NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
In the pantheon of Movies About High School In Which the Actors Are Much Too Old, Slaughter High rules supreme -- at least in our experience. The actors in Grease were pretty darn ancient, and the second and third Prom Night movies featured actors who were no spring chickens, but Slaughter High needs an alternate title: Slaughter Nursing Home.
Our prime exhibit in this case is Caroline Munro. Yes, that Caroline Munro. Munro, who was something of a sex object in the early Seventies, returns to the screen as a teenaged vixen in this film, which was made in 1986. Given that Munro was born in 1950, those of you who can do math now know that she was wrong for the role by not one but two decades. The payment on Munro's boat must have been due, because we feel sure that her appearance in this film as a sixteen year-old girl violates not only laws of good filmmaking, but also some primal laws of the universe. Watching a former star in her mid-Thirties interact with amateur actors in their late twenties, all of them pretending to be in their teens -- it's enough to reduce a movie lover to tears.
But on with the show. Munro's character, Carol, is part of The Bad Crowd. All schlock horror fans are familiar with The Bad Crowd -- they're the kids who spend all their time torturing the poor hapless souls who also inhabit the school. And yet somehow these are also the people who end up in the yearbook as the Popular Kids. Yeah, right. Like real high school is like that.
Hey, waitaminnit, real high school was exactly like that! Chalk one up for the schlock horror filmmakers, they have a believable setup for the Prank Gone Wrong scenario. (Hmmm, we seem to be encountering a lot of those Capitalized Movie Cliches in this review.) Thus we spend the first twenty minutes of the film watching the pathetic Marty (Simon Scuddamore) endure the torture of Carol's clique. Carol lures Marty into the girls' locker room, coaxes him out of his clothes, and then lets the rest of the gang in to taunt the poor cad in his state of undress. Then they grab him and -- well, the technical term is a "swirly," but we shan't elaborate.
The clique is caught in the act by the gym coach, who punishes them through exercise. Even at the "advanced" age of thirty-six, it's a pleasure to watch Munro do push-ups. The bad kids, angered at Marty -- who is, after all, responsible for their predicament (huh?) -- engineer yet another prank to teach him a lesson. Through a protracted and complicated series of events, Marty ends up being simultaneously splashed with acid and burned horribly in a chemistry lab fire as a result. They sure taught him.
If you've seen Carrie or any of the other Prank Gone Wrong films, you know what happens next: awful, awful revenge. In this case, Marty waits five years before calling upon his old buddies again. Anonymously luring the gang back to the soon-to-be demolished school building with the promise of a reunion party ("I didn't send those invitations -- I thought you did!"), Marty exacts his demented retribution by the most hideous -- not to mention ludicrous -- means available.
He is able to do this because people in horror films are utterly stupid. They do what people in the real world would never, ever do in a psycho killer situation. They leave each other alone. They take baths. They crawl under riding mowers, ostensibly to "fix them up" and ride away to safety at five miles an hour. They have sex. But most of all, they leave each other alone. If they had all just stuck together and walked away from the school building, Marty could never have slaughtered them in the bizarre and complicated fashion that psycho killers dearly love. If he had an Uzi, sure. But what good are his bathtub-which-fills-with-acid or his electrified bed frame against potential victims with an ounce of sense?
Yes you read the descriptions of those kiling methods correctly. There are more deaths in Slaughter High, and all of them are amusingly Rube Goldberg-esque. The best one involves a can of beer that causes the drinker to explode. No, the beer isn't O'Doul's, it's poisoned.
After the requisite horror movie Scene Where the Psycho Chases the Last Survivor Through Long Hallways, the movie reveals itself to be a dream that Marty was having, apparently right after he was taken to the hospital after the acid incident. So what was the point of the film? We're not sure. And if the It Was All A Dream ending isn't confusing enough, the film ends with a little coda that we just couldn't figure out. We shouldn't complain too much about the script, because it's obvious that what meager resources this movie had went to the gore scenes, not the writing.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Although the subgenre began in the 1970s, the following decade was really when the stalker-slasher films took off with the first few sequels to Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street plus many other slasher films, which varied in quality and usually took place on a holiday or major social event (Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Don't Open Till Christmas, My Bloody Valentine etc).
With the working title April Fools' Day, George Dugdale, Mark Ezra and Peter Litten, began writing a screenplay set on the 'pranksters’ holiday' in an American high school in which a group of bullies, who victimised a nerdy boy, were killed one by one by their deformed victim. During production, their producer, Dick Randall, informed them he'd sold the title to Paramount (for much more than they were ever intending to spend on this film) so they came up with a new title: Slaughter High.
Marty, the nerd who is the butt of every joke, the victim of every prank and (seemingly) the sole virgin in the school, is lured into the girls' locker room by Carol with the promise of sex. Once there, she tells him to get into a shower cubicle and undress, while she pretends to be in the next cubicle doing likewise, asking him what temperature he wants the water and other such things. Whilst the two are talking, Marty mentions that today, April 1, is his birthday and the tone darkens slightly as this is an April Fools' Day prank. Meanwhile, a group of other students come in to the locker room, guided by Carol, with a video camera, torches and a fire extinguisher. When Carol says she is ready and tells Marty to come out, he is understandably shocked, embarrassed and humiliated by the group outside – one of whom is wearing a 'Joker' mask – who squirt him with the fire extinguisher, which forces him on to an electrified metal bar.
They then pick him up and dunk his head into the toilet before the Coach, alerted by Digby, the janitor, who is suspicious of all the noise and has looked through the window, appears and reprimands the group, asking what's going on and telling them to go to the gym and 'suit up' as punishment. Whilst the gang are forced to exercise, Marty is in one of the science labs, working on a formula but becomes distracted by a joint, given to him by Carl and Ted gave him to prove there are 'no hard feelings' for the collective punishment. As a newcomer to drugs, the joint makes Marty extremely nauseous and, whilst he's throwing up, Skip (who has momentarily got out of gym class by throwing something through the window and dropping a brick on the floor, telling the coach it came from outside and wants to find the person he saw do it) goes to the chemistry lab and pours some white powder into the glass beaker above the Bunsen burner.
When Marty returns from the locker room, he resumes work but the tampered liquid explodes, starting a fire and, stumbling around, Marty knocks into a shelving unit with some nitric acid on the top, which falls down and splashes over his face. With a fire raging and Marty screaming, everyone rushes from the gym to see the hellish scene and stays to see Marty taken away in an ambulance.
Ten years later and Carol, now a successful actress, is in the shower when one of her school friends, Susan, sneaks up on her and asks if she's going to the class reunion later that day. It's March 31 and, one by one, various students arrive at Doddsville County High school and, realising it's only the eight friends, head inside where they find some food and drink has been laid on but there is no sign of a host or anyone who may have organised the event aside from Digby, the old janitor, who knows nothing about the reunion but allows them to stay. Nevertheless, they get stuck into the booze and begin smoking pot and snorting cocaine but, unbeknownst to them, someone wearing the same Joker's mask is prowling the premises and has already done away with Digby.
In typical slasher movie style, Marty's eight former tormentors are picked off one by one and killed in fairly gruesome and inventive ways, with no two deaths the same. As the film is set on April Fools' Day, they all surmise that all they have to do is survive until midday but, with a determined and maniacal killer on the loose, that will prove harder than it seems. Whether it's dying in a bath of acid, being cut to bits under a lawn tractor or electrocuted whilst having sex, it seems Marty has been spending 10 years plotting his revenge and, having ensured no one can leave due to the locked doors and electrified window grids, it is no longer a question of how to survive, but how long.
Watching this, I got the feeling it wasn't written as an out and out horror movie as there were some tongue in cheek moments and lines, plus there are many moments which seem a little too convenient or defy common sense (occasionally par for the course with a slasher film), but the final act ensures everything falls into place and you don't feel cheated. It also means this will stand up to repeated viewings more than some of the more mediocre slashers from the ‘80s.
DVD Extra Features
As is usually the case with a high profile release from Arrow Video, High Rising Productions have been commissioned to provide extra features and, considering this is not the most high-profile horror film from the 1980s, it is one with enduring unpopularity, with most of this to do with the lead performance from Caroline Munro, someone who is a horror veteran having appeared in Hammer films, the two Dr Phibes movies and numerous other genre films.
Commentary by co-writer/co-director Mark Ezra and J. A. Kerswell (the author of Teenage Wasteland) could have been extremely dry, but Ezra is a good talker and is willing to talk about all aspects of the production with Kerswell, who displays his own extensive knowledge. They talk about such things as the title change, Kerswell's appearances as the masked killer and how he and the other writers came up with ideas from the death scenes. It is an informative and well delivered track but it was a little disconcerting when it began with Kerswell's voice coming from the left channel and Ezra's from the right, but it was something I soon got used to and eventually didn't notice the binaural set up.
Commentary by Caroline Munro, Calum Waddell and Allan Bryce is a very informal, light-hearted and yet informative affair with the conversation becoming increasingly more relaxed and veering off on tangents as it proceeds (apparently due to the several glasses of wine the two 'moderators' consumed!). There should be more commentaries like this as it alternates between Ms Munro talking to Calum, her talking to Allan and then Calum and Allan talking to each other, with Allan Bryce trying to defend the Carry On films and trying to talk about the TV gameshow 3-2-1!
Jesters and Jolts – Mark Ezra Remembers Slaughter High (11:47) begins with him talking about how he became involved in the film (via Don't Open Till Christmas), how Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None influenced the story and how the collaborative effort worked. The interview footage is interspersed with clips from the film, making this a well edited and directed piece with Ezra providing interesting facts on such topics as the film shoot, how the new title came about and the film's release.
Lamb to the Slaughter – The Scream Queen Career of Caroline Munro (22:00) shows just how well Ms Munro has aged as she still looks great and, apart from the opening couple of minutes when her jangly earrings are picked up by the tie mic, this is a revealing and well delivered and fascinating look at her career with clips and images from various movies such as Dracula A.D. 1972, Captain Kronos and Maniac, showing what a brilliant and varied career she has enjoyed. She talks very well about the various film shoots she worked on, the directors and actors she worked with and what it's like to move or from the expense of a Bond film (she played Naomi, the first woman to be killed by James Bond in 1977 The Spy Who Loved Me) to a low budget horror.
When you choose to play the film, there is an introduction by Marc Ezra who basically welcomes you to the film and says he hopes you enjoy it. Fortunately, this is skippable so, when you watch it for the second, third or fourth time, you don't have to watch the introduction every time.
Additionally, there is also a trailer, a poster of Graham Humphreys’ excellent cover art, a reversible sleeve of the Italian artwork (titled Jolly Killer) plus a booklet with an excellent essay about the film and the slasher subgenre by Troy Howarth.
Whilst on the special features menu, look out for an Easter Egg – an outtake from the Lamb to the Slaughter interview.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Five years ago a group of students played several April Fools Day jokes on young Marty; the last joke went horribly bad. Now it’s the five year class reunion, but the school is abandoned and then there’s that crazy guy running around in a jester mask knocking off the alumni who have returned. Is Marty taking his revenge on his former classmates, or is this another April Fools Day joke.
Directed by: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Pete Mackenzie Litten
Starring: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore, Carmine Iannaccone, Gary Martin
“Marty was the dork of Doddsville High. One day he got mad… then he got even!”
I remember when I was a young gore hound I would get excited whenever horror movie trailers came onto television. It was one of the only times I would ever sit still and be quiet and just watch, I grew up in a very open minded household so a lot of times I was allowed to go with my cousins to see these movies. One trailer though always stayed in my mind, honestly I don’t know why. The trailer was for the film Slaughter High, for years the image of the black and white picture of school nerd Marty smiling at the camera and then getting punched through by massive hands and arms always stayed with me. It wasn’t even until high school that I learned what the title of the movie was; I only had that image imprinted in my head.
There are some interesting facts about the movie; the first is that the original title was supposed to be April Fools Day the title was changed when it was found another film with that title was in production. The film was released on video by Vestron which means it was in almost every mom and pop video store across the country. Slaughter High was also filmed in England with its actors pretending to be Americans, they didn’t take into consideration that here in America April Fools Day is an all day event, it doesn’t end at noon. The star of the film Simon Scuddamore who plays the poor soul Marty also has a tragic story about him; apparently he committed suicide not to long after the film was released.
