Final Exam (film)

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Final Exam
Final exam poster.jpg
Promotional film poster
Directed by Jimmy Huston
Produced by James McNamara
Perry Katz
Written by Jimmy Huston
Starring Cecile Bagdadi
Joel S. Rice
DeAnna Robbins
Sherry Willis-Burch
Ralph Brown
John Fallon
Timothy Raynor
Music by Gary S. Scott
Cinematography Darrell Catchart
Edited by John A. O'Connor
Distributed by Avco Embassy Pictures
Motion Picture Marketing
Release date
  • June 5, 1981 (1981-06-05)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.3 million

Final Exam is an 1981 American slasher film written and directed by Jimmy Huston and starring Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice & Timothy L. Raynor. The plot follows a killer stalking the remaining group of students left on a college campus days before the university's summer vacation.

Upon its limited release, the film was panned by critics. Despite this, the film has gained a small cult following and was released to DVD for the first time in 2008. While not prosecuted for obscenity, the film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty panic. The film has been noted by critics for its focusing on establishing characters as well as featuring an entirely arbitrary killer.[1]


Late at night, two college students are kissing in a parked convertible. Ignoring the girl's frequent objections, her boyfriend pushes on. Outside, an unknown killer attacks and cuts through the car's roof with a kitchen knife. Soon, the boyfriend is grabbed by the killer and is stabbed on the car's hood while the girlfriend screams hysterically.

Lanier College is nearing the end of a final exam week. To assist certain members pass a chemistry final, a fraternity fakes a mass shooting as a distraction. The students prepare for their tests as well as the coming vacation break, while unbeknownst that the killer is stalking them. Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) is completing her exams and is 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) is suffered from a prank where he is tied up against a tree until nightfall, but the killer soon murders him after untying him. His girlfriend Janet (Sherry Willis-Burch) comes to find Gary before she is attacked and killed off-screen by the murderer.

Gamma brother Wildman (Ralph Brown) is looking for pain pills for his frat to sell on the open market, where he is then led into the darkened campus gym. After finding pills, he is then attacked by the killer where he is cornered into the weight room and is garroted from a weight machine. Soon after, Mark (John Fallon) discovers Wildman's body in the locker room, before chased by the killer into the college's electrical building where he is stabbed from the killer emerging out of a barrel. Meanwhile, fellow nerd Radish (Joel S. Rice) finds Mark's body in a locker and immediately calls the police, but the authorities are disbelieving due to ongoing pranks from the Gamma house. Running to Courtney's room, the killer breaks through the door and grabs him to his demise. Shortly thereafter, Courtney returns to her dorm where she finds Radish's body hanging through her broken door. Frightened, Courtney tries to rouse help from a now abandoned dorm, but the campus is now desolate.

Meanwhile, Lisa is awaiting her boyfriend Charlie in the conservatory, where the killer enters the room and stabs her. While in the conservatory, Courtney hears music from the piano room and is confronted by the killer; she flees into the cafeteria where she arms herself with a knife. After a chase throughout the school, she frantically wanders outside in the quad before seeking refuge in the campus tower. Screaming for help inside the tower, the college's coach (Jerry Rushing) arrives and shoots at the killer with an arrow. Brazenly, the killer catches the arrow and stabs it into the coach, killing him. During the struggle, Courtney succeeds as the killer is fallen down the two-story tower. On the bottom floor, the killer grabs Courtney's ankle, before she repeatedly stabs the killer to his death 12 times. Still night time, Courtney walks out of the tower now alone and the film ends with her sitting out on the steps.


  • Cecile Bagdadi as Courtney
  • Joel S. Rice as Radish
  • Ralph Brown as Wildman Chambers
  • DeAnna Robbins as Lisa
  • Sherry Willis-Burch as Janet McArdle
  • John Fallon as Mark
  • Terry W. Farren as Gary
  • Timothy L. Raynor as Killer
  • Sam Kilman as Sheriff Quentin
  • Don Hepner as Dr. Charlie Reynolds
  • Mary Ellen Withers as Elizabeth
  • Jerry Rushing as Coach
  • Shannon Norfleet as Boy in Car
  • Carol Capka as Girl in Car
  • R.C. Nanney as Mitch


