Exam 

And you thought the SAT was hard! In "Exam," eight total strangers applying for the same job are escorted into a small room that looks a little bit like an underground bunker "? complete with armed guard "? and given strict instructions and exactly 80 minutes to finish the test in front of them. They are told it has only one question.

And that question is ... well, hell if they know. Each of their pages are blank. Clerical error, perhaps? Or cruel joke? Either way, the clock is ticking.

The candidates start conversing to try to figure out whassup, and then begin little experiments to do the same, such as one lad urinating on a page in hopes that his pee might reveal some sort of invisible ink. The answers, of course, aren't so simple; some find that out the hard way and are "disqualified." (That's probably a euphemism, don't you think?)

No stars reside among "Exam"'s small cast, unless you think Jimi Mistry counts (and since most of you reading just said, "Who?" I'm guessing he doesn't). That overall unfamiliarity is to the thriller's benefit, because you go in with no preconceived notions about who's who and what may be up their sleeves. That they're mysteries help the story stay a mystery. And it's not one you're likely to guess. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it.

I've seen better, more claustrophobic, more intense trapped-in-one-space thrillers "? "Cube" and "Fermat's Room" in particular "? but writer/director/producer Stuart Hazeldine's helming debut still earns a passing grade. An A for effort, and a B+ for execution, Stu! "?Rod Lott

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