Slaughter High starts off by taking us back to those wonderful days of high school. School nerd Marty is being lead by 80’s bombshell Carol into the girl’s locker room for a bit of premarital sex (it wouldn’t be a slasher movie if we didn’t have it now would it?). Marty is stumbling all over himself but he assures her that he has had sex before, and he’s pretty good at it too. Carol tricks Marty into going into the shower while their other classmates make their way into the girls locker room armed with cameras and a javelin!??! High School can seem so brutal sometimes. While Carol sweet talks Marty he notices that someone has wrote “Marty Rantzen sucks!” on the wall. Marty quickly changes the S to an F therefore changing the message to say “Marty Rantzen Fucks!” that will teach em kiddo.
It’s only a matter of a few minutes before Marty has stripped off all of his clothing and proclaims “Here’s Marty!” before throwing open the shower door. He suddenly realizes his error when he is standing buck naked in front of his laughing classmates who are either taking pictures of him, stabbing at him with the javelin, or yelling “Where’s the beef?” yeah this movie is kind of dated.
The pranks continue on the poor guy. In the span of a few minutes we are treated to seeing Marty get a swirlee, smoke a joint laced with poison and the final nail in the poor guys coffin a container of acid falls on his face disfiguring him, once again in front of the whole class.
Five years later eight of the students are returning to Doddsville High for their five year class reunion; don’t ask me who has a five year reunion or why only eight of the students are here when there are obviously way more than eight in all of the earlier sequences. Carol is of course one of the students who has come back. As they get to their former school they discover that it’s abandoned and obviously hasn’t been used for some time, that doesn’t stop the janitor from still hanging out around there though, well he’s a grounds keeper now, doesn’t matter though cause the fella gets to be the first real victim of the movie.
The alumni finally make it to a room where someone has placed each of their lockers. Inside each of their lockers is something from their high school days, these items range from a pair of dirty smelly shoes, to a pair of gloves lost on prom night (it wasn’t the only thing she lost that night according to her classmates). Marty’s locker is also in there, but Marty isn’t part of the group that is there now. Inside of his locker they find his yearbook and as they flip through the pages they are told about the fate of poor Marty. They are told how Marty went insane because of his disfigurement and broke out of the insane asylum. The bad news is, this April Fools joke is about to be pretty brutal. The good news is obviously on April Fools Day here the pranking stops at noon.
Slaughter High isn’t too terribly bad, again it’s from the golden age of the 1980’s when slasher films were all the rage. You have all of your ingredients for a decent slasher film, eight stereotypical high school kids (the jock, the stoner, the slut, the prom queen etc). There are a few scenes of nudity, and a sex scene and a bath scene (though I have to admit I was questioning the victim’s judgment when after seeing various members of their graduating class die they decide to take baths or have sex). Marty as the killer is also shown wearing a jester mask, that was worn by one of his classmates during the shower hazing scene mentioned above.
Let’s talk about the death scenes though, that’s why we love these movies so much. There are some pretty good kills in this movie involving a hatchet to the face and impalement on a coat hook. There is a lawn mower death scene, which is decent but not as great as it sounds. The two best deaths in Slaughter High in my opinion are the “acid bath” death sequence in which we get to see some really groovy stop motion FX and another gory segment involving a victim drinking a poisoned can of beer which causes his intestines to start growing until they pop out of the front of his shirt! Never mind how the poison got into the beer, this scene is great.
Like I said earlier Slaughter High is a product of the 80’s slasher wave, kinda in the middle of it. Even the beloved Jason from Friday the 13th part 3 gets paid homage to when one of the characters jumps out to scare another one while wearing a hockey mask. I will state though that there is a twist at the end but right before the twist there is a moment where if you are a big fan of the slasher genre you suddenly sit up and say “No @!$& way! They really did that.”
So let’s go back to the days where we let cover art on vhs boxes decide what movie we took home that night. Give Slaughter High and chance and maybe you will think twice before you start teasing that really strange guy at work.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
A high school reunion turns into a bloodbath when a former student seeks revenge against the pranksters who left him disfigured.
Slaughter High is one of those rare cult oddities, it is a cheap little slasher which underneath all of its bad accents and obvious British locations, still manages to have a little charm. Sometimes charm can go a long way. I will hold my hands up and admit that I had never even seen or heard of Slaughter High until it saw it mentioned on a social networking site. Since I am a fan of all things that are sleazy and badly made, I felt I best seek this little beauty out.
Directed by no less the three separate directors (George Dugdale, Mark Ezra and Peter Litten) this little trash classic is a real treat for all cult film fans. School nerd Marty is constantly picked on and made to feel worthless. His class mates have little respect for him and one day decide to play the ultimate prank by rigging one of his lab experiments. Unfortunately it goes horribly wrong (like all bad pranks do) and Marty is burned by a precariously placed bottle of acid, scarring his geeky features. Several years later those who orchestrated the prank are invited back to the school, but all is not what it seems as each one is picked off by a crazed killer with a court jesters mask.
It should be noted that although Slaughter High is really just a cash-in on the popular slashers of the early to mid 80s such as Friday the 13th, Prom Night, Terror Train et al, it does have its own unique and disturbing charm. Even some of the deaths, although darkly funny are in fact quite inventive. Without spoiling too much there is an inventive gag involving an stomach churning can of beer, a sex sequence which reaches an ‘electrifying’ climax and an interesting confrontation with a lawnmower, to name just a few.
This is one slasher which wears its low budget roots with pride as it becomes obvious to any viewer that it’s a British film set in England. Everything from the aforementioned bad American accents through to the locations make it all harder to really take this film seriously. But then that is the beauty of this cult gem, it’s a massive guilty pleasure which subsequently gets better with each viewing. Even the main theme is a humorous take on the staple repetitive slasher music with a hint of playfulness that signals its tongue in cheek nature.
