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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Final Examination (2003)

"You fail, you die."


The 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 Verdict

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.


Final Examination

Director(s): Fred Olen Ray

Writer(s): Sean O'Bannon, Kimberly A. Ray

Actor(s): Kari Wuhrer, Brent Huff, Debbie Rochon, Amy Lindsay, Belinda Gavin, Ted Monte, Jim Valdez, Richard Gabai

Duration: 98 mins


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