Not so much a horror film as psychological thriller, Exam (directorial debut of Stuart Hazeldine) sees eight applicants in a bland featureless room for the final test of an intense interview process. They are given a detailed set of instructions and told that they have eighty minutes to answer. The problem is that when they turn over their papers they are all blank.
What follows is a claustrophobic exploration of human interaction, played in real-time, in which the group, in turn, co-operates and in-fights becoming ever more desperate to uncover the question they need to answer whilst not breaking the rules of the examination.
It's not the most original of films. Placing strangers together in a very confined space in a stressful situation has been done before. But whereas other films go for the out and out scares or gore (I'm thinking of Cube and Saw) Exam does not.
It's a real character piece. There are no effects, no monsters, supernatural beings or psychopaths. Just eight people all determined to win. What makes it all the better is that there's nothing unusual about the characters. These are your colleagues, your friends and family. That the situation brings out the worst hits home well.
And Hazeldine's cleverly added another dimension. Throughout we learn about the near-future world these characters inhabit, one ravaged by a global pandemic and how the job really could be a life and death matter for certain of the interviewees.
It's a thoroughly intelligent film.
Page updated 1 January, 2011