Those with a passion for bad slashers in the vein of Sleepaway Camp or Silent Night, Deadly Night, will want to pick up this piece of trash. Those horror fans whom are after something a bit more mainstream will do well to not pick this up, anyone else who is a little in love with everything cult (myself included in this) should see it out.
Again like all Arrow Video releases it comes packed with some original extras including two commentaries, one of which is moderated by J.A. Kerswell (author of the rather brilliant Teenage Wasteland) as well as one commentary with star Caroline Munro. Other extras include two in-depth interviews with one of the directors and Caroline Munro (the latter of which is around 30 minutes long) and a rather dated trailer. As usual it is packed with a reversible cover (art work by the amazing Graham Humphreys), a collector’s booklet with two extensive essays and a fold-out poster.
Arrow’s treatment for this is lovingly crafted and I suggest you purchase at once, or I’ll send the Jester round...
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Sadly I was too young to experience the golden era of slasher movies first hand in the late 70s and early 80s. Rather, my affection for the genre was bred out of ropey panned and scanned, often heavily cut, VHS versions that I bought second hand from a 'video shop' at some point in the early 90s. Nonetheless, it was enough to get me hooked. With many of these flicks only now resurfacing in the UK under the watchful eye of a comparatively lenient BBFC, it's fantastic to see them presented with superior quality prints, uncut and unmolested.
In the case of Arrow Video's release of Slaughter High, it's a new discovery for me. Previously rated 18 in 1987, with a substantial 32 seconds cut, this is the first time the uncut '1 April Fool's Day' version has seen the light of day over here. The title was only changed to Slaughter High at a late stage in the production, after Paramount bought the title rights to use on their own April Fool's Day (1986).
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) is the class nerd, bullied mercilessly by his peers at Dodsville County High School. When a particularly mean spirited prank goes wrong, Marty is covered in nitric acid and set alight, leaving him terribly disfigured. Some years later his persecutors, now adults, are sent an anonymous invite to their high school reunion taking place at Dodsville High itself. They arrive to a derelict building, spookily uninhabited save for the ex-janitor now functioning as caretaker. They throw caution to the wind and start partying anyway, buoyed by a kindly laid out spread. However it's not long before they find themselves picked off one by one via some elaborately staged deaths. All the clues point to Marty's return...
Let's be clear, Slaughter High (AKA 1 April Fools Day) is no classic of the genre. In fact it's a pretty amateurish affair overall, a long way from the glossier studio offerings of the era. The tone varies wildly, particularly in the opening section where Marty is tormented by his classmates. Farcical comedy and uber-contrived nerdiness are crashed together with some really vicious bullying. It's an odd mix, not helped by the amusing but preposterous score. Thankfully, once the stalk-and-slash scenario kicks in, things settle down. For all its flaws Slaughter High is a thoroughly entertaining throwback with some imaginative set-pieces that amuse and repel in equal measure. It really is a shameless piece of fun with gratuitous nudity and a defiance of logic that will have you moaning through a broad grin.
As with most slashers, it's all about the killer and here the figure who returns to wreak vengeance on the bullies cuts a creepy image indeed. Some have ridiculed the use of the jester's hat/mask as the killer's 'disguise' but I kind of dig it, even if the jingle used to announce his presence is ripped straight from Friday 13th. It's distinctive, memorable and more than a little nightmarish.
With some protracted and especially painful deaths (step forward the acid bath!), Slaughter High is gleefully unpleasant slasher with a twisted sense of humour. Have a couple of drinks, and cheer along with the daftness of it all.
Picture quality is good for such a low budget flick from this period though don't expect an all-singing, all dancing restoration. Sound is adequate with Harry Manfredini's hilariously over-the-top score coming through strongly, though you'll need the volume high to make out all the dialogue.
There are two specially commissioned docs here, both from Arrow Video regular contributor High Rising Productions. The first is a brief (12mins) talking head interview with one of the three writer/directors, Mark Ezra. He seems reluctant to talk about the film and makes it instantly clear that working as a trio of directors wasn't the best idea from either a career or creative angle (Ezra has scant movie credits since). What he lacks in enthusiasm he makes up for in candor, openly admitting the three week rush-job script is "ropey". For a film that uses a setting so definitively American as the 80s high school, it's fantastic to discover the movie was shot entirely in the UK with none of the directors having so much a stepped foot in the states at the time.
The second, more thorough, interview (26mins) is with Hammer favourite and all round scream queen, Caroline Munro. Dating co-director George Dugdale at the time of the shoot, she's a wonderful story teller. Playing teenager and the inevitable final girl Carol Manning, Munro was a young-looking 35 at the time of shooting. More affable than Ezra, she takes us through her career from the Hammer Horror days (Dracula 72AD et al.) right up to her role in Jess Franco's Faceless. It's all in good humour and Munro is informative and articulate without taking any of it too seriously.
The two new commentaries are a mixed bag. The first features a touchy Ezra and author of "Teenage Wasteland", J. A. Kerswell. The latter clearly knows his stuff when it comes to slashers but seems (justifiably) perturbed by Ezra who frequently interrupts and seems to take offense rather too easily. Still, there's insight to be had, though it's not the most fun commentary you'll sit through and you can't help wonder what a stellar duo like Kim Newman and Alan Jones would have made of it.
More lively is the second with Munro, DVD World Editor Allan Bryce and High Rising Productions' Calum Waddell. The atmosphere is altogether more light-hearted as they amiably ramble through anecdotes and digressions. The packaging (including booklet, poster and artwork) wasn't available for review at the time of writing, but looks to complete the package nicely.
Overall it's another unique and compelling release from Arrow Video - and of a film that I doubt you'll see treated with as much care anywhere else.
-Addendum from J. Hurtado
I just wanted to add a little bit to the review as I have since received a final release product.
Arrow are very good and providing extra material, and the video content on the disc is only the beginning. For Slaughter High they've also included their traditional custom cover art that is reversible with the classic Italian one sheet (titled Jolly Killer) as a second option. The custom artwork is also included inside the package as a poster. There is also an unusually lengthy booklet with this one. Typically Arrow Video booklets are around 8-10 pages, but this one is a hefty 16 page job, with one scholarly essay on the film from Troy Howarth, an interview from High Rising's Calum Waddel with Henry Manfredini, the composer of this and many other slashers, and an interview with actress Josephine Scandi. These are all very interesting, and Howarth's essay in particular comes off very well. The film was shot in England, which probably makes Arrow Video all the more excited to get a great edition out, and these extras have done just that!
