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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best-Kept Secrets of the Golden Era
For me, this is among the very finest of the lesser-known early 80's slasher films. Among those more obscure movies, my favorites are 'Happy Birthday to Me' and 'Hell Night', with this one coming in third. This is a typical slasher film (although I regard it as substantially better than most). What I mean is, if you are looking for something revolutionary, then by all...
Published on July 30, 2011 by G. Garner

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as the reputation it gets
Here we go again another slasher flick from the early 80s. After the success of John Carpenter's Halloween and Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th it seemed every horror flick coming out in the early 80s was a slasher movie. From 1981 we have the college campus based slasher Final Exam.

Final Exam is one of the forgotten slasher flicks of the 80s while it's still...
Published on December 10, 2007 by Dave. K


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best-Kept Secrets of the Golden Era, July 30, 2011
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This review is from: Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) (DVD)
For me, this is among the very finest of the lesser-known early 80's slasher films. Among those more obscure movies, my favorites are 'Happy Birthday to Me' and 'Hell Night', with this one coming in third. This is a typical slasher film (although I regard it as substantially better than most). What I mean is, if you are looking for something revolutionary, then by all means look elsewhere. You won't find anything new here.

Personally, I like slasher movies that adhere to the classic precepts, but then make them their own. After all, there is plenty of room for variation within the traditional slasher motif.

A terrific example of this would be the film's heroine. Most of these types of films have a virtuous,likeable heroine. 'Final Exam' falls within that tradition. However, even though she is similar to others we find in the genre, she is still unique. In fact, she is among my absolute personal favorites. She is a lovely, pleasant, authentic girl, and she elevates the film beyond what it could have been without her.

'Final Exam' takes the classic slasher concept-inserting a mysterious killer into an otherwise unremarkable setting-and executes it quite effectively. The idea is very similar to 'Halloween'. Don't get me wrong........it's not NEARLY as good as 'Halloween.' But the basic structure is similar-namely, a bunch of people going about their business, with a killer always lurking off on the periphery. As with 'Halloween', if you want buckets of gore or tons of nudity, then you'll be disappointed.

But if you like that traditional slasher motif, of a seemingly safe, tranquil environment-but with a hulking, mysterious figure, always off to one side, always waiting, but who always seems to vanish before anybody actually starts to worry about his presense-then there's a lot to like about 'Final Exam.' If you don't like slasher movies, this is certainly not the one that will change your mind. But if you do, this one features all the traditional elements.

'Final Exam' manages to take those traditional elements, and place its own stamp upon them. The film creates a sense of time, and place, and carves its own distinctive niche within the slasher pantheon.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most underrated slasher film of the early 80's, July 1, 2013
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This review is from: Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) (DVD)
When you see a list of favorite slasher films of the 80's, very rarely do you see Final Exam on any of those lists. Final Exam is personally one of my favorites, and it really deserves more fans than it has.

The plot of Final Exam is simple. A killer is stalking a college campus. Will anyone survive the night? That's it! There's no twists, there's nothing complex, there's not even any surprises, Final Exam is just a very simple slasher film. But don't let that turn you away! There's alot to love here aside from the fact that the film is pure entertainment. One of Final Exam's biggest strengths was that it actually had a decent amount of suspense and dread. The director was clearly a big fan of Halloween, and though the killer here is no Michael Myers the film does at times keep you on the edge of your seat. Another thing I liked was the setting! Out of all the dorm slashers out there, Final Exam has one of the most realistic dorm settings I've seen, and the director fully utilizes the whole campus to create the perfect atmosphere. There seems to be shadows everywhere, and it works. The director did a fantastic job all around.
Now the film gets a reputation of being a bit slow, but I didn't find it slow honestly. Sure the killer takes awhile to get going, but the cast here is very good, and keep things fun to watch. The acting is all around good too, and I really liked the film's lead. Some may say she's no Laurie Strode, but there was something very real and likable about her. Also you can't mention the cast without mentioning Radish. Clearly an inspiration for Scream's Randy, Radish is definitly one of the more memorable early 80's slasher film characters, and he's very likable and easy to root for. His character could've easily came off as somewhat annoying, but instead he's anything but annoying.

