My senior year of college, my best friend Marion and I decided our goal for the year was to watch every film in the horror movie section at our local video store, Gold Star Video. There were 217 movies in that section and in that year we made it through 175. Unfortunately, we made the poor decision of watching all the cool ones first, which meant we had to slog through many many terrible films as our enthusiasm for the project waned. But, luckily, along the way there were several gems that kept us afloat. Final Exam was one of these films.
Filmed in 1981, the movie takes place at the fictional Lanier College during final exam week, where most of the students have gone home, when suddenly some of the stragglers start getting picked off by a mysterious killer. Pretty standard stuff. (But remember, this is one of the first slasher films.) What makes the film great are the characters. The main character Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) is no shrinking violet, but a heroine with some backbone. Wildman, the beer guzzling, pill stealing belching frat boy, (Ralph Brown) is hilarious.
But….the best character…my favorite character in all of horror movie history is….(wait for it..) Radish. Kevin Williamson must have been watching Final Exam while he wrote Scream, because Randy is a total Radish rip off. He’s a dork, he’s paranoid because he knows too much about serial killers. His passion is horror and gore and it’s beginning to warp him just a little. He’s not the usual Hollywood nerd, and he’s incredibly refreshing. (After several viewings of this film, I made a t-shirt that proclaims “Radish Rocks” and wear it proudly.)
There’s some good scares in this film, plus a scene near the beginning that you won’t believe. It’s definitely something that a film couldn’t get away with today. Final Exam just has a low budget, unknown actor magic to it, and is surprisingly funny and scary. It’s the film I always make new friends watch.
By some kind of divine intervention, I was actually asked to moderate the commentary for the DVD release of this film, so when you rent it, be sure to listen to it for my Radish worship, as well as my theory about the identity of the killer.
Clue for Next Week’s 80′s Pick: The 80′s hot chicks doing aerobics movie you have always wanted…