Slaughter High will be released on DVD by Arrow Video on 11th July 2011.
THIS EDITION CONTAINS
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork - Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
- Collector's booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author Troy Howarth, an interview with legendary composer Harry Manfredini by Calum Waddell and an interview with star Josephine Scandi by Justin Kerswell
- Available on DVD and UNCUT for the first time in the UK!
- Introduction by co-writer/ co-director Mark Ezra
- Jesters and Jolts: Interview with co-writer/co-director Mark Ezra
- Lamb to the Slaughter: The Scream Queen Career of Caroline Munro
- Audio Commentary with star Caroline Munro, DVD World editor Allan Bryce and author and critic Calum Waddell
- Audio Commentary with co-writer/ co-director Mark Ezra moderated by Teenage Wasteland author J. A. Kerswell Trailer Original art by Graham Humphreys
- DVD Region 0 PAL
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
This 1986 production is one of those uniquely eighties era comedy horror hybrids that has managed to develop quite a cult following over the years thanks to its omnipresence as a popular VHS rental. But is it a good movie? No. Not at all. It's terrible, but it's also a lot of fun.
When the movie begins, we meet Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore who apparently committed suicide shortly after the movie was released), the local high school science nerd who is perpetually picked on by the typically dumb jocks who seem to rule the school. Foxy Carol Manning (Caroline Munroe) pretends to have the hots for poor Marty and leads him to the girls' locker room where he gets naked in the shower stall. Of course, Carol's friends all come in with a camcorder and videotape the poor naked nerd as a few of the jocks dunk the poor sonuvabitch into the toilet. The coach comes in and puts a stop to it, though nothing is really done about it. Later that day, two of the jocks give Marty a joint, which he puffs from while working in the lab only to find out it's got something in it. He gets sick from it and runs to the bathroom to puke, while one of the jocks, Skip Pollack (Carmine Iannaconne), puts some powder into Marty's experiment which winds up blowing up in his face. As he reels from the jolt, a bottle of acid falls off of a shelf and lands on poor Marty's face, sending him to the hospital where he was the recipient of some skin grafts.
Five years later, there's a class reunion. Or so it seems. All of the jocks that picked on poor Marty are invited back to the school on the night before April Fool's day. Nobody else is there, except for the old caretaker who tells the kids to look around all the want but not to start any fires. He also tells them the old school is going to be torn down soon. The invitees all indulge in some drink, drugs and sex, all the while a man in a jester's mask is hunting them down and killing them off in some fairly grisly ways...
Borrowing heavily from Brian De Palma's Carrie only played with tongue placed firmly in cheek, Slaughter High is pretty goofy stuff. Shot in England doubling for the U.S.A., some of the actors let their accents sneak in a couple of times. The low budget effects work is surprisingly effective but the acting is pretty terrible across the board and the dialogue is even worse. The doesn't have much in the way of logic going for it, and for some reason the stalkees decide that they'll be okay if they can only make it to noon, because Marty's killing them for April Fool's Day and April Fool's Day ends at noon (???). It's fun to see Caroline Munroe running around in a loose fitting top and a nifty cameo from producer Dick Miller (with a Pieces poster displayed proudly on the wall behind him) is fun, but there's nothing here that's in the least bit frightening and the film is pretty much completely devoid of tension or suspense.
A couple of kill scenes are creative - a poisoned can of Pabst Blue Ribbon results in an intestinal explosion and the scene in which a woman's skin is melted off in the bathtub is rather keen. A couple of completely unnecessary nude scenes add some exploitative seediness to the picture. The movie, as presented on this DVD, is in its unrated form meaning that the gore scenes and nudity are all intact, as they should be. None of that helps the bad acting, horrible dialogue, cliché ridden script or ridiculous logic gaps, but why would you want it to? This isn't high art, this is a cheap horror movie called Slaughter High and as bad as it is, it delivers just what you want from it.
Slaughter High is presented in a fullframe transfer that periodically looks a little tight on the sides (see the scene where the coach is talking to the kids all lined up in the gym) but otherwise seems okay, framing wise, even if the boom mic does pop up in at least one scene. That's where the good news ends, if you can call that good news. The transfer is obviously taken from an old tape source, you'll even notice the 'Vestron Video' logo pop up after the end credits finish. The interlaced image is dark, murky, and devoid of a lot of detail. Colors are flat and washed out, black levels are weak, and there are compression artifacts evident in some of the darker scenes. With so much of the film taking place with little to no light, the murkiness of the image becomes a problem and there are spots where the picture becomes incomprehensible and you won't actually be able to tell what's going on. This may not be a film that warrants an expensive restoration, but it certainly deserves better than this piss-poor effort.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Several months ago, Lionsgate announced plans to start a new DVD banner titled The Lost Collection – the first helping containing one film of particular interest to horror fans, the 1986 slasher Slaughter High. Although it was originally announced that the R-rated cut of the film would be released, shortly thereafter an uncut version of the film was uncovered and Lionsgate (thankfully) changed their plans and announced that horror fans would be treated to Slaughter High in it all its gory, uncut glory…
The film opens with a bunch of high school students concocting a cruel plot to prank the resident nerd Marty on April Fool's Day. Carol (the luscious Caroline Munro) tricks Marty into thinking he is going to get laid by the hottest girl in school in the girl's bathroom….only the typical crew of jocks and their arm candy are waiting to both videotape and embarrass Marty in the process. The prank goes off relatively un-hitched until the gym teacher shows up and takes control of the situation. Unfortunately for Marty, the mean-spirited crew still has more in store for him after school. As the April Fool's Day joke goes into second gear (and a little too far), Marty becomes the victim of a terrible accident in the school's chemistry lab and is left horribly disfigured by fire and chemical burns.
