The Last Horror Blog: The Perfect Movie to Watch While You Study for Final Exams

The Last Horror Blog: The Perfect Movie to Watch While You Study for Final Exams

May 29, 2014

Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.


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Peter Berg talks Shocker remake – We’ve heard rumors about a potential remake of Wes Craven’s Shocker for quite some time now, but so far nothing’s really come of it. That hasn’t stopped leading man Peter Berg from saying he’d be down for a rematch with villainous TV repairman Horace Pinker – but there’s one caveat:

“I'd love to remake it. Wes would direct it; I'd star in it."

I’m all for Craven directing, particularly since the original film never matched his vision (the short version of the story behind why that is involves his special effects guy having a nervous breakdown during filming, leaving Craven and crew with a bunch of effects that weren’t complete as the film neared completion), but it’s hard to imagine Berg pulling off this role all these years later. I could totally see Mitch Pileggi reprising his roles as Pinker, though.

Deliver Us from Evil invades TV – Scott Derrickson’s Deliver Us from Evil is one of the most highly anticipated horror features of 2014 – and I’ve got the first new television spot for the film to share with you today.

Here’s the plot breakdown and the teaser:

“New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Bana), struggling with his own personal issues, begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest (Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city. Based upon the book, which details Sarchie’s bone-chilling real-life cases.”

Hard to get a real feel for it from this clip, but I’ve still got high hopes for it. Catch it in theaters this July.

 

First Kristy trailer debuts – If you’ve not been paying close attention to Kristy, then you don’t realize that the film has already had several name changes (including the baffling Satanic and sort-of-okay Random) on its road to release. However, someone’s decided that the first name was the best, and the new trailer for the film has debuted under that moniker.

The clip looks pretty good, too. It’s basically The Strangers on an empty college campus, but since we’ve still never gotten an official sequel to that film, this will have to suffice. Still no release date, but expect an official one soon.

 

Horror Review

Final Exam blu-ray coverAfter the success of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, pretty much everyone was making slasher movies in the early 1980s. Some of them were actually good. Most of them were not.

It’s really hard to decide where Jimmy Huston’s 1981 entry Final Exam fits into the pantheon. It’s certainly not a great slasher film, but it’s not entirely without merit either.

The plot is as basic as you can get – a psycho killer is stalking an isolated college campus picking off coeds as they deal with final exams. Naturally, there’s a virginal final girl (Cecile Bagdadi’s Courtney), some jocks and a nerd. Will most of these kids survive through graduation? Probably not.

Huston’s film is really indicative of how early entries in the slasher craze worked – before Jason and Freddy and Michael became these household names and supernaturally unkillable entities, most slasher flicks presented normal human killers. This is at least partially due to the Italian giallo influence on the subgenre, where there were always brutal and elaborate murders, but an air of mystery surrounding the perpetrator as well. Final Exam follows this formula – albeit in a somewhat unsatisfying way.

It becomes clear early on that Huston was heavily influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween. Some of the film’s musical cues are eerily reminiscent of Carpenter’s score, and it’s not a great stretch to say that Courtney is basically Laurie Strode at college (she’s smart, wholesome and sort of plain when compared to her female friends). However, the influence becomes most pronounced in the presentation of the film’s killer. Like Michael Myers, Final Exam presents a murderer with no discernible motive for his crime. Unlike Halloween – which essentially presents Myers as evil incarnate and an unstoppable force of nature – Final Exam never bothers to give the killer any sort of character development at all.

The big problem with Final Exam is that it presents this really boring killer (the guy doesn’t wear a mask, doesn’t say a word, and doesn’t even kill anyone in particularly interesting ways) and never even bothers to give the audience a clue as to who he is or why he’s killing anyone.

In Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, Snyder talks about horror cinema always starting with a “sin” – something that happened in the near or distant past that causes the horrific events of the present to unfold. This revelation of the “sin” may not happen until the climax, or it might happen in the prologue, but it happens so we as an audience have context for why these events are transpiring. Final Exam never reveals the sin. We wait for it through the whole film, expecting that at the end someone will stand over the killer’s dead (or is it?) corpse and say. “Oh, this is old so and so and this happened and he must have snapped” or something along those lines. Final Exam skips all that, and it’s unsatisfying because of it.

Final Exam could have been a pretty good slasher flick with a little more refinement. Huston is not a particularly gifted director, but he does manage to work in a few nifty POV shots and the like that make the film stand out from all the other slasher dross of the era. The inclusion of Joel S. Rice’s nerdy character Radish is also an interesting touch in that he’s at least a little bit reminiscent of the character Jamie Kennedy would play in Scream years later (Randy actually mentions Final Exam in Scream 2).

Scream Factory has brought the film to Blu-ray, and the results are stupendous as always. The film’s visual presentation is quite impressive in that the feature still looks like a product of its era, but the image quality has been noticeably upgraded. The extras included in the package are no less awesome. Final Exam comes with a commentary track featuring Cecile Bagdadi, Joel Rice and Sherry Willis-Burch, and a nice interview segment too. It’s not a plethora of extras, but for a film like this it’s pretty great.

As for the movie itself, well, Final Exam is a middle-of-the-road slasher entry from an era when companies were churning these things out on what felt like a weekly basis. It’s not in the upper echelon alongside the classics, but there are way worse examples of the subgenre out there. If you’re a fan of horror from the Reagan years or a slasher film completist, this will definitely be a class you want to take.

Horror on the Horizon

We’re officially in summer blockbuster season, so don’t expect a whole lot of horror films to be gracing the big screen at your local theater.

Your only option for the next two weeks is to catch a screening of Ti West’s Sacrament, which hits limited release on June 6. You can watch it on VOD now if you’re not up for waiting.

 

Horror on Home Video

June 3 sees the long-awaited Blu-ray release of Antonia Bird’s beloved cannibal flick Ravenous from our friends at Scream Factory. Having seen the disc already, I can tell you this one is well worth adding to your library.

This week also features the nonhorror updating of RoboCop, a new version of Bloodsucking Freaks, and some other odds and ends.

Pickings are slimmer during the week of June 10, where the highlights are the home release of Patrick: Evil Awakens and the West Memphis Three docudrama The Devil’s Knot.



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