Monday, May 12, 2014

Blu-ray Review: FINAL EXAM (1981) [Scream Factory]

Final Exam (1981)

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD

The Movie

FINAL EXAM doesn't exactly rank among the most notable slasher films of the 1980s, but it was one of the earlier entries in that genre, and it's also quite a bit different from its peers. Does that mean that it's great? Well, no... but it's not a bad film either. 

The official synopsis of the film, from Scream Factory, is as follows:
At Lanier College, the semester is almost over. Exam week is coming to a close when some upper classmen play a prank by staging a phony terrorist attack. But the next excitement in the school won't be a prank. It's something a lot more final than an exam. Students are falling prey to the knife-wielding maniac hell bent on making sure that school is out....forever!
So, just how does FINAL EXAM differ from the dozens of other slashers from its time? Well, for starters, the killer doesn't wear a mask or look like your typical horror movie baddie. In fact, you can see his face in plain view on many occasions; so the movie isn't trying to be a whodunit of any sort. 

What's more, we also never get a motive or any backstory on the killer. This isn't a tale about a picked on classmate who goes mental. It's not even an escaped mental patient trope. It's simply a cautionary tale that people are out there and they will stab you with knives.

That being said, nothing else in the film is very original. We get the typical college shenanigans like jocks behaving badly, nerdy kids getting bullied, people playing pranks, etc. It's all serviceable, but it's not exactly anything other than predictable. We've seen it before, and we've also gotten versions of it that are both better and worse.

The same can be said for the kills in the film; which are mostly bloodless. There's not a lot of variety to be found here. Mostly, people just get stabbed. Slashers don't need to be crazy and over-the-top, but honestly, FINAL EXAM is tame by today's standards. Again, that's not implicitly a bad thing, but it really doesn't make a case holding the film above its peers either.

Still, at the end of the day, FINAL EXAM is perfectly suitable rainy-day viewing material. 80s slasher completionists will want to add the film to their libraries, but the standard horror fan may want to try checking it out before blind buying it.

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

SCREAM FACTORY brings FINAL EXAM to Blu-ray in a decent package. The release isn't one of their "Collector's Editions," but there are some extras. The artwork on the disc and case is the original key poster art.

Video Quality (4/5)

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer of FINAL EXAM is one of the best things about this disc. The movie looks better than it ever has on home video, with a good amount of detail and no real evidence of digital tampering. The print used seems to be in good shape with no real noticeable dirt or debris. The color is a little flat, and the image is soft at times, but I suspect that is how the film looked when it was brand new, and I doubt it's the result of the mastering issue.

Audio Quality (3/5)

The DTS-Master HD Audio track on the disc is presented in 2.0. It's not bad, but it's hard from a standout experience. There is clipping and popping in several scenes, and the dialog is muffled at times. FINAL EXAM isn't a very active film in the sound department, so this is okay, but Scream Factory has released many other better-sounding discs. Again, I'd bet that they did the best with what they had to work with.

Extra Features (3/5)

There are some decent extras on Scream Factory's FINAL EXAM disc. The best of them is the commentary track, but the interviews with the cast members are also insightful; even if they repeat some of the info included in the commentary.

  • Audio Commentary with Cast Members Joel S. Rice, Cecil Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch
  • Interviews with Cast Members
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, FINAL EXAM doesn't exactly rank with the best of Scream Factory's releases. However, it is still the best release the film has ever had, and it looks very good in HD. The audio is a bit weak at times, but it's not egregiously bad by any means. Scream Factory also gave us a few extra features that help round out the package. Fans of FINAL EXAM will definitely want this version, but for the rest of us who might not have the means to purchase all of their May releases, you may want to put this disc last on that list.

Blu-ray Score


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