The Scorpion dvd itself is also very good. The picture looks good overall, and the extras are solid. The film comes with a producers commentary, a few cast interviews, a trailer for Final Exam, and some trailers for other 80's horror films. Not bad at all.

Overall Final Exam is terrific slasher fun. If you're not a fan of slasher films then this film won't convert you. If you're just starting out on the genre then I'd probably tell you to watch something else first. But for 80's slasher fans, Final Exam is pure bliss.
Definitly worth watching for fans of the genre.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars old school slasher but lacks plot., March 13, 2010
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This review is from: Final Exam (DVD)
just your regular slasher movie but no plot to it, no reason why the killer is killing the college kids. Its sort of like halloween because of the way the killer stalks them, it starts of with a killing scene but it gets kind of slow with the horror then it finally picks up with a rash of kill scenes. If you want a plot do not order but if you just love slasher movies i highly recommend this movie.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars B+ for this nice little Retro-Slasher, June 11, 2012
This review is from: Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) (DVD)
Growing up in the 80's was an awesome time for me. After seeing Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, at age 12, and being horrified to walk down my street during a bright sunny day because of John Carpenter's Halloween, I was forever marked by this genre. Big time~!

I adore old slasher films from the early 80's. They are so much a part of me.
Many people have songs that take them back to a certain time or special moment. Horror movies do that for me. However, sadly, I will have to admit, I somehow missed out on seeing 'Final Exam' at the theater. Of course when it arrived on video, I watched it a handful of times. I liked it back then, but didn't love.

But now, after buying it from Amazon on DVD, and watching it a few times, I keep asking myself what is it...(?)...about this low-budget film that I keep coming back to so much. It IS a total Halloween rip off. Right up there with 'He knows your alone'.From the score to the style.

The 'Final Exam' killer stalks in shadows and watches, and waits, and watches some more, just like Michael Myers did in Halloween. He's not in any big hurry. And he doesn't even wear a mask. It's just some big, poker-faced guy. Matter of fact, not much happens till the last ten minutes or so, and even then, during the big chase scene, it's very low-key.

I think that's what I like about it. It's quiet style. Almost like a TV movie. Like one of those stories you may see on a true-crime show like 20/20. A dramatized version, if you will. It tells it's story and then it simply ends.

I can't explain it but the movie has a lot of heart. It also, for me, has to do with the characters. Yeah, they are dull, but not in a bad way. The teens on campus just seem to be more 'realistic' than other bodycount films from that time. You kind of really care for them. I really like the little nerdy guy, Radish and his little crush on the leading lady. Even the blond tramp is likable.

There's a quiet scene, right before she gets killed, where she is playing the piano, in an isolated part of the building that is just, sincere and gentle. Here's another moment when it feels like a docu-drama. You're almost expecting to hear commentary from a grieving relative about how she loved playing music. There's alot of scenes like this. Granted, most people would think this to be boring for a slasher film, and, to be honest, in many ways, it is. But for me, I like these scenes. It gives the film a bleak feel.

What's also interesting is the way the film is cut. Almost like a Jaws-effect. As our tramp plays the piano, the film cuts to other places around the campus, allowing the viewer to wonder where the killer is, or, when the shark is gonna pop up. Another girl gets a soda, more flash cuts appear. Earlier that evening, a boy is tied to a tree partially naked. As he begs for help, the scene takes its time, showcasing a variety of close-ups and wide-shots of the dark grounds around him. Here, again, in crime-drama style, could be another insert of a grave voice, perhaps a police man, reporting that it was nine-fifteen pm, or something like that, before the male was attacked. What's interesting is that this movie could be 're-edited' and turned into a grim police file like 'The Town that Dreaded Sundown' did years back.

