty uplifting vibe to the film already, as the characters make jokes and make light of the situation. One of the Frat boys going as far as to say that since the star quarterback from the rival team was now dead, "they might have a chance to take them."During this short little opening to introduce our main characters, we get to learn a lot about them already. We realize that they're seemingly normal (well, all except for Radish who's obviously a closet homo) people with thoughts and feelings like the rest of us sub-humans.Mark, one of the football-jock-frat boy-pricks is even cool in his own right. Final exams are there and he needs to pass, but like most red blooded Americans he plans to cheat because he didn't study. Well, I guess you could call it cheating. I'm not going to go into detail because this is ultimately a great surprise in the movie. Let's just say that I thought Houston was going to give us a morsel of slasherness and shy away from it, giving us a 'Red Dawn' rip-off instead.Nevertheless, we have our virginal heroine, Courtney. Everyone loves her, but she can't find the right person. She's the one who'll let you cheat off her even though she's contemplating your murder in her mind. There's the serial killer freak who has a poster of the Toolbox Murders up in his dorm room. He always drinks Irish whiskey at the end of the term, and probably would prefer Courtney if she were a man. We have our fat coach who lives his dreams through his students when he could still do a single push-up. There's a drunken security guard who'll get your goat. There's a whole slew of likable characters to root for.I almost forgot to mention that there's hardly any bloodshed in this movie, and not until forty-five minutes after our opening sequence does anyone come into contact with the killer. BUT, all is not in vain. This film has loads of atmosphere to keep it on the right slasher track.

 It indeed is talky throughout, and plays off like a television drama at times, but it delivers on a larger level during the last thirty minutes. The finale is really well done. We get to see glimpses of the killers face, which is basically an ordinary man in a green army jacket.The lighting is very well done and the setting of the school added more gloom and doom to the situation. There's also some very good camera work in regards to certain shots - The 'Shining-esque' shot of Courtney walking down the long hallway after she finds Radish's face smashed through a door. Some very good stuff.What's the motive for the killer's murderous rage? Well, it never answers that question. We're left wondering why he chose to stalk college campuses in his black van and ultimately butcher coeds like they molested him when he was a kid or something. I should be pissed at this idea, but the open ending rings true on the same bell as Halloween. (Not to mention the similar piano score) Maybe the producers got a little ahead of themselves thinking they had a gem on their hands, thus the obvious sequel. Aside from all the obvious detractions, Final Exam still works for me.

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