Final Exam (1981)

final exam poster 1981 movie
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 4/10

Admire it for trying something new involving the killer

Attempts to subvert any genre tropes are busted by dull story

Movie Info

Movie Name: Final Exam

Studio: Motion Picture Marketing

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  February 29, 1981 (Premiere)/June 5, 1981 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

final exam hazing pledge fraternity

Wacky college events like hazing and staged mass shootings!

At Lanier College, finals are wrapping up and the school is closing down.  A small group of students are taking their final exams and trying to finish up the semester.  With studying (or partying) a high priority, the students are caught unaware that something is happening on campus.  A killer is stalking the grounds, and death means that no one will finish the semester.

Written and directed by Jimmy Huston, Final Exam is a horror slasher.  The film was released to average to poor reviews and banned in some areas due to the film’s violence.

Halloween unleashed a bounty of slasher films and Friday the 13th amplified that.  Final Exam is a result of these movies and feels very similar in tone and execution, but then it goes a kind of different way by the end of the film…for better or worse.  A ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

final exam lisa deanna robbins

Hey…I could try to seduce you like everyone else

The movie sets up like a normal horror movie.  You have a killing off the bat and the killer seems to be targeting teens.  You have a geeky guy obsessed with horror, meathead jocks, pledges, a shy girl, a promiscuous girl, a cranky sheriff, a weird professor, and college pranks.  The killing starts, and bodies start piling up.  There is talk of a girl who died in a sorority and the murders at the other college, and you expect some character’s horrible backstory to pop up.  That is where the movie gets odd.

The film ends with the killer being no one.  This is both novel and a bit of a disappointment.  There is no mystery and there is no horrible story of a prank gone wrong or a jaded student who is avenging his sister.  It is just a crazy guy with a knife.  It is random violence with no backstory.  I admire that they changed up the ghost story-esque horror of most slasher films, but it is also kind of unsatisfying.

final exam killer timothy l raynor

…and the killer is…this guy

The movie is largely an unknown cast who didn’t go on to much else.  It feels like the movie needed some sort of a spark in its casting or execution…for a moment it felt like Joel S. Rice (who plays the goofy Radish) might actually turn into the movie’s hero.  This would have been a change since he essentially is an even dorky version of the Randy character in Scream who is in the know about killers.  I do kind of like Ralph Brown who plays the stereotypical jock to the max…he might as well have been making Revenge of the Nerds.

Final Exam is a dull and uneventful horror movie.  If you grew up watching horror movies of the 1980s, you will watch the movie and feel like you’ve already seen it.  It has the opportunity to be something different and eventful through its subtle attempts to subvert the slasher genre, but it ends up being a dull movie with a dull killer…play hooky on Final Exam.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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