Tag Archives: Jimmy Huston

Final Exam (1981)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killer stalks college campus.

A killer (Timothy L. Raynor) is on the loose and stalking a North Carolina college campus. No one knows why he is doing it or who he is, but the body count keeps rising. It’s up to Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) and her friend Radish (Joel S. Rice) to try and stop him before it’s too late.

I’ll start off with a few of the things that I liked about the movie, which helped set it apart from other slasher films and if it weren’t for the stupid ending I would’ve given it more points. The fact that it takes place on an actual college campus and we are able to see all aspects of it including the dorms, the classrooms and even its cafeteria is a big plus. Too many slasher films have a supposed campus setting, but it never looks like one while this film managed to give me a nostalgic feeling about my own college days and the cast are at the right age group to play the students.

The dialogue between the characters is more amped up here than in the usual ‘80s horror film. This was intentional as writer/director Jimmy Huston wanted more emphasis placed on the characterizations than the gore. Although much of what is conversed about is extraneous and does not help progress the plot it still made the characters seem more human and less like a cardboard caricature.

I was also surprised with a scene involving a group of students pretending to be masked gunmen carrying out a mass shooting on the campus. It later turns out to be a fraternity stunt, but it made the film seem ahead-of-its-time and even prophetic especially with the way the Radish character talks about Charles Whitman and others like him who indiscriminately kills large groups of people for no reason. It was also interesting to see how the characters responded once they found out it was only a joke. Many of the students laugh it off while these days most would be traumatized and when the police respond to the call of a shooting only one officer arrives while today it would’ve been an entire SWAT team.

Spoiler Warning!

The scenes involving the killer are where the film falls apart. For one thing he seems to have superhuman strength even though he doesn’t look to have gargantuan sized muscles. The opening segment has him standing on a car hood as the vehicle is moving and somehow lifting another male body out of the driver’s seat and through the roof with only one hand, which I don’t think would be possible. Also, when he lifts the driver out of the car it stops, which should’ve been enough for the killer, who is still standing on the car hood, to lose his balance and fall down, but he doesn’t.

My biggest gripe though is that we are never given any explanation for why he kills or even any clue to his identity, which makes sitting through this generic thing seem all the more pointless. Granted sometimes the backstories to the killer’s motives can be hooky and fans of this film consider it ‘refreshing’ that this one didn’t have one, but in reality everyone that lives on this planet has a backstory and the characters in movies are supposed to represent real people, so an explanation of some kind is still necessary. If it was just a random killing by a stranger with no connection to the school at the very least give the killer a name, which could’ve been done by the police in the denouncement when they came to survey the crime scene.

It’s quite possible that the filmmakers intended this to be a random killing spree due to the earlier scenes involving the fake mass shootings, which could be considered foreshadowing and Radish’s continual conversations involving the topic of shooters killing people for no reason, which is fine. However, this idea doesn’t completely hold up because there is a segment where Radish finds some dead bodies in a locker room and then runs back to his friend Courtney’s dorm room for help, but the killer is already there waiting for him, which means he would’ve had to have known that these two were friends and which specific dorm room Radish would go back to and thus negating the idea that the killer was just a random stranger.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 5, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jimmy Huston

Studio: Motion Picture Marketing

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988)

my best friend is a vampire

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen turns into vampire.

Jeremy (Robert Sean Leonard) is just your average teen attending high school in Houston while also working as a grocery delivery boy part-time. On one of his deliveries he meets a mysterious, but beautiful woman named Nora (Cecillia Peck) who bites him on his neck, which slowly turns him into a vampire over the course of several days. It also causes a vampire instructor named Modoc (Rene Auberjonois) to appear who helps mentor him on what life as a vampire is like while also giving him a vampire instruction manual to read. Once the initial shock is over Jeremy begins to enjoy the change, but still must avoid a couple of overzealous vampire hunters (David Warner, Paul Willson) who are out to pierce his heart with a wooden stake.

The film starts out amusingly enough and has a nice balance between being funny and still maintaining an interesting plot. It even manages to throw in a few original spins to the genre, so it doesn’t come off as just another mindless vampire movie retread, at least initially. Leonard is engaging in the lead and the dialogue between the teenagers is more realistic than in most other high school flicks from the ‘80’s.

Unfortunately the film starts to go south when, after faced with all these changes, Jeremy still decides to ask a geeky looking girl named Darla (Cheryl Pollak) out on a date, but I would’ve thought with all the stresses he was going through that starting a relationship would be the last thing on his mind. The romantic angle is boring and adds nothing to the mix. Pollak is a weak actress and her character’s presence could’ve easily been cut out altogether.

The finale is a real letdown and comes off like a typically uninspired farce where the writers have run out of creative ideas and thus try to wrap things up with a benign car chase and frantic running around by the characters. The story is full of logic loopholes and the promising elements at the start ultimately devolve into inane silliness by the end.

I’ll give director Jimmy Huston credit for managing to raise himself up from his humble beginnings, which was as a director to an Earl Owensby produced movie, which is about as low as one can go, but this film becomes just another tired casualty in a long line of films hoping to be the next vampire cult classic, but not making the cut.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 6, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jimmy Huston

Studio: Kings Road Entertainment

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video