The majority of the cast on Final Exam were stage actors cast in Los Angeles, California.[2] The film's lead, Cecile Bagdadi, was cast after she was seen performing in a production of Faces on the Wall at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles.[3] The film was shot over a period of six weeks from September 15, 1979 to October 25, 1979[3] at E.O. Studios in Shelby, North Carolina.[4] Additional photography took place at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina,[5] and Isothermal Community College in Spindale, North Carolina.[6]


Final Exam received a limited theatrical release on June 5, 1981, and was a minor commercial success, grossing $1.3 million in the United States.[7]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. It currently has a 14% "Rotten" rating on film review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 3.4/10 based on 6 reviews.[8] Brett Gallman from horror review website Oh, the Horror! gave the film a positive review. Complimenting the film's characterizations, and slow mounting tension while also criticizing the murders as uninventive and long stretch before the murders occur.[9]

TV Guide called the film "dull" and "virtually bloodless", panning the film's dialogue heavy scenes.[10] AllMovie called it "a hybrid of frat-boy comedy and slasher-thriller exploitation which features no slashing, no humor and fails to exploit anything".[11] Linda Gross of The Los Angeles Times gave the film a middling review, noting that it "vacillate[s] between the college-prank humor of an Animal House and a killer-thriller like Prom Night."[12]

In Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies, film scholar Jim Harper notes that the film takes "the autonomous face of the slasher movie killer to the extreme: The man terrorizing the teenagers is shown on screen, but he has no name, no connection to his victims, no history is ever given, nor any motive. He simply appears, begins killing, and is defeated."[1] He also notes the film's shortcomings in character development, writing: "If the rest of the characters had been as well drawn as Radish, then Final Exam might well have been a minor classic. As it is, they're all stereotypical jocks and cheerleaders, and ultimately forgettable."[13]

Musical score[edit]

Final Exam
Final Exam 1981 soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by Gary S. Scott
Released 1981
Length 34:47
Label AEI Records

An official score was released for the film in 1981 by AEI Records.[14]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Main Title" 1:08
2. "On the Prowl" 1:43
3. "Love Theme" 0:47
4. "Stealing the Exam" 0:50
5. "Mighty House of Gamma" 4:18
6. "Art in the Dark" 1:14
7. "Sweet Young Girls" 2:02
8. "The Wrong Answer" 5:42
9. "The Executionist Song" 0:48
10. "The Massacre" 2:30
11. "Courtney and Radish" 2:09
12. "The Chase" 7:49
13. "End Title" 3:47

Home media[edit]

The film was first released on DVD by BCI on September 23, 2008 and was later released by Scorpion Releasing on September 20, 2011.[15] The film was released for the first time on Blu-Ray by Shout Factory on May 13, 2014.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

The film is referenced in Scream 2 (1997) along with other college themed slasher films such as: The House on Sorority Row, Graduation Day, The Dorm That Dripped Blood and Splatter University.[17]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harper 2004, p. 47.
  2. ^ Willis-Burch, Sherry (2014). "Interview with Sherry Willis Burch". Final Exam (Blu-ray) (Interview). Shout! Factory. 
  3. ^ a b "Final Exam (1981)". American Film Institute (AFI). Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  4. ^ Muir 2012, p. 164.
  5. ^ Powell, Scott (October 25, 2010). "This 'Final Exam' is enough to scare anyone". Gaffney Ledger. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  6. ^ Albright 2012, p. 276.
  7. ^ Nowell 2010, p. 234.
  8. ^ "Final Exam (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  9. ^ Galman, Brett. "Horror Reviews - Final Exam (1981) [Blu-ray edition]". Oh, the Brett Galman. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Final Exam - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV TV Guide. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  11. ^ Binion, Cavett. "Final Exam - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  12. ^ Grossman, Linda (June 11, 1981). ""Final Exam": Some Answers Missing". p. 7. 
  13. ^ Harper 2004, p. 89.
  14. ^ "Final Exam by Gary Scott". iTunes. Apple. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  15. ^ Jane, Ian (August 27, 2011). "Final Exam: DVD Talk Review". DVD Talk. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Final Exam (1981) - Jimmy Huston". AllMovie. Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  17. ^ Newman 2011, p. 389.


External links[edit]