Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - FINAL EXAM on Blu-ray ""

Friday, April 25, 2014

Scream Factory - FINAL EXAM on Blu-ray

Like so many folks around my age, I very fondly remember the slasher cycle of the early 1980s. With the enormous popularity of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH came an unprecedented amount of imitators. It's really remarkable just how many slasher films got made from even 1980 to 1983. It's a tried and true scenario that when a film is hugely successful that both Hollywood and independent filmmakers will try to capitalize and jump on the band wagon. It was certainly the case with JAWS and STAR WARS in the 1970s, as they both had their share of copycats. But there was just something so simple (and inexpensive) about the slasher formula that it drew in more people outside of Hollywood looking to get in on the action. It was like the California Gold Rush or something. Rarely before (and basically never again) had so many of a certain kind of film be produced in such large numbers over a relatively short period of time. Of course, if you start to think about it mathematically, it becomes clear that many of these films would not end up being successful. There were just too many of them. We're talking about enough films to comprise their own sub-genre. In 1981 alone something like 30 slasher films were made. FINAL EXAM was released among this tidal wave amidst a group including FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, HALLOWEEN II, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE BURNING, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME and JUST BEFORE DAWN. That's one hell of a crowd to get lost in. And FINAL EXAM did seem to slip under the radar a bit at the time. In comparison to the more expensive films in the genre, whose budgets ran anywhere from $500,000 to $5 million, FINAL EXAM was made on a tiny budget of about $60,000. Thankfully, the film would later find a fan base on VHS. VHS was certainly the great equalizer as far as slasher films went and the massive number of movies made would stock the shelves of mom & pop video store horror sections for years afterwards. Over the past decade or two though, it's been interesting to see FINAL EXAM emerge as something of a cult favorite. This is most likely due to he way it is a bit different than some other entries in the genre. It's more of a slow burn, almost a campus comedy for the first half of its running time, before things start to get bloody. Also, one cannot discount the power of 'Radish'. Joel S. Rice plays Radish and he is quite amazing in the role. Radish is the nerd character of the movie and he is one of my favorite nerds in all of slasher cinema. The nerd is certainly an archetype that was used quite often in slashers and they were met with often brutal ends. It's hard to describe Rice's performance as it is quite memorable and needs to be seen. It would seem to be a combination of somewhat silly dialogue, acting style (or perhaps inexperience combined with poor direction) and Rice's own specific manner of speaking that come together to create a magical and memorable character. I'd be highly surprised if people viewing FINAL EXAM for the first time aren't thoroughly entertained by Radish. 

The transfer on this Scream Factory Blu-ray looks quite nice. Though this film has had a couple dvd releases, I've of course never seen the colors pop like this. Apparently the transfer is taken from the original camera negative and it shows. Also included here are special features ported over from the initial dvd release of the film in 2008. Included here is a fun little commentary track with cast members Joel S. Rice, Cecile Bagdadi and Sherry Willis-Burch. This track s moderated by FINAL EXAM super fan (and filmmaker) Julia Marchese, whose love for the film knows no bounds. It's a very enjoyable track with lots of humorous recollections from the cast about the film's production and how they all came to be involved with it.

No comments: