Final Exam (Blu-ray Review)

Final-ExamAhhh, back to those golden age early 1980s slashers.  On the same day Evilspeak releases, Scream Factory also produces another Code Red title on Blu-ray with Final Exam.  And I must say my jaw dropped when this one was announce.  Final Exam took forever to find a home on DVD, so much that it felt like it was flirting with being one of those VHS titles that never made it to DVD.  So, I just chalked this one up to never going to be on Blu-ray.  Low and behold, HERE IT IS!  I never owned the DVD because I quit buying DVDs long ago, so this was really my first time to see it in its original aspect and not a cropped used up 4:3 pan & scan VHS tape.  Scream Factory upgrades the previous DVD release by bringing over its extras as well.

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Welcome to Lanier College.  Summer is on the horizon as spring semester is coming to a close.  Students are taking their finals, packing up to move back home, figuring out some romancing and…oh yeah, they’re getting killed.  A mysterious killer has been going campus to campus and murdering unsuspecting students.  Will Courtney and her friends be able to survive to see the next semester?  Or will they fail at not getting stabbed?

Final Exam has long been one of those films that divide slasher fans right down the middle.  For as many fans there are that adore and enjoy this movie there are just as many that detest it.  Its one of the many “pick a holiday” slasher knock offs that rifled out in 1981 in the wake of Friday the 13th‘s breakout, so franchise wasn’t on the brain then.  Personally, I was and still am a pretty big fan of the film.  The video store by my house growing up had this one and when I became enthralled with slashers I instantly had to see what this one was all about.  And I probably rented it a good number of times and should have just bought it but never did.

One of the things I love about Final Exam is that it feels like a some sort of crazy comedy that winds up crossing paths with a slasher movie.  Like Revenge Of The Nerds meets The Prowler.  The film really isn’t interested in its killer as he really truly is just some guy who drives a van and goes around killing people.  There’s no explanation for his actions and the only connection he has to the characters is that of his knife penetrating their chest.  Many knock the film for this, but I think its actually kind of a strength.  These same people are the ones clamoring for more ambiguity and less spoonfeeding in movies nowadays, but won’t accept this.  I think its kind of haunting that we don’t know motivations and never will.  Its just like Michael Myers in Halloween (albeit much more vague).

While not focusing much on the killer, we do get a lot of character development in the movie.  It really is some other movie that happens to have a horror film crash into it.  These people are going about their business and boom, dead.  I mentioned Revenge Of The Nerds earlier and I honestly feel Radish and Wildman would fit right in that universe.  All the characters are very colorful and pretty memorable.  Even the professor who just appears briefly in the early goings of the film feels like he’s “somebody”.  And its also fun, because we know none of them is the killer, so we’re getting to know them without suspecting them of anything.  Many have referred to this as boring, but this is a cast of a lot of people who are doing their first film and there’s an incredible amount of infectious energy that registers as enjoyment for me.

I will say though, that the film is rather weak in the kills department.  There’s not a whole lot of blood.  Most of the deaths are stabbings and while they look brutal, they’re light on blood.  Some may prefer this method.  The blood itself is very Giallo-looking too.  Where it lacks in blood, I think it more than makes up for in set pieces.  There’s some terrific lighting going on and some great locations to set up and execute chases.  I really enjoy the basketball arena and the old tower where the finale happens.

Yeah, Final Exam is one of my favorite Golden Era slashers.  I really enjoy the cast of this film and the sort of comedy turned horror film it is.  Plus, Radish has got to be one of the best characters in a slasher film of all time.  And for some reason, I’m always a sucker for the slashers that take place on a college campus (maybe its the pretty buildings and landscapes?).  After all these years and growing up, I still dig the movie.  I can see where some detest, but I just don’t.  A lot of those things are pluses for me.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: Holy wow this film looks great on Blu-ray!  Detail is high and the film is very clear.  The print used for this one is in great shape.  You can see nicks on walls and texture of fabrics.  I was really impressed at how good this looked!

Depth:  Some solid depth of field, especially noted in the finale during a character falling down a staircase.

Black Levels:  Black levels a rich and provide an added sense of spookiness to the atmosphere of the film.  No detail appears lost.

Color Reproduction: Colors are surprisingly bold and stick out quite good.  The lawns are a really rich green color and everything else from close to the blood just pop really well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are consistent and provide good detail.  Facial blemishes and such are all well detailed.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are a few specs and dirt in some frames and a streak here or there accompanied by a beautiful layer of grain.

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Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: There’s a notable vinyl hiss to go with the track (but I welcome that).  Effects are distinct and the score is mixed in gorgeously.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is nice and audible throughout. However, it easily peaks and S’s and Sh’s have a sharp hissing sound attached.

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The inside cover includes some extra artwork.

Audio Commentary With Cast Members Joel S. Rice, Cecile Bagdadi and Sherry Willis-Burch – New Beverly programmer Julie Marchese along with fan Darren Miller lead the cast through this incredible enthusiastic, energetic and nonstop fun commentary that has been ported over from the previous DVD release of the film.

Interviews With Cast Members – These Q&A interviews have been ported over from the previous DVD edition of the film.

  • Joel S. Rice (SD, 6:47)
  • Cecile Bagdadi (SD, 3:43)
  • Sherry Willis-Burch (SD, 4:58)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:31) – This is a terrific old school slasher trailer, I must note.

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If you’re a fan, or just a fan of vintage slashers, I gotta recommend Final Exam on Blu-ray.  The film will kind of charm you as it tries to be a college frat comedy (its not that funny though) and comes to a bitter end as a slasher flick.  It looks like never before and for what it is, this is an outstanding presentation.  Its got some solid interviews attached, but the commentary is and incredibly fun time.  I must say, geeky as it is, but this is one of those titles that I got super excited that I’d get to review and put my 2 cents in on it.  Thanks Scream Factory!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Final Exam (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    I love the tagline to this movie!