There's also this great little shot where the leading girl ditches her tray on the way out of the cafeteria and the camera then follows the tray into the kitchen, and, eventually, into the dishwasher's hands. Then, the camera follows the dishwasher out of the building and down the steps to a nearby garbage can, where he then, crosses the leading girl who just arrived out of the cafeteria. Okay, big deal, right? Sure. Maybe to most. But the traveling-trick was also laying out something important.It was showing you the battle grounds for where the killer will later pursue the leading girl.(Where that tray went earlier...so will the killer.) I thought this was kind of neat. For a low-budget movie, far from Hollywood, there was creative thought that went into this scene.

Matter of fact, it happens a lot throughout this film. For instance, we are introduced at the beginning of the movie to the leading girl sitting inside the top of an old tower. That said tower will also play an important part in the finale of the film, sort of creating a 'book-end' like effect for the movie. Simple, but, well thought out. I've always liked films that come full circle. 'Halloween 3:Season of the Witch' did it beautifully! (Characters in panic showed up at the same gas station in the beginning of the movie and at the end). A terrific film-circle!

Another big reason why this movie has suddenly turned me on after all these years was listening to the actor's comments on the dvd's special features. These people reflected back with loving memories about the shoot, especially the actor who played Radish. You can tell by listening to him how proud he is of the film. Everyone, including the makers involved in the film, seemed proud and humble. They laughed, they joked and really seemed to be having a great time talking about this little movie and their five minutes of fame. This made me like their characters even more. It sort of rounded them out for me.

If you're looking for gore, forget it. Like I said, it's sort of like a Halloween clone. But dry. Lots of mysterious shadows, wide shots of the campus and soft jingle, Halloween-style music.

There's the usual chit chat among college girls, a few randy sorority boys and a really obnoxious actor playing a big haired, jock named 'Wildman' who seems to be acting from no script in particular. Just kind of doing whatever he pleases. He's very unhinged and touchy-feely with most of the other actors. Especially nerdy Radish. He likes to bully Radish around quite a bit. But at the same times, seems to really like the little guy. Radish seems to be sweet on him as well, but, that's another story for another time. And, of course, because 'Wildman' is so over the top, he's gotta die horribly.

And finally, I have to note how much I love the murder scene of the trampy blond in the art gallery. It's very...on purpose. By design. Almost impressionistic. I think anyone studying horror films would find it very interesting. It's like a 'paint by numbers' Psycho homage. It's hard to explain. The girl looks up...the knife comes down...her leg drops...knife comes up...white sheet turns red...knife comes down...white sheet drops. It's a very robotic scene, motorized like, not at all interested with nudity, or gore, but fashion and manner. To many gorehounds, this murder scene will appear cheap and empty, but to me, it's odd and dreamlike. If you're a visual artist, and can appreciate things on a very low scale, you should check it out. If anyone out there fits this mold, and sort of gets where I'm coming from, write back, let me know. I would love to hear other people's point of view on this kills scene, or the movie in general.

When it comes to early slasher films, 'Final Exam' doesn't have much to offer to the formula, but if you look closely you can see a few things, here and there, where the makers had more than just exploitation on their minds. But once again, what's that old saying? Something about the 'eye of the beholder'. And this film definately pleases my eye. Thanx for reading...kEVIN bRIAN
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good-but suffers from Self-Imposed Limitations, June 3, 2009
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This review is from: Final Exam (DVD)
I liked this film very much. It is aimed directly at the slasher audience. For me, at least, it was an effective slasher film.I guess different people prefer different things.It is not the goriest, although there are a few brutal moments. But it has the sort of ambience I like. The action unfolds as a killer stalks people on a relatively small college campus. The pace is natural and subdued, as we watch the students going about their business during the day.......and as we see the killer arrive on campus and begin stalking them. They take the time to establish the college campus as a safe, pleasant environment. Dorm life, among the girls in particular, is presented as warm and comfortable and relatively free of infighting and pettiness. I think that this helps to make the movie much stronger. This is a place where the people are accustomed to feeling safe and secure.

This placid environment sets the stage for a stark contrast once the carnage begins.

You get a typical collection of the usual stock characters-the 'nice' girl, the cheap blonde, the obnoxious athletes, and the stupid hillbilly cop.Of course, what would a film about young people be without-you guessed it-the requisite bespectacled geek. In this movie, the geek is a sort of Alpha geek. A time or two, it actually seems that the heroine might be showing a glimmer of interest in him. And he comes painfully close to getting to play hero......but he IS a geek, and this IS a movie, so you can guess how that turns out.

