From AVCO Embassy Pictures
Original Theatrical Release Date: June 5th 1981
Plot: At Lanier College, some kids really just want to get an education. Others just want to party. These nerds and jocks have one thing in common... The killer on campus doesn't care. He just wants them dead.
"Sheriff, this is Lanier College calling. There's been a multiple shooting on the campus quadron. Sir, LISTEN! Several students have been shot, kidnapped in a brown van. You better get out here. IT'S HAPPENING. THE PSYCHOPATHS ARE HERE!"
This bit of dialogue by Radish (Joel S. Rice) is one of my favorites. Radish is a mystery/horror buff and when he sniffs some trouble, he really goes on red alert! Speaking of Radish, the poor guy has a thing for nice girl Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi). She means well, but her attention seems to be mostly on her (really bad haired) boyfriend and her roommate who seems to get by pretty easily on her looks and not much else. Radish doesn't quite realize that nerds back then rarely ever got the girl in the end. And in a movie called Final Exam, they rarely ever live to see graduation.
If this Film were to be made today, in the era of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (the geek shall inherit the earth) Radish would probably flourish a bit more. Perhaps the police on the other end of the line would believe him instead of just simply thinking he was the boy who cried wolf. And dig Radish's dorm room. His walls are adorned with classic posters of Noir and Horror Films. He not only loves a good Horror Movie, he also lives inside of one! Characters like Wildman and Radish predate those of some of my Teen Comedy favorites of the 80's like Revenge Of The Nerds. Their struggle to deal with the Jock/Nerd within is always fun to watch to watch.
A Slasher Movie like Final Exam could easily be categorized as a "throwaway" from the time period. It was clearly made to capitalize on the great success of the superior Halloween and Friday The 13th. But because the film has a schizophrenic personality (It's alternates Slashing with long stretches of zany College Campus hijinks) it wins me over every single time. At the center of all the (relatively goreless) mayhem, this movie has both a heart and a sense of humor. Final Exam's unmasked, unknown killer is also pretty unique. Because so many films get bogged down in back-story and explanation, the Picture takes the less is more approach. We never do know his motivation. Unless it was to scare off the student body and get a really good deal for next year's tuition. Hey, you never know...
Note: FINAL EXAM was just re-released on DVD by the label, Scorpion. They painstakingly remastered the film in High-Definition and it looks great! I've never see the film as crisp and good looking like this. Wildman's hair has never looked so lovingly teased and hairsprayed before! The disc also features a new commentary with the producer. Definitely worth picking up.
All pranks are courtesy of Wildman, inc.