Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Final Exam (1981)

Ugh, save me from the '80s slasher movie where NOTHING HAPPENS. There's a reason why there were so many Halloween ripoffs in the early '80s: they were cheap to make. All you needed was a small cast of unknown actors, a few simple locations (a house or two, a college gym, a summer camp) and a decent special effects guy with some gore experience. Put it all together and you have a huge rate of return - the first Friday the 13th cost less than $1 million, and grossed more than $30 million.

So how can you find an even higher rate of return? Cut your costs so that your entire movie consists of young actors chattering in nondescript locations, with no extravagant gore beyond a stabbing or two. So in that respect, a completely bland, generic slasher movie like Final Exam actually has more in common with a Mumblecore movie, except less pretentiousness and (thankfully) more murders.

Final Exam is set on a thinly-populated college campus right at the end of a semester. There are maybe a dozen kids around, and they all talk about how they need to pass their exams and how they're in love with each other and yadda yadda. There's a nerdy guy who manages the football team (read: he accounts for the equipment) and another guy rushing for his fraternity who winds up tied to a tree and covered in whipped cream. And that's ALL that happens from between the initial pair of deaths (5 min. in, making out in a convertible) to the next death scene (55 min. in, tied to a tree). Okay, add in the bizarre frat prank in which a bunch of guys launch a paramilitary terrorist attack on the campus and kill a dozen students - just kidding? (That actually happens, but nobody cares much). Now, if you're a good enough screenwriter, you can develop characters in such a way that the audience doesn't care that there's nothing particularly interesting happening on-screen - but even the Scream movies were smart enough to pepper in a death scene at least every 20 minutes or so.

It doesn't help that Final Exam's killer is totally nondescript - lacking in motivation and even in any kind of cool iconography, he's basically just a middle-aged dude in slacks and a khaki shirt out to kill coeds. Like, give me someone I can't find in real life, already, jeeze.

I'd like to give the movie credit for the couple of minor thrills and laughs that I got out of it, or the six seconds of nudity it contains, but there aren't enough to write home about. Just a bland, generic '80s slasher, lost to time.



John M said...

Well looky here, someone's on a big old bloggin spree.

Awesome, keep it up, Jefe!

Jeff McMahon said...

I got slowed down by two days of jury duty, but aside from that, there are distinct advantages to unemployment.