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Review: Final Exam (1981)

Writer: Thomas Ellison


The students of Lanier College have more than exams to worry about. A slasher armed with a butcher knife is stalking the corridors of academia. Only the survivors get to exempt this test.

Final Exam could have been just another generic campus slasher but is saved by bizarre camera angles, an oddball but loveable cast, and a heavy helping of Southern Charm. Don't think of Final Exam as slow moving. It moves at a leisurely pace, to be sure, but Jimmy Huston is breathing life into his characters before they're gutted by the nameless killer. These victims have enough dimension to make them more than just another campus slut, wallflower, geek, and dumb jock.

Slasher fans will enjoy watching Sherry Willis-Burch's performance as Janet, the bubble headed blonde. It's a far cry from her nerdy Vivia in Killer Party. Joel S. Rice is a scene stealer as Radish, the geek obsessed with serial killers. Wildman (Ralph Brown) provides a testosterone filled counter balance to Radish's 80 pound weakling. Cecile Bagdadi's performance as Courtney, the heroine, gets lost in her long hair. During the final confrontation, Bagdadi has to constantly push her hair back so she can see the killer before stabbing him.

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. The viewer is waiting for a payoff that never comes.

Final Exam may not be the most terrifying campus slasher ever filmed but it still manages to be funny and entertaining. Fans of gallows humor will find plenty to chuckle over. A quick example: The statistic quoting geek decides to become a hero to save the woman he loves, only to become another statistic. Sherry Willis-Burch has one of the funnier lines: "I'm still happy. It's just I'm depressed." Posters for Murder is My Beat, Tool Box Murders, and The Corpse Grinders can be seen in Radish's dorm room.



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