Flash forward several years (it is never explicity stated how much time passes, but it is at least 5 years) and the crew of pranksters are all meeting up at their old high school for a class reunion – only the rest of the class isn't there and the school is abandoned. So, doing what any typical group of twenty-somethings would do in an 80's horror film, they all still decide to go into the school and have a reunion of sorts anyway. Too bad for them someone is stalking them in a creepy jester mask and varsity jacket, picking them off one by one. I won't go into further details in case any of you haven't seen the film, but I think you can probably guess where it goes from here!
The film is severely cheesy in many aspects, particularly the synth-rock score at the beginning of the film. Fortunately, said score gives way to a more traditional Harry Manfredini arrangement in the film's second half. All the characters do ridiculous things as you would come to expect from an 80's horror film, although nothing quite tops when they decide that if they survive until noon then the killer will stop coming after them…because April Fool's ENDS AT NOON?! REALLY?!! Despite its shortcomings, this 'cheese' all serves to make Slaughter High work as a film. It is a hearty slice of nostalgia that certain isn't replicated in today's cinema.
So how about the DVD release itself? Well, here is where Lionsgate dropped the ball. The uncut version of the film is wonderful to finally see and Slaughter High does contain a couple of the most creative and fun kills to ever come out of an 80's slasher. The unfortunate part is that the DVD appears to just be a VHS rip – nothing appears to have been re-stored and the quality is on par with better bootlegs that can be found circulating around. In addition, the disc's special features are a joke. We get a theatrical trailer and a lame trivia track. Originally, I thought the trivia track would be sort of a pop-up video type of deal, pointing out cool little geek factoids during the film – such as the Pieces poster hanging up or the little homage to the Friday the 13th series – no, it is a sparse series of random horror trivia questions. After seeing what Lionsgate has done in terms of features for other lost classics such as The Monster Squad, it is kind of sad to see Slaughter High seemingly get looked over in this department.
So what is the verdict on this release of Slaughter High? You've got to go buy it of course! Despite the lack of re-mastered transfer or any legitimate special features, we finally get this underrated 80's gem on an official DVD and uncut to boot! Plus, you'll probably never get a better release of this film. When you factor in that it can be purchased from many online retailers for under 10 bucks, there's really no excuse for any fan of 80's horror or slasher films to not add this to their gory inventory.
Overall Rating: 3/5
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Ahh, High School. Parties, babes, booze - the best times of our lives, or at least that's how it's portrayed in all those teen comedies from the 80's. Really, it's full of cliques: The popular kids, the Jocks, the Preps, the Nerds, the Goths, and a lot of those groups mixed up somewhere in between. Slaughter High plays mostly on the popular kids versus the nerds stereotypes but throws a bit of a horror twist on top for something a little different.
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore - who interestingly committed suicide shortly after this film was released) is the nerdiest guy in school, and when he gets a little play from school hottie Carol (Caroline Munro), it's boner time... or so he thinks. Instead, the group of cool kids torment him, by giving him naked swirlies and dragging him around the girl's locker room. After their little toilet time get's broken up by the Coach, they all get put into his fitness detention and they get physical. While they do push-ups, Marty gets to work on his Chemistry project.
While Marty is working on his forumulas, he gets stopped by Harrison and Putney, and while they half heartedly apologize, they give Marty a joint to show how sorry they really are. Of course, since they're major league a-holes, the joint is laced with something that makes Marty sick, and while he's off in the bathroom puking, Skip - the ringleader of the clique - sets up Marty's chemistry experiment for failure. When Marty comes back, his project bursts into flames and a huge bottle of nitric acid splashes down onto his face. And to think, it all happened on April Fool's day, which is coincidentally, also his birthday icon sad Slaughter High
Slaughter High10 years later, the old gang gets back together for a High School reunion at the site of their old, now closed down, High School. When they all gather there, they don't know who sent the invitations, but decide to go in and relive old times. Instead of a huge party, when they get inside, they start getting picked off one by one by a mysterious killer, and it takes a while before they can put the puzzle together and figure out who could possibly be out for revenge.
I'm going to explain this movie with a little good news, bad news, and the bad news is gonna come first. The acting in one word: bad. Most of these people haven't been in too much after this film, heck, the one guys killed himself - you have to wonder if this was the reason why. The story isn't all that great either. With all these different characters, you recognize that most of them are different people, but some of them are so similar that you really can't tell the difference. Why would you cast actors that actually look alike? And, I'll tell you what... I don't feel bad when any single one of them die.
Slaughter HighThey also go way too overboard on the scare fakeouts. I think there are actually more fakeouts than there are actual scares. A part that doesn't help with the fakeouts is the music. The music overall is rotten. The same songs are used over and over again, I think Harry Manfredini the "composer" of the music in this film must have borrowed his little brother's casio keyboard and just banged around on it while it was stuck on the organ preset for easy money. To be fair, he did throw a guitar into the theme song, so he has that going for him.
Now for the good news; the special effects, while low budget, are actually really well done. All the death scenes are pretty original, and they're all pretty convincing. They're all fairly inventive too. One chick gets melted in an acid bath, another couple get electrocuted while doing it... all in all not too bad.
Slaughter HighThere's not a lot of T&A, which is something I would have expected more of in an 80's teen film. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see Caroline Munro throw hers out for at least a flash. There's a shower scene at the beginning where she's holding her arm across her chest - a perfect opportunity to give us all a cheap thrill. Alas, it was not to be, and I was left sad and wanting more.
So while this isn't one of the better 80's teen horror movies I've seen, it also isn't a horrible waste of 90 minutes if these types of films are your bag. One other thing, this film also had the working title of "April Fool's Day", but it was later changed to Slaughter High once the makers found out that there was another film to be released later that same year by that name.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Released in 1986, 'Slaughter High' was originally going to be called 'April Fools Day'. Unfortunately, the filmmakers were just beaten to the punch by the other 'April Fools Day' (reviewed here) so it was renamed 'Slaughter High'. Not the most subtle of titles, I grant you, but 'Slaughter High' is the far superior April Fools Day set film.
