“Final Exam” Passes the Slasher Test…But Just Barely

“Final Exam” begins with two college students (Carol Capka and Shannon Norfleet) busy making out in a parked convertible. Ignoring the girl’s frequent objections, her boyfriend pushes on. Watching this scene I couldn’t help but think of Slasher Studios’ own “Popularity Killer.” Crazy how slasher minds tend to think alike as I had never seen this slasher before writing own film. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there is a sound outside…a shadowy madman jumps on top of the car, slicing his way through the fabric roof. Reaching inside, the lunatic grabs the young man and pulls him up and out onto the car’s hood. Brandishing a blade, the killer stabs the poor man to death. Cue opening credits and we are off to a decent start to a decent slasher that you will forget about ten minutes after you are done watching it.

Sleepy Lanier College is nearing the end of Final Exam week, a frenzied semester cap time of grades, goodbyes and pranks. As the students prepare for their tests as well as the coming vacation break, little do they suspect a psycho in a black van is stalking them one by one. Plain but amiable Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) is completing her exams and studying hard. Averse to hitting the books, her roommate Lisa (DeAnna Robbins) is busy packing and getting back to the city.

Meanwhile, Gamma Delta fraternity pledge Gary (Terry W. Farren) has pinned his girlfriend Janet (Sherry Willis-Birch)…and paid for it by being treed by his brothers, stripped to his briefs, awash in shaving cream and ice cubes shoved down his underwear. As night falls on Lanier, a freezing Gary hopes his beloved Janet will free him from his humiliation. Untied from the tree by an unknown figure, Gary breathes a sigh of relief…and is then stabbed to death on quadrangle lawn. The fun has now begun!

The problem with “Final Exam” is that the last thirty minutes of this film are pretty damn good: suspenseful, fun, and very entertaining. The deaths are mainly bloodless but the suspense is plentiful. Unfortunately it takes an HOUR of lame college hijinks to get the fun stuff. I love character development in horror movies but the little we get to know about these characters in this hour could have easily been covered in twenty minutes tops. That’s not to say this isn’t worth a watch. The acting is pretty solid all the way around and the film is never truly boring. Nonetheless, there is a great slasher here just waiting to be unleashed. This is a film that I would kill to see a remake of. As is, this movie is fairly run-of-the-mill. Nothing special, nothing great, but nothing all too terrible either.

To buy on Amazon: Final Exam (1981) (remastered edition)

Never Sleep Again: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Review

Wes Craven’s definitive classic. Bet you can’t guess what it is. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.

Nancy is having nightmares about a frightening, badly-scarred figure who wears a glove with razor-sharp “finger knives”. She soon discovers that her friends are having similar dreams. When the kids begin to die, Nancy realizes that she must stay awake to survive. Uncovering the secret identity of the dream killer and his connection with the children of Elm Street, the girl plots to draw him out into the real world.

The film goes for suspense, drama, and gore and delivers for the most part. Heather Langenkamp gives a very solid performance as Nancy Thompson, the young woman is the “leader” among her friends and the only one who may get out alive. Forget about Jamie Lee Curtis’ whimpering performance in “Halloween”. Here Langenkamp is the real deal and she kicks ass. A great horror film that still delivers today. Look for a young Johnny Depp who, arguably, has the best death scene in the flick.

When the Devil Won’t Take You: “The Devil’s Rejects” Review

On May 18, 1978, Texas Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (William Forsythe), and a large posse of State Troopers issue an S and D mission on the Firefly family for over seventy-five homicides and disappearances over the past several years. They begin a full-scale attack when the Firefly family fires on them. During the firefight, the family kills four troopers and Tiny (Matthew McGrory) goes missing, Rufus (Tyler Mane) is killed, and Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook, in a thankless role replacing the wonderful Karen Black) is taken into custody while Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, once again the star of the show) escape. Once out of their property, Baby pretends to be hurt in the middle of the road. When a nurse in travel stops to see what is the matter, Otis comes from behind and kills her with a knife. The two escape in her car and drive towards their specified meeting spot if all hell broke loose with the law at their home.

They head to Kahiki Palms motel, a run down desert beaten place to seek refuge from the law and huge media coverage. While at the motel Baby seduces Roy, part of the Banjo and Sullivan singing group. While he is off guard due to Baby’s sexual innuendos, Otis sneaks up behind him, holds him at gun-point and demands he take them back to his room where the rest of the band is resting minus their roadie, who is at the gas station getting beef jerky. Otis and Baby takes the band hostage in the hotel room and Otis shoots Jimmy the roadie when he returns.

Meanwhile, Baby’s father Captain Spaulding, after being alerted by Baby about the raid, hits the road to come to the hotel to meet Baby and Otis. His car runs out of gas and Spaulding assaults a woman and scares her son taking their car in the process. Back at the hotel, Otis sexually assaults Roy’s wife Gloria and Otis demands Adam and Roy to come with him on an errand.

Otis drives his two prisoners to a place where he buried some guns. While walking to the location, the two prisoners put up a struggle and hit Otis in the head with a large tree branch. This knocks him down, but Otis soon regains control of the situation, shooting one of them and killing Roy while he is on the ground praying to God. Back at the motel, Adam’s wife Wendy tries to escape by going to the bathroom. Gloria attempts to rebel only to be killed by Baby. Wendy runs out of the motel only to be caught by Captain Spaulding who knocks her out. Otis returns, and all three leave the motel together in the band’s van. All hell is literally about to break loose.

Going into the horror sequel “The Devil’s Rejects” I had no idea what to expect. Not really being a fan of Rob Zombie’s first film “House of a 1000 Corpses” I really wasn’t expecting much besides some cool deaths and a lot of gore. Well….I got that and a lot more. “The Devil’s Rejects” is repellent, evil, disgusting, disturbing, and, most shockingly, one of the best movies so far this year. Taking place mere days after the first flick, this movie has the Firefly family stalking another group of victims in a seedy hotel.

Things don’t go as planned however when one of their original victim’s brother decides to get revenge. Words alone cannot describe what all happens on screen. Let’s see: A knife to the heart, bullets grazing flesh, a face peeling, a gutted, fully naked young woman, a bashed in head, pieces of a young girl strung along a highway. This is S & M for horror fans. This isn’t for all tastes but if you miss the old school horror days of “Last House on the Left” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, you won’t be disappointed.