The Horror Honeys: Some pass the test...God Help The Rest!!!

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

An “It Came From The 80s” Slasher Honey Review by Chassity

Final Exam (1981)

This week I’m killing two birds with one stone, with an 80s slasher for “It Came From The 80s” that also is another film I can check off of my “Watch Every Movie Mentioned By Jamie Kennedy In The Scream Films” list. 

Final Exam fits that bill, even though I could argue it is incorrectly titled. It SHOULD have been called “A Love Letter To All the Reasons We Hate Frat Boys.” 

The film is exactly what its name says; the story of the last batch of unlucky kids on a college campus finishing up the school year, while a killer is on campus waiting to off them all. It works out conveniently because there’s no one there to rescue each isolated victim.

After the obligatory opening kill, the movie introduces us to our main character and side characters and their mundane problems. You’ve got the most annoying frat boys in the world, the middle of the road girl, the “slut,” and the nerd. And from there, they pretty much just study and complain about college until they’re all dead. 

The only other thing to know about the film’s plot is the detail that makes me angry about it. And I’ll totally admit that I’m looking at this from a present-day view that makes my extreme feels kind of unfair. The frat boys stage a school shooting as a pledge prank. Because mass murder is somehow a joke? And they got people to go along with this horrible idea of a prank and pretend to be dead? Again, in a time where school shootings happen multiple times a year, and when it’s one of the country’s issues at the forefront of my mind, I’ll acknowledge my sensitivity about this. But, from a more time accurate perspective, it’s clear that this was only included in the movie to make it that much easier to hate the frat boys, and so that no one comes to help later when the nerd calls the police a second time (kind of in “boy who cried wolf” fashion). 

No one inside the building even reacts when they hear gunshots going on outside, and it pissed me off more than a little bit. And why are pledge activities happening during the final week of school? Is that a thing? 

That, and the fact that the beginning of the movie includes some of the clumsiest, most unrealistic dialogue I’ve ever heard, are the only things I didn’t like about this movie. 

Thankfully, unlike many formulaic 80s slashers, Final Exam doesn’t just have death after death for  the sake of a body count. The audience gets to know each person so that we actually care when they die. There is a lot of buildup to the murders, and a good amount of suspense to add to the mix, there are a few good false scares that work, unlike false scares in more recent horror flicks. Usually a movie this slow doesn’t work for me, but with Final Exam, it didn’t bore me. This film is the very definition of a slow burn, but every slow moment is enjoyable, even the ones that fill you with rage at the frat boys. 

The “nerd” is the most likable movie nerd I’ve ever seen, at least pre-Randy Meeks in Scream. He’s confident, not all that fearful of the meathead frat boys (a few of whom are so dumb that it’s not even believable that they would have made it out of high school, let alone got into college), and he embraces his nerd status. He’s also knowledgeable about psychopaths and survival skills (at one point he gives a great little speech that every horror fan can relate to about being fascinated by serial killers and the horror genre), even though he’s never explicitly labeled a horror fan. I wanted him to be the Final Boy. In fact, I was almost certain he would be. 

Which brings me to the one big mistake Final Exam makes. 

When I reviewed Venom I sort of ranted about how the choice of its surviving character made no sense and was an absolutely wrong choice. Well, this film made the same mistake. All of the main characters are men. The girls have a few scenes, and they’re all perfectly fine and likable, but we see very little of them, which is why (to me) it made no sense for the survivor to be a Final Girl. Other than the old fallback reasoning that girls are more vulnerable, weaker, less powerful and able to dominate a male killer, and therefore more realistic main victims. That antiquated idea aside, I’ll just say that there are two perfectly weak and vulnerable males in the movie that would’ve made great Final Boys. Especially compared to a female character we spend very little time with, and who only serves as the nerd’s object of obsession, and ultimately is hardly distinguishable from the other women in the movie. 

With the exception of its few minor annoyances, Final Exam is 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. This is the kind of movie every slasher fan should have as part of his or her collection. 

Slasher Honey Rating: 5 out of 5 Empty College Dormitories

Final Exam is available via YouTube, & blu-ray/DVD

Have you passed the Final Exam?
Tell me on Twitter: @ChassMM