Final Exam is mediocrity at its best. It has a great title and director/writer Jimmy Huston could have done a lot with it, but in the end, it was just a very tame slasher that was short on murder and long on setup. That is not to say that it was a bad film, it simply took a very long time to get going and once it did, there was no innovation in the killing and nothing we have not seen a dozen times before. There were a couple of good things about the picture, but the one real positive it did have going for it was that the killer was a nameless/faceless murderer, one that we are not introduced to in the picture whatsoever and it made him all that more frightening. There was no background and no motivation given and as such, it really lent to the horror of the movie more than it would have otherwise.
Additionally, there is some good characterization as we get to know all of the players, something that usually does not happen with as much depth as is shown here. For the most part, slashers just tend to show caricatures with only the hero getting any screen time. In this movie, Huston introduces and proceeds to flesh out every victim before the killer starts piling up the bodies. The story itself is fairly average featuring a number of kids off at college, all doing exams and preparing for the next ones while they try to balance school with their personal lives. There is the genius nerd who does well, not to mention the jocks who just want to coast through it all and then there is our heroine Courtney as played by Cecile Bagdadi. Courtney is a good girl, studying hard while everyone around her just wants to have fun. Bagdadi does a good job in the role and when the killing starts, she makes a go of it, slipping her name into the list of scream queens past and present.
Surprisingly, everyone in the film is actually quite likeable, aside from the frat boys that is. In that one respect, the film is actually a little original though as most slashers tend to make the victims inconsequential. The movie is also a real, slow burn. Sometimes a slow burn is good and this film makes the most of it, though it also happens to be the one major detractor from making it better than it is. Once everyone starts dying, that is when the picture really picks the pace up to finish on a strong note. Again, the killer is menacing and the fact that he is killing for no discernible reason is the only thing that really makes this film memorable.
When all is said and done, the movie might not be the scariest of horrors or the best slasher to have ever made its way to the screen, but Final Exam is still worth a watch just to see something done a little differently than the norm.
3 out of 5