Anyhow, I liked this film quite well. But it seems to me that it places restrictions on itself that keep it from being as good as it could have been. For example:

This movie features a killer with no apparent motive. I have no problem with that. I actually like it. But I believe that killers in slasher films should wear a mask. This serves to heighten the mystery that surrounds the figure, and makes him a bit more macabre. Now, the killer in this movie is a big,burly guy. He's rough, and he's violent. But he would be so much more interesting if he wore a mask. As it is, he just looks like some disgruntled guy who got laid off from the mill or something.

My other pet peeve about Final Exam is that they waste too much time. Too much time on college antics, and too much time on hillbilly cops, hillbilly coaches, hillbilly security guards, etc. It would have been much better if they had devoted those minutes to the unfolding story. People who want frat house antics, or people who want rednecks, can always watch movies that cater to those folks.

But my overall impression is very positive about Final Exam. I especially liked the heroine. Personally, I liked her substantially better than Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween or Adrienne King from Friday the 13th. She is a lovely girl, and the movie would not be the same without her presense. She comes across as thoughtful and strong, and very much her own person. And when she IS a little awkward, or a little uncertain.........well, these qualities wind up having an endearing quality about them, owing to her sincerity. Some of the scenes between her and the geek are actually quite good. There is a degree of depth, and warmth, in their interaction, that you don't often find in a slasher film.

Put a ghoulish mask on the killer, and subtract a few hillbillies, and you'd have had a classic. But it's still very good as is. Among the more obscure, lesser-known slasher films, it is among my absolute favorites. They succeed in establishing a powerful sense of time and place. It kind of reminds me of my own college experience, especially what it was like on a late Friday, when lots of people had left and the place was kind of desolate.And the movie holds up extremely well to repeat viewing. Like most of my other slasher favorites, I continue to like Final Exam better over time.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as the reputation it gets, December 10, 2007
By 
Dave. K (Staten Island, NY,) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Final Exam (1981) [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Here we go again another slasher flick from the early 80s. After the success of John Carpenter's Halloween and Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th it seemed every horror flick coming out in the early 80s was a slasher movie. From 1981 we have the college campus based slasher Final Exam.

Final Exam is one of the forgotten slasher flicks of the 80s while it's still remembered by some regardless of if the person liked it or not Final Exam is a slasher you don't hear much about. Despite the bad reputation the movie gets I personally think it's a bit better than it. There's nothing here we haven't seen before, but Final Exam also strays from the typical slasher flick.

After the first two murders no one else dies for about the next 55-minutes, which is bound to turn some people off. If not for a couple of shots of the killer wandering around the college campus you might even forget you're watching a slasher flick. The first half of the movie is a mix of a comedy full of pranks and jokes and even some sappy dramatic moments. With all of this happening some of the audience might get bored with the lack of thrills.

Final Exam tries to be more than the typical slasher flick; writer/director Jimmy Huston takes his time and actually develops the characters. Most of the characters here are the typical characters we see in slasher flicks. Only difference instead of being in the movie for a few minutes before getting killed they stay around a lot longer before getting killed.

The characters are still 1-dimesnional, but better developed than most in this type of movie since we spend so much time with them. Final Exam may not rate as one of the greatest slasher flicks from the 80s, but I do think it's one of the better written ones. The script is nothing amazing. But it does work for the most part. Like I said while the characters are the typical slasher movie characters the fact so much time is spent with them we get to know them slightly better. Radish played by Joel Rice seems to be a pretty big influence on the Randy character from writer Kevin Williamson.

But that is part of the reason why Final Exam takes so much heat from slasher fans. The final 35-minutes though deliver with about 8-death scenes, but the problem is the gore is lacking. There isn't any gore at all. The closest we come to any of the red stuff is some blood splatter. So taking all this into account it's quite easy to understand why Final Exam is a mostly forgotten slasher flick. But despite all that I do think the movie is better than what most people say. If you can make it through the first hour and not be bored you'll be happy with the last half.

