Final Examination 2003 Review

Final Examination 2003

Directed by: Fred Olen Ray

Starring: Kari Wuhrer, Debbie Rochon, Brent Huff

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Fred Olen Ray gets his fair share of stick from cult movie buffs. Over his 30+ year career, he has stuck exclusively to B-movies and the majority are extremely tough to track down. I did a little analysis on the IMDB of the 126 features that he has directed and on average the ratings of all of them combined is a measly 2.4/10. That’s pretty dismal to be fair.

Personally, I will always have a soft spot for him, because he made the creepy peak period slasher film ,Scalps. Funnily enough, after that he didn’t churn out as many movies in our favourite sub-genre as I’d perhaps expected and Final Examination, which was released twenty-years later, is the closest that he’s come to a return to the slasher cycle. Perhaps his most famous horror flick is Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers from 1988, which is a wacky invention with tonnes of eighties humour, both intentional and inadvertent.

The plot here is extremely typical of the category’s clichés. A gang of former sorority sisters are invited to an island in Hawaii for a photo shoot. All except one of the former classmates is there, because in the opening we saw her drive a car off of the end of an unfinished bridge. Will that somehow motivate someone to go on a kill spree? You can bet your mortgage on it. As expected, it doesn’t take long before a guy in a balaclava turns up and kills off a couple of the ‘babes’. A maverick cop who has recently been transferred to the location gets on the case and discovers a link between the victims. Who could it be behind the mask and what is the reason for the slaughters…?

Olen Ray has focused most of his post-eighties career on soft porn and T&A features and despite the strong slasher tone to Final Examination, this is a flick that will also appeal to those audiences. The actresses are all hired for little more than their ability – or better ‘agreeability’ – to take off their clothes and frolic in semi-naked soft-porn clinches. Cult favourite Debbie Rochon is along for the ride and she also bares her lady lumps in one scene. To be honest, this is more of a Z-grade thriller than an out and out slasher flick, but the odd lingering POV shot and inclusion of a masked killer means that it can fit quite comfortably on this site amongst the rest of the genre’s entries.

There’s one piece of photography here in the beginning that’s unbelievably stylish and best described as John Woo-esque. It occurs during a lengthy car chase at the start of the film. First we see a group of oriental characters practicing Tai-chi in a park and it’s a picture of serenity. Then all of a sudden, two vehicles screech around the corner and the camera pans up to give us a better view of the action as a disturbed flock of pigeons launch in to the sky. It is a fantastic set-up and somewhat uncharacteristic from Olen Ray, who is generally considered a clumsy director. I was hopeful that it was an example of the level that we could expect from the rest of the runtime, but unfortunately, from then on, the film pretty much falls in to auto-pilot mode.

It’s in auto-pilot mode where we remain and to be frank, it doesn’t take long to get incredibly sleep-inducing. We go from one nonsense talky scene to the next and I found that I was checking Facebook continually and had to remind myself that I was watching this film to write a review for you lovely peeps. Rochon gets minimal screen time, which isn’t surprising as she was absolutely awful. Both Brent Huff and Kari Wuhrer were marginally better, but still looked unmotivated and the plot ‘twist’ is dumb and predictable. You’ll probably be asleep by the time it gets to that stage anyway. The killings are more watered down than ‘pound a pint’ night in Wetherspoons and playing snooker by yourself with no balls, table or cue would be much more fun than watching the film all the way through.

It took me four attempts to finish Final Examination and I really had to stay focused this time around in order to prevent my eyelids from locking shut. There’s nothing more here than a miniscule body count, a shot glass worth of goo and a tired and lazy mystery. The killer only turns up briefly on three occasions and there’s nothing memorable about any of them. My idea for the rating was underlined in the dying moments when a character gets shot five times and as he recoils, we see that his clothes are totally unmarked. Yawn. The best thing about the feature is the gorgeous Hawaiian backdrop, but we don’t get to see anywhere near enough of it.

Ok so you have five options and must chose one:

A. Watch paint dry.

B. Watch Grass Grow.

C. Stare at a Wall for eight hours without moving your head.

D. Watch Final Examination.

E. Die.

Trust me that’s a tough choice, but I’d go with the grass or suicide. This movie is complete garbage. Worse than that it’s boring garbage.

 I have seen Olen Ray compared to Edward Wood in a few places, but on this evidence, that’s an insult to Wood, who would always try to make his films entertaining. I didn’t expect much and was still disappointed with what I got, so does that say more about me or this hunk of junkola? I’m not so sure, but either way, I have wasted too much of my life on this already. So with that my friends I’m off-ski, but will leave you by saying that if you are in prison, specifically on a twenty-three hour lock-up, watch this film. If someone spiked you with amphetamines and due to the effects you are having trouble sleeping, watch this film. If you feel like inflicting torture on yourself, watch this film. Aside from that, a cat sleeping has more entertainment value.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:


Final Girl:



Posted on November 3, 2012, in Slasher and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’ve seem a few Olen Ray efforts over the years. I like Scalps.
    Ed Wood, I suspect is misunderstood. The assumption is always that he was trying to make conventional B Movies.But if you look at the subject matter and who he made films with, you could actually see them as being deliberately camp and the product Hollywood outsider culture in the 1950s. You would never get someone like Criswell in a conventional B-movie of the era. So maybe they have more in common Pink Flamingose than Earth V the Flying Saucers.

  2. I liked the twist but that was about it.

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