It's not original, and things go a bit awry at the end where as many twists as possible are chucked in the melting pot, but it doesn't try to be different and fail like 'April Fools Day'. It's the lack of originality that gives it a real 1980's goofy charm.
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) is a high school nerd, being constantly bullied by his classmates. One April Fools Day, a prank on Marty goes horribly wrong, ending in an explosion in a science lab, leaving Marty deranged and scarred for life.
Ten years later (and still in the 80's somehow), the bullies are invited back to the now-abandoned school (which seems to be located in the middle of nowhere, a strange place for a high school) for a class reunion. It's not long till they realize something is up (actually it does take quite a while, a hilarious beer poisoning finally tips them off) and they find the jester mask wearing Marty is picking them off one by one.
Of course, we've seen this type of film before. But there's something about 'Slaughter High' that makes it hugely enjoyable. Maybe it's because it's so carefree about itself. For example, one of the students is played by Caroline Munro, who was 36 at the time of filming! And while she doesn't look her age, she does look considerably older than the rest of the cast. But it doesn't seem to matter, it's all a part of the aforementioned goofiness of the film.
The deaths are nice and gruesome for those who find that kind of thing important. The beer spiking one is a particular highlight, although you do get some rather bland kills as well.
As I mentioned earlier, the ending gets a bit messy and over populated with twists, but overall 'Slaughter High' is a must see for slasher fans who don't mind a film that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Stupid, OTT and corny, 'Slaughter High' has a kooky charm about it that many slashers shot in the 80's wish they had. The ending may ruin the fun slightly, but overall it's a right laugh.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
One of the dumbest slashers of all time gets a sorry treatment from Lionsgate. But is it all bad news?
Slaughter High opens with a bold scene of a group of crazed high school teachers dragging a boy into a locker room and assaulting him. No…wait…those aren't supposed to be high school teachers, they're supposed to be high school students. They're just played by actors on the wrong side of 30—some more wrong than others.
OK, the real story: Carol (Carolyn Munro, Maniac), a sexy senior (student, not citizen), clumsily lures the dim but honor-rolled Marty (Simon Scuddamore) into the girls locker room for some high jinx. Yes, it's Marty the Geek, who apparently hasn't seen enough low-rent horror pics to realize that these things never end well.
Is Marty actually going to get to use that condom he's been toting around since the Reagan inauguration? No, it's just an April Fool's Day joke at the poor sap's expense. Marty is about to become yet another geek sacrificed at the altar of high school cool. The phony seduction bit is just the start of one of those pranks-gone-wrong—the number one killer of uncool teens during the '80s. Lucky for Marty, a passing coach catches and punishes the miscreants who had so shamed him; less fortunately, this just leads to an unbelievably drawn out "revenge" plan that results in the ill-fated Marty being "horribly disfigured." When the camera lovingly and endlessly focused on the instrument of Marty's misfortune—a bottle marked "Nitric Acid" perched atop a rickety shelf in the science lab—you'll have to wonder why such an accident didn't happen sooner.
Anyway, Marty's face gets melted off. Fast forward a few years, and that old gang of theirs is assembling for a class reunion. No one bats an eye that the reunion is scheduled for April Fool's Day or that it's taking place at the now-shuttered high school. If, unlike me, you're willing to overlook those lapses in judgment, consider that when they show up for the reunion in the afternoon and find the school locked up tight and obviously abandoned, they still sit around for three or four hours—until nighttime—before getting suspicious that this might be a prank. Even then, instead of calling it a day and heading for a bar, they decide to break into the uninviting building and poke around, finding senseless death and dismemberment at every turn.
As everyone knows, there are upsides to being doused with a caustic chemical and severely charred, including gaining superhuman strength and the ability to be in two places at a time. These accidents also seem to unlock psychic powers, so you know things in advance—like, that someone is going to take an impromptu bath in an incongruously placed tub in an abandoned high school, or a couple of paunchy former classmates will get horny in the face of annihilation and have sex on a conveniently discovered metal-framed bed. Since you have psychic powers, you have enough time to rig up the bed like ol' sparky and cause lye to pour out from the tub's faucet.
How many will suffer terrible physics-defying deaths to satisfy Marty's crazed April Fool's Day vengeance? Or is the whole thing just an elaborate prank? Will anyone walk out alive from…Slaughter High?
Well, if you've ever seen a slasher movie, particularly an '80's slasher movie, you can probably answer that question.
Now, I like '80's slasher movies. The worse they are—eye-gouging acting, ear-bleeding dialogue, brain-shattering logic—the more entertaining I find them. The badness of the film is usually exponentially related to its entertainment value. I found Slaughter High to be mightily entertaining.
By 1986, when Slaughter High came out, slasher movies were being released at a relentless and mind-numbing pace. The popularity of home video ensured that these films had some kind of a market. Slaughter High hits some nice nostalgia chords for the cheesy-minded, but on balance, it's a mediocre entry, its strengths lying in its weaknesses. From the way-over-age teens, to a lawsuit-inviting segment that rips off the calisthenics-as-punishment scene from Carrie (down to the music), to the profound stupidity of the characters to the surmounting of the odds to get in gratuitous nude scenes, to the synth-pop score by Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th), to the spit-and-ketchup effects to the schlock-shock ending, Slaughter High makes a strong argument for the Reagan years having really been a simpler—or at least more simple-minded—time.
Slaughter High is being released through Lionsgate as part of the "Lost Collection"—films from the '80s that you might not remember existed. Usually, when low-budget stinkers get "lost," there's a reason, and I can't recall any consumer clamor for a definitive edition of Slaughter High or its "lost" brethren, including Hiding Out, Homer and Eddie, and Morgan Stewart's Coming Home. But as I often say—ruefully—if it means getting more stuff "out there," then sure, create a completely useless DVD line.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with these lines, the product is not exactly top-notch. Slaughter High sports a full-frame transfer that looks like it was taken from a DVD source. Seriously, the picture looks like hell. Audio is not much better, but at least we get subtitles (in English and Spanish). For extras, we get the trailer and useless trivia track that you can run instead of the subtitles. Every now and again, old cheapies like this get special edition releases with nice transfers and commentary tracks—Alice, Sweet Alice, Brain Damage, Strange Behavior, Boardinghouse, and Patrick, to name but a few. There's something heartening about putting that extra bit of effort into a niche release. Too bad Lionsgate doesn't think the same way.
