Freaky Fridays – “Fatal Exam”

Horror, Cult Movies, Exploitation Cinema, 70s Schlock, and more! Let’s look at something cool!

“This is bo-ring.” (true fact, my dude.)

Genre: Low Budget Horror Too Boring To Enjoy
Year Released: 1990
Pedigree: For most of the people involved, this was their only movie. And boy howdy, it shows.
Where I Watched: Shudder

Synopsis: A group of college students are supposed to stay in a “haunted house” over the weekend for their final exam in their parapsychology class. But nobody has to go, so only a few students go. And then…nothing happens for a while. Then more nothing happens. Will something happen before the film ends? Yawn.

Fabulous or Frustrating?: I knew this was gonna be a slog right from the jump. Exam started so abruptly that I thought I’d watched the beginning of the film before, and when I hit play it resumed from where I’d left off. But nope, the way this film starts was definitely A Choice. This 1990 film is pure 80s low budget schlock. Not even fun schlock. Exam is sad, boring schlock that’s an hour and forty five minutes I’ll never get back. This isn’t a review, it’s a warning.

Direction? What direction? Aside from “action!”, I can’t see anything that hints at artistry. Though he does use the time tested low budget movie staple of padding the run time with way too much B-roll of characters driving, walking, and staring at things. Blocking is odd; knives are focused on, but charters hold them in ways real humans wouldn’t.

Hey, at least the blocking matches the stilted dialogue. Few contractions, choppy sentence structure, and everyone uses the same speech pattern/line delivery. How do you do, fellow kids? As for the actors? They read their lines like a 5th grader would read their book report. Plus, the film sounds like all the dialogue was ADR‘d in post. The voices don’t quite match how the actors are delivering their lines, and it’s off-putting as hell.

The cinematographer should be taken out to the woods with a copy of Cinematography 101, and made to think about what he’s done. It’s absolutely terrible; I could have done a better job, and I’m absolute crap. I’m not talking about the grainy footage – that happens up to movies after years and years of neglect. I understand that. But the shot choices/weird framing? UUUGH. Extreme close-ups during random dialogue, out of focus shots, shakey-cam for no reason, natural light that shifts brightness with no reason (except the time of day or location)…and everyone sleeps with all the lights on? You get the gist.

Notice I haven’t talked about the story? There’s a reason for that. The plot goes absolutely nowhere for the first half, with characters wandering around the “murder house”, or just sitting around staring into space. Hey – you want yet another shot of the stairs? Oh honey, you got it. When the “action” starts, it comes out to nowhere, and is so brief and badly shot that it’s more WTF than scary. I did howl with laughter when the “reveal” happened in the last half hour. BOOM – reveal! It’s happening right now! Are you scared? Um, no. And what do you mean there’s thirty minutes left? DAMMIT.

There were several moments when I paused the movie to check if the end was coming, hoping that something would be happening soon. Only to see that I had over an hour left. So you can imagine how sick I was of Exam the closer it limped toward the end. I felt like Drax – why is Exam? I’ve no idea.

I only recommend watching this if you’re really, REALLY interested in seeing bad filmmaking decisions, in order to better appreciate good filmmaking. Or are a true 80s fashion connoisseur – hey there pinstripe jeans! Just be sure caffeine up, or you’ll find yourself snoozing.

Freak-O-Meter: 0. 5 out of 5 Freaks (half a freak for the batshittingly hilarious end-of-film FX/CGI/whatever that was.)

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
This entry was posted in Freaky Fridays, In Horror, Movie Reviews, Shudder and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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