The Curator of Schlock #260 by Jeff Shuster
Cheaters never prosper!
Anyone out there ever have the final exam dream? It usually goes like this: it’s the end of the semester, you’ve done really well in four out of the five classes you registered for this semester, but there’s that one class you stopped going to the second week in. You slip in the last day of class, hoping the instructor hasn’t noticed your absence. But how will you get through that final exam? Did you remember any of the material from that first week? You try to glance over at the test sheet of the student sitting next to you, hoping to gleam some answers.
Tonight’s movie is 1981’s Final Exam from director Jimmy Huston, a movie that I thought would tap into that suppressed exam anxiety many of us have buried deep within us, but alas, it’s just another slasher film. Well, it’s not any old slasher. It takes place at a college. That’s kind of unique. Beats another summer camp. The movie starts out with a couple necking in a convertible, only for the boyfriend to get knifed and sliced by some random maniac. I figured this movie would be a whodunit like many Canadian slasher movies, but this is an American slasher movie so our killer is just some nameless guy. I kept thinking he was going to be revealed as the chemistry teacher, getting revenge on the students that had cheated on their final exam. No dice,
Oh, this movie has characters in it and by characters I mean victims lying in wait for our generic killer. Seriously, this guy doesn’t even wear a mask. He doesn’t speak. I don’t understand it. He just pops up, kills a college student, and disappears into the shadows. I demand more from my killers! Dress like Howdy Doody or Barney the Dinosaur or something.
Even the deaths aren’t spectacular. There a fraternity pledge who gets stabbed repeatedly in the back after the killer jumps on top of him from a nearby tree. If he were dressed like the Hamburglar, this scene would get somewhere. One kill involves the star quarterback known as “Wildman” being accosted in a weight room. He gets strangled with the cords of one of the weight machines.
Another death involves a young woman waiting to seduce her art teacher only to have her blood be added to the various canvases spread throughout the studio. At least the token nerdlinger gets killed along with the frat boys and the jocks. Remember, there is no such thing as a loveable loser.
Apparently, Final Exam was seized and confiscated in Great Britain during the Video Nasty scare of the early 1980s. Back then you could get arrested for renting someone a copy of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Be proud to be an American where at least you know you’re free. Mental note: Do a Video Nasty Month at some point. Treat it like the FBI’s Most Wanted list, but for movies.
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.
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