Here's an opening clip from the film. The cynical viewer might point out the inherent cliches, but, keep in mind, this shit was released way back in 1981.
Immediately grabbing the bull by the balls, Final Exam begins with a series of Friday the 13th-esque establishing shots of a lake, married to sub-Halloween score. Two college kids are making out by said lake, under a silvery moon. The killer tears through the roof (luckily it’s a convertible) and stabs the shit out of the putz with the blonde mullet, and his girlfriend screams her last words, which are “WHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” Of course, I'm paraphrasing for emotional effect.
It’s the day of a critical college exam, and people are stressing. The nerd hurriedly enters the frame (wearing a pocket protector and carrying 50 pounds of books), alerting the others about the killing, and doing so with gleeful abandon. His joy is cut short when the asshole jock (wearing a “Wildman” jersey) knocks his books down. However, his joy quickly returns when the teacher mentions Charles Whitman. I guess he’s one of those nerds that likes to read about serial killers (when not masturbating to reruns of Lost in Space).
The teacher runs off while everyone takes their tests, supervised by his assistant. He has to take care of some important business, which amounts to running off to the hot blonde on campus for a little sugar time (i.e. what a studmuffin). Curiously, a van full of armed terrorists descend upon the school, using their machine guns to go Columbine on some asses. The two hottest girls are laughing about it, not because they’re heartless bitches, but rather, because they’ve recognized that the van belongs to a frat house, and correctly diagnosed the shooting as a really funny prank.
Nowadays, if a frat boy even discussed pulling a prank like that, he would be arrested immediately. Personally, I think if you’re in college, you should be allowed to get drunk once and while and shoot machine gun blanks at large crowds. You’re at that age when you should be allowed to live a little.
The prank doubles as both an initiation and a diversion to get the test cancelled (that’s actually a pretty brilliant stunt for a bunch of frat stooges). The local pork patrol shows up to investigate the shooting, but he's annoyed when he is told it was all a joke. Not because it’s illegal to commit fake machine gun terrorism, mind you, but rather, because he had to haul his fatass down to the campus to investigate, depriving himself of being able to watch re-runs of Starsky and Hutch while inhaling donut holes. Actually, I take that back; I don’t think donut holes were invented yet circa 1981. I apologize.
The hot blonde slut informs the still kinda hot final girl brunette on how to get ahead in life sans studying and working hard. The brunette is conflicted between the two worlds (independent thinking woman and freewheeling hussy), so she visits the nerd to have a heart to heart about this conflict. However, I’m too distracted by the movie posters in his dorm to pay attention to any conversations about life and stuff; Murder is My Beat (an obscure Edgar G. Ulmer homicide/noir, probably inserted as a post-modern confirmation of the nerd’s primary character trait); The Toolbox Murders (an awesome choice, showing he likes horror movies), and Ted V. Mikel’s The Corpse Grinders (showing he appreciates complete and utter garbage). Of course, since there is some frat hazing going on, we are privy to a highly homoerotic sequence where a pledge is stripped to his underwear and tied to a tree, his tighty whities filled with ice cubes; his young body covered in whipped cream. Maybe if these fraternity hose heads just went ahead and succumbed to their man meat desires, they wouldn’t feel the need to occasionally run around with machine guns (or play football).
The pledge manages to escape from his pansy tree-bondage, only to be stabbed in near darkness. This sets off a flurry of murders in the third act, including “Wildman” getting killed by a weight machine in the middle of an empty gym. I know you wanna concoct a fitting comeuppance, but sometimes it’s easier to just stab someone in the face. The nerd finds one of the bodies and calls the donut patrol, only to be rebuffed as a prankster by the useless slab of pork meat at the other end of the line. He tries to save the day on his own, but meets a sadly vague death. My sadness is quickly squelched when the hot blonde shows off her ass, despite being stalked from the recital hall to the art studio. She thinks it’s her boyfriend, and the whole scenario turns her on, but her vagina doth fatally protesteth.
This leads to the final girl running through the entire campus in the dark, before ending up in the belfry of a church tower. Luckily, a bow hunter happens by at this late hour (he’d really rather be bow hunting), but is no match for our plucky killer. The brunette is forced to take matters into her own hands. She grabs the nearest 2x4 and pulverizes the killer until he falls to his doom. Of course, he’s still alive, and she has to finish him off with his own butcher knife, completing the transition from brainy college brunette to savage killer of psychos. Interestingly, we never learn anything about the killer, except that he likes to walk into the frame like Michael Myers. This allows the viewer to come up with their own motive. I’m guessing he was a former pledge forced to do a naked rendition of YMCA while being pelted with eggs. Presented in this light, I guess he had no choice but to start a homicidal rampage.
Final Exam, despite the terrorism bit, is pretty much a college version of House of Death. However, while the authentic feel of the location really captures the college milieu (it was shot at “Isothermal Community College”, which sounds like really really really shitty school of thermodynamics), much of the movie is lifeless and dark, peppered with annoying ass jocktards. At least it stars an authentic nerd, one who actually appears to be much smarter than his fellow students, not just merely another idiot wearing glasses and a pocket protector. It’s too bad he couldn’t shag the brunette before his untimely death. In the end, though I personally found it impressive, I’m not sure having a Toolbox Murders poster over his bed really helped his cause with the ladies.