No-one really likes exams. They are tense experiences where those taking part have to perform to a strict time limit, demonstrating their abilities in a controlled environment.
But imagine if the exam was part of the selection process for the best job in the world, literally. And what if the exam was more than writing on a piece of paper, and if your life could even be at risk by taking part?
Exam is a first directorial outing for British writer/director, Stuart Hazeldine.
Set in a windowless, sterile environment, 8 candidates are asked to sit for 80 minutes and follow strict instructions issued by the examiner.
But as the time limit begins and the papers are turned over, the group realise that there is little that is conventional about this exam. Answering the question may not be impossible, but finding the question to begin with is a challenge in itself.
The group are a mixed bunch, different backgrounds and different personalities, and understandably, some of those personalities clash.
As time runs low and desperation sets in, they all look at increasingly extreme ways to find out how to answer this examination riddle and win their position in the company. How far will they all be willing to go?
Exam is a film that straddles the horror and thriller genres. Although the story isn’t ‘horrible’ as such, the situation is tense and the experience is far from pleasant. This high pressure environment brings out the bad side in most of the participants and at times it seems as though the film will spiral into a Saw-like torturous test.
For the large part though, the only suffering is psychological.
The examination room is a bleak place, and with little known about the characters or the situation, the viewer is left in a realm of uncertainty for the duration of the feature.
The cast are all capable and seem well selected and provide a nice balance. Jimi Mistry, probably the biggest name in the credits, puts in a convincing performance as the cool tempered gambler. And Luke Mably of Dream Team fame, performs well as the thoroughly dislikable ‘White’.
It looks great too, the videography is simple, yet effective. The tension is piled on with a great use of lighting, scenery and intrusive camera angles – Exam is definitely a piece that the director should be proud of as far as visuals are concerned.
Horror lovers may feel a little disappointed with the shortage of blood and screaming, and to some extent the boundaries could perhaps have been pushed a little further in terms of making the audience feel even more uncomfortable. Also, the pace of the film, which is shot in what seems to be ‘real time’ does dip a little in places. However, this doesn’t take much away from its the overall velocity.
As it stands, Exam is a good, entertaining movie. Perhaps not full marks this time round, but a nice appetiser for what Hazeldine could be capable of in forthcoming projects.