Final Examination (2003)

Final Examination (2003)

You fail, you die

A publisher of a men’s magazine invites a bunch of sorority sisters to Hawaii to do a photo shoot for their five-year reunion. Before long, they start succumbing to gruesome murders one-by-one. It’s up to two local police detectives to track down the killer before the next victim is murdered.

 

When a film calls one of its characters Hugh Janus, you know the type of level it is aiming for. In this case, rock bottom, lowest denominator humour. Final Examination is taking the mickey somewhat by labelling itself as a horror/thriller when it’s virtually softcore porn. Within the first ten minutes, there are so many warning signs not to proceed but being the sucker for punishment that I am, I endured the rest of the film. An elongated shower scene which lingers upon its naked actress for far longer than necessary and the aforementioned Hugh Janus are just two of the “Immediately Press Stop” button moments that fill the film.

The flimsy slasher plot is one of the worst MacGuffins I’ve ever seen to pad out a bunch of sex scenes between the cast. I’m all for a bit of T&A to liven up a horror film but Final Examination goes overboard with the nudity. Long-standing B-movie sleaze merchant Fred Olen Ray (going under the alias of Ed Raymond) literally drapes the film with breasts. From gratuitous shower scenes to implant-enhanced blondes getting jiggy in hot-tubs, the film doesn’t waste an opportunity. It even has one of the characters stand talking topless on the phone in the most blatant breast shot in the entire film.

Funnily enough, the only female to not bare her chest is Kari Wuhrer, which is a real crime since she’s done so in countless other films of similarly low quality. Maybe she changed her agent? Whatever the reason, she seems so out of place in this film, presumably because we know she can act and yet is stuck in a clichéd supporting role as one of the detectives. The tedious scenes of her and her partner investigating the crime would have been better placed in NCIS or another crime TV show but here we are following them around looking for clues, all the while the rest of the cast have sex and bare their bodies.

Clues will do you few favours towards the end of Final Examination as there are about thirty plot twists within the space of a few minutes (OK I may be exaggerating that number slightly but you get the idea). Some are of the typical slasher variety such as finding out who has been doing the killing as well as a copious number of red herrings but some aren’t and the whole thing is just drawn out far too long. It’s just a mess but it’s an embodiment of the rest of the film in not knowing quite what it wants to be: a softcore skin flick, a slasher, a police thriller or some lame action TV movie. At ninety-seven minutes, Final Examination feels about twice that length due to its incoherent narrative.

Having watched the film, I’m still no further forward in understanding the ‘Examination’ part of the title and the tagline ‘You Fail. You Die.’ The killer leaves a few calling cards of exam papers with ‘failed’ written on them but the sketchy story linking the past event with the current killings is weak and feeble at best. Likewise, the slasher elements fail drastically short of expectations. There’s no real build-up or suspense to the kills, they’re pretty bloodless and the killer’s token masked costume is hardly the most chilling sight. Plus the fact that you could count on one hand the amount of times the killer shows up in the film and you have a film which is barely watchable for a number of reasons.

 

Final Examination is a terrible slasher, a poor softcore flick and it doesn’t even register on the police thriller scale. Go and get a decent slasher from the 80s if you want gore and scares. And if you want a bit of skin, use Google. Definitely one of the worst films I’ve ever sat through.

 

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

X-Ray (1981)

X-Ray (1982)

You Have Nothing to Fear … Until They Operate!

While receiving a routine check-up, a Sarah has her test results swapped and is then stalked by a maniac out to avenge a childhood Valentine’s Day humiliation.

 

With the hospital setting from Halloween II and a Valentine’s Day revenge plot straight out of My Bloody Valentine, X-Ray has been on my ‘To Watch’ list for years now. Under its other title of Hospital Massacre, the promise of a medical massacre has had me desperate to see it for a long time. Made in 1982 during the golden age of the slasher film, I was always hopeful that I’d be looking another great slasher gem. Alas X-Ray is a sporadically-violent but grossly overrated slasher which abandons any sort of logic or sense of story from the opening moments and is content to plod along in its own little slasher bubble.

Clearly borrowing the medical setting from Halloween II and taking it a little bit further, X-Ray treads out a whole heap of blatant clichés which entertain at times, bore at others and generally frustrate during the rest. The glaring problem is that there is no real story keeping everything ticking over. Sarah goes in for her results, the killer swaps them around, and then the rest of the film is spent with Sarah desperately trying to convince everyone that she’s not ill whilst the mad doctor literally kills off every single person in the hospital. We know literally nothing about Sarah at the start of the film and only a little more by the end. There’s no one else to get behind or root for – characterisation is at zero. Ex-Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton is Sarah and you can bet the director made sure he got her stripping off for the role, partaking in an overlong, and extremely sinister, medical examination where the doctor (not the killer I might add, just a regular doctor doing his job) takes forever checking over her body.

Taking forever is a trademark of X-Ray though. Despite getting down to the no-frills business rather quickly when Sarah arrives at the hospital, it’s virtually impossible to engage with the story or invest in a character. What follows is virtually a series of non-characters being killed off by the killer in a hospital which hardly has any patients or staff. It’s not scary in the slightest, despite a number of false scares thrown around. Due to the lack of any character to get attached to save for Sarah (and even then she’s so thinly-sketched she might as well be another patient), you’ll not feel a connection to the film at all. What’s worse is that X-Ray is pretty silly, bordering on comedy at times. It’s unintentional humour but adds a thick layer of cheese to proceedings.

With a copious amount of red herrings introduced at the beginning, it’s pretty obvious who the killer is going to be and X-Ray doesn’t go for the subtle route. Close-ups of creepy janitors. Slobby, perverted patients peeking in on examinations. Fumigators with gas masks on. Sleazy interns. You name it, X-Ray presents a slew of male characters for us to wonder who the killer is. Only we know that from the start, X-Ray is nowhere near clever enough to pull the wool over our eyes and so the killer will inevitably be linked back to the prologue where the lead character spurns a wannabe Romeo, leaving him shattered and psychopathic. Again, the daft use of these red herrings would indicate more of a parody but the film continues to play it straight.

The kills are reasonably violent for 1981 though mostly gore-free, with strangulation via stethoscope, a syringe-in-the-chest moment and a token bath in acid all featuring prominently. The medically-themed kills are at least original enough to keep slasher fans entertained and the high body count (I counted ten) keeps things ticking over nicely enough. The problem is the pacing of the film means that you get little clusters of kills before it goes quiet for a while. The Omen-esque Latin-Gregorian choir music which plays during the kill scenes is a little off-putting but together with some of the surreal cinematography, including a smoke-filled floor which is being fumigated, the film has some sort of quasi-Italian feel to it. All it needed was a Goblin score and it would have been right at home in the midst of Fulci, Bava and co.

 

X-Ray contains no plot and no characters so you’ll find it hard to stay invested in it all the way through. With a messy approach full of silly comedy, a laughable script, incompetent acting and a general sense that no one really had a clue what they were attempting to make, X-Ray is one hospital appointment you’ll want to miss.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