As director Jimmy Huston does a fairly good job. It's quite obvious he was a fan of Halloween. There were many shots Halloween inspired with the killer just walking into frame. In the first half like I said it was more of a comedy/drama than a horror flick, but every so often the killer would appear which would remind us we are watching a horror flick; but even with those couple of shots the sense of dread and looming danger is never quite there. I actually wasn't bored by the first half for the most part it held my attention. But the 2nd half is when things begin to pick up.

The 2nd half of Final Exam gets to the stalk and slash aspect and while not the best I have seen it is fairly effective. The only problem though is that it does suffer from being too much. Once the killings start it just too many one after another, while the set ups are fairly good it just is too many coming at once. The death scenes are pretty much the same. The set up though again is fairly good, while I can't say Final Exam is scary, but there is some decent suspense.

The final act works rather well as the killer played by Timothy L. Raynor chases Courtney played by Cecile Bagdadi all around the college campus. There are some solid suspense scenes and while it may not go down in slasher movie history it is effective and gets the job done.

The acting here is slightly better than most of slasher flicks; while the acting isn't great I think it was a little better than most and Cecile Bagdadi made for a likeable heroine.

The most interesting aspect of Final Exam is the killer lacks any motivation. We never find out his name or why he is killing people. Normally back in the 80s the killer had some sort of motivation. A lot of the times it was about revenge. The victims sometimes had a connection to the killer and other times they had no connection. But normally it was some sort of revenge aspect. Even in the slasher movies where there was no revenge story, we would get a little history on the killer. But here we never find anything about the killer.

Some people disliked that concept, but I think it works rather well. It would be nice to know a little something, but it does add some realism. Most serial killers target random people. There might be a connection between the victims, maybe hair color or style. So the fact we never learn anything about the killer is a little disappointing, but also works in my opinion.

Even though I did enjoy Final Exam it's not much of a surprise it isn't highly talked about. 1981 was a big year for slasher movies. In 1981 we had Jason's debut as the killer in Friday the 13th Part II, Halloween II, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine and The Burning just to name a few. Compared to those, Final Exam lacks in the gore and or nudity department. But despite all that I must say again I think Final Exam is slightly better than the reputation it gets.

Final Exam does lack the thrills and suspense and is quite weak in the gore area and there is only one scene with any nudity. But despite these flaws I still enjoyed the movie. There is some decent suspense at times, but not enough for Final Exam to stand out. Slasher fans have already probably sought this one out for those not really into slashers it's probably best you skip this one.

In closing, Final Exam is a flawed film, but despite those flaws I did enjoy the movie.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final Exam, February 7, 2010
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This review is from: Final Exam (DVD)
This has to be one of the most under rated slasher flicks to have come out of the eighties. Although there were nearley 5 a week coming out back then and most were done on very limited budgets most of them have now gotten fair treatment so to speak with getting put out on dvd. Although this made it to Dvd many people still don't know about it. It is a true gem of a movie, top notch and a must watch for all slasher fans. I highley recomend this flick. Check it out.
-Heath
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cramming for Finals Can be a Killer, November 8, 2011
By 
The Straw Man "J.E. Hoppock" (Aloof October on April's Birthday) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) (DVD)
As a huge fan of 1980 horror/slasher films I was very, very eager to watch "Final Exam". I had heard so much about it, both good and bad things. In addition, I had seen the trailer/preview on other DVD releases but wasn't able to get my hands on it. The only DVD available at the time was out of print and being sold at a hefty price. Adding insult to injury, I wasn't able to rent it anywhere. Therefore when this most recent addition became available I gobbled it up.

The story is very simple and basic, but aren't all of these horror flicks from the 80s? It is the end of the semester at Lanier College and most of the student body has left the campus. The remanding students are studying and/or cramming for final exams, when they aren't joking around. Enter the killer who roams the campus slowly taking out each student one by one.

