Review

Shaun vs. Final Exam (1981)

Days before a university closes down for summer vacation, the remaining student body becomes fair game for a killer on the loose on campus.



Judging a Book by its Cover

final1

 

 

-Oh hey, it’s Friday the 13th part….Final Exam?  Is this Jason Goes to School? (I’d watch that.)

 

-The poster covers the basics, I suppose.  Shadowy character with bright, glowing knife?  Check.

 

 

 

 


Some may pass the test, God help the rest!

Directed by Jimmy Huston

Starring Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice and DeAnna Robbins

On a late summer evening, a college couple are parked along a romantic ridge making out though she’s resisting going any further until he takes her somewhere nicer.  Especially when someone starts jumping all over the car.  The prankster tears open the fabric roof and yanks the guy out for some stabby action before turning his attention to the screaming girl.

final2

Your hands are freezing!

The next day, the news slowly trickles across campus of the murders as everyone gets ready for their…get ready for it…final exam!  The movie takes a quick trip into Crazytown when a van suddenly arrives with a masked group of shooters who jump out and start shooting up the campus though it turns out to be an elaborate ruse so a fraternity brother can pass his chemistry exam.  Ah, the carefree 80s!  Boys will be boys.  This distracts everyone from the other slow moving van that has arrived as the driver creeps around.

final3

This isn’t a scene I envisioned while looking at the box cover.

The night before everyone is set to leave for summer vacation, the killer strikes again.  Having a very intimate knowledge of the school’s premises, he lures many of the victims to their dooms.  One of my favorite scenes was on a basketball court with the dumb jock character as the intended victim.  The killer had the scoreboard set up for the two-minute sudden death countdown and sure enough kills the victim with seconds to spare.  Moments later, the body is seen crammed upside down in a locker to get at another student.  Sure it’s stupid but also such an unexpected laugh out loud moment; I wish the rest of the movie were as funny.  (The second time a body is found in a locker though, it’s lost it’s charm.)

final4

I’m an electrical wizard, Harry!

The killer is sometimes cloaked in darkness though we can often see his face when in a lit setting.  He lurches around like a mask-less Michael Myers or Frankenstein’s monster though he later showcases superhuman reflexes to catch an arrow at close range!  There’s no motive or connection between the killer and any of the victims, in fact, we never learn who this guy is.  I think there was a throwaway line about a girl who committed suicide due to hazing so I suppose this guy is her father?  Brother?  Uncle?

final8

Zoinks!

Though it was released during the upswing of the slasher film of the early 80s, it seems to only exist to be a copycat.  The promotional material screams of ripping off hugely successful earlier films like Halloween — the constant use of the tagline, “He’s come back” in the trailer is very close to the one in Halloween‘s trailer, “The night he came home” —  and Friday the 13th — just look at that poster — as though it thinks it can hang with those films.  It cannot.  A good portion of the first half of the film has several rather lacklustre Animal House-style frat comedy bits that make you forget that you’re watching a horror film before it remembers what it is and systematically kills off the cast until the eventual showdown with the heroine with a ridiculous ending.  Shocker.

TL;DR

Story: 2 – A killer with no name or motive targets a very specific group of students to stab because reasons.  The first half of the film is a clunky frat comedy that turns into the simplest form of slasher you can watch.

Blood: 4 – The brief splashes of blood shown on screen won’t get you back your 90 minutes.

Nudity:  1 – A very brief glimpse of boobage in a bathtub.

Overall: 3Final Exam does few things right, a few things hilariously wrong but overall is a dull and unsatisfying movie.

Trivia

-The knife used in the film was not a prop but an actual butcher’s knife.

-Many of the bit parts were played by the film crew.

-Shot in six weeks on a budget of $60,000.

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