As for the characters, there is the usually gallery of college students (victims); the dumb jock, the obnoxious frat guy, the eager frat pledge, the nerdy guy, the easy girl, the love struck girl and the nice girl. The nice girl is Courtney and is played by Cecile Bagdadi. Courtney is a pretty girl in a "girl next door" sort of way. She is sweet and actually the film gives time for her character to develop a bit, which makes her a great "final girl".

As for character development, this movie actually has it. This might seem odd for a slasher film but it is true. All of the characters have apt amount of screen time before they meet their demise. I actually found this refreshing, different and interesting. I will return to this notion in a moment.

As for the killer himself, he is just some guy, some random dude killing people. He doesn't wear a mask or costume. There is no complex origin of how or why he became deranged, he just is. Actually from a distance he could be a stunt double for a young and frumpy Jim Belushi.

I recall hearing/reading that "Final Exam" is a failure in the slasher genre due to the following elements:

* Extremely slow pace
* Lack of gore
* Banality of the killer
* A wannabe "Halloween"

I must say I loved this movie for the same reasons it is disdained.

Extremely slow pace

I found the slow pace a ruse to promote character development and build tension. Not to mention the college campus setting was extremely different. I believe at this point in time slasher films only took place at a camp. The lighting and mood created many eerie aspects in this film. The shot under the basketball score board is a prime example.

Lack of gore

As for the lack of gore it really didn't bother me. There was blood in this movie, but there weren't bucks of guts, blood and entrails. I love gore in a flick but it isn't a deal breaker.

Banality of the killer

The "insipidness" of the killer I found interesting. Many times in these types of movies there is a long and winded story of why the killer came to be. In this movie the guy is just blooming nuts. No rhyme, no reason, and no explanation he is just crazy and that is all there is to it.

A wannabe "Halloween"

As for a "Halloween" rip off, no it really isn't. Michael Myers is a complex character and Bootleg Jim Belushi is not. The only comparison I can make to "Halloween" and "Final Exam" is the catch phrases in the trailers. In "Halloween" it is "The Night He Came Home"; in "Final Exam" it is "He's Come Back". Since there is no background on the killer in this movie it is sort of silly to state "He's Come Back" but whatever....

As for this DVD edition, it is pretty cool. As for the transfer of the film, it is wonderful. The picture is crisp and clear, as is the audio. The movie has a "play only" option or watch the movie with an intro and outro by Katarina Leigh Waters. KLW use to be on WWE, I don't really watch wrestling so this was my first exposure to her. I found her intro to be great mainly because she gave some basic info about the movie but didn't provide any spoilers. I found her remarks witty and insightful. The outro was also pretty cool. She also provides a commentary track with one of the producers of "Final Exam". I haven't heard the commentary yet. Another feature is some interviews with some of the cast from the film. There are also some trailers for other movies in this DVD series.

I absolutely loved "Final Exam" I loved the dualism within the title of the motion picture. I will be watching this movie again and again for years to come. I do think slasher and 1980s horror fans should give this a go. This movie if nothing else is a testament that I have no plans to go back to college.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for laughs, November 7, 2008
This review is from: Final Exam (DVD)
This movie differentiates itself from other slashers by including cheesy character development and random events (the frat prank asks more questions than it answers), with no explanation of the killer's motivation. Don't expect much out of it, there's no plot or coherence. But, the dialogue is easily mocked and the kill scenes are amusing. My friends and I got more laughs than scares out of this, and a good six years after we first discovered it on VHS at a local rental shop we can enjoy it again on DVD. The absurdity of the killer's final victim is worth watching this until the end. This movie will be remembered as the only slasher where the killer kicks a victim in family jewels.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Final Exam, December 21, 2008
This review is from: Final Exam (DVD)
I was disappointed with Final Exam. However, any 80's slasher is still worth watching. This one moves at a snail's pace and is similar in blandness to Splatter University. As for the actual product my only complaint is the audio, which is at a very low level and not great in clarity. The picture quality is nice, and it features a commentary track. Check out Rush Week and The House on Sorority Row if you want to see a college slasher film done right.
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Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater)
Final Exam (Katarina's Nightmare Theater) by Jimmy Huston (DVD - 2011)
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