For what's it worth, we get the unrated cut here, which I'm guessing means another second or two of the aforementioned and much appreciated gratuitous nudity—or maybe it's the unexpectedly naked character at the beginning of the film that would have cost this an R.
Slaughter High is a dreadful slasher, but since I get a kick out these things, I enjoyed it. The quality of the film and the presentation are sub-par, but if cheesy '80's slasher is your thing, dig in. For the rest of the world, this is one guilty disc.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Soo today we got Slaughter High. A movie that was supposed to be called April Fools Day but was changed when another film of that same name came out that same year. It’s also become somewhat of a cult classic and as a result Lion’s Gate, be it because they wanted to make someone happy or be it because they have a sick sense of humor, put this out on DVD under the title “The Lost Collection”. I hear you can also get it in one of those DVDs that have around 4 to 5 movies on them. Either way it’s cheap enough, it just isn’t worth it regardless.
So ten years ago on April Fools Day, a gang of high school kids decide to pull a prank on the school geek, Marty. When they get busted for that by the school’s gym coach, they come up with another plan, this one working a little too well and as a result Marty was badly hurt. Flash forward now ten years later and it’s reunion time (which just so happens to be on April Fools Day). This gang is once again all brought together at the scene of the crime and as you might imagine, it’s payback time! And even worse, if you watch this you suffer as well. I’m sorry, Marty! I didn’t even have anything to do with it but I watched this and I am soo sorry. Thanks for never making a sequel.
So, some of you actually like this?? Are you kidding?? First off the characters here are all horrible. There’s not a nice soul in the bunch so you have not one person to root for. You won’t even root for Marty because he sucks to! This movie of course does have Caroline Munro to look at as she. to spite being in her 30′s at the time. plays a teen. But she’s just eye candy here as she doesn’t bring anything to the table like she does in other horror films I’ve seen her in. Maybe she realized the movie sucked while she was making it and phoned it in? I wouldn’t blame her if that was the case.
Oh! And where the hell is the logic?? OK, let’s look at this for a moment. Ten years ago you took part of something that left some kid hurt. You randomly get a reunion invite, you arrive at the school which is now a closed down dump. The only other people there are your pals from back in the day that you did this horrible deed with. Are you going to be dumb enough not to realize something is up? Well if not, then you’d fit in perfectly with these assholes.
And what type of assholes do we have here? Well these are the types of assholes that while their friends are getting killed off they decide to take a bath (why is a tub in the high school?), they also decide to have sex (why is a bed in the high school?). They also don’t bother sticking together or simply taking a run for it when an opening opens up. So, in the honest way of putting it these assholes are really dumb people. Also, don’t ask me why out of what looks to be 100 beers the one that the guy decides to chug just so happens to be the bad one. I’ll admit it’s a cool kill and a cool scene but like everything in this movie it doesn’t have any logic what so ever.
Then once we sit through this mess they give us one of the biggest cop out endings ever. I guess this is suppose to make all the logic holes “OK” but you know what? It just doesn’t cut it with me. The movie has some gore here and there but other than that it’s a giant waste of an hour and a half. I don’t even like the theme music to this one. Which if they were going for annoying they hit the nail right on the damn head. So look people, go find the kills on youtube somewhere and just avoid watching this whole thing all together. It’s really not worth your time.
So is it a cult classic because it’s so bad or because the poor guy who plays Marty actually killed himself soon after? I can’t see a thing in here that would make me want to believe that anyone likes this thing for any other reason. It has cool kills, but not enough. It also lacks one single person for the viewer to like. Maybe they should have kept the original title of April Fools Day because Slaughter High is a joke.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Here's a film that i thought might be an good old school slash fest, with lashings of blood, boobs and babes, well one babe, two boobs and some blood doesn't exactly fit my criteria, Slaughter High unfortunately missed the mark for me, find out why i was not a fan of this film after the jump...
During the 80s, we had the slasher boom, everything from Slumber Parties, summer camps and even dreams fell victim to a new 'breed of evil'. One of these films also fell victim to bad advertising and production, that film was 1986's SLAUGHTER HIGH. Much like Troma's 1984 hit The Toxic Avenger, SH took the same sort of theme of the geek getting revenge on the bullies, but SH was minus the monsters. This one however took place at a high school reunion where each of the bullies was picked off by a genuinely creepy, jester masked killer by the name of Marty, forever scarred after a practical joke went to far. But apart from these creepy villain and some pretty ingenius kills the film never hits the spot when it comes to it's production.
The fact that the film had three directors also didn't do the film justice but one of the directors Mark Ezra, who also scripted, stated that they thought it worked well, you have one doing all the normal talking scenes, one doing all the kills and one who made sure that everything was going smoothly, I think they call them producer's these days. Ezra had a great idea, if done correctly SH would have been or should have been a brilliant piece of slasher cinema instead it's more LAUGHTER HIGH than SLAUGHTER HIGH.
The plot goes like this, a group of school bullies constantly pick on poor Marty. After an incident in a school lab that goes to far, poor Marty is hospitalised. Five years later and it's reunion time and also time for revenge. The whole gang is there and one by one Marty kills them off.
That is pretty much the plot, it's a generic slasher formula, but what makes this different than say Wes Craven's films or Friday 13th? Well I'll tell you, this film is incredibly badly made, the direction is poor, the dialogue and acting is awful, it has bad lighting and it's very obvious that this was shot in the U.K doubling for the U.S. None of it works well and it's a shame because it could have been great. The film does have two redeeming features; the gore is great, some really interesting kills such as the electrocution bed and the acid beer and the other is Caroline Munro, star of Hammer films, Maniac, Luigi Cozzi's Star Crash (with the Hoff) and bond girl in The Spy Who Loved Me, who brings much need professionalism it an other wise amateur production.
The film was produced by Z-grade film producer Dick Randall, the man responsible for films such as Don't Open Till Christmas, a gazillion films that tried to capitalize on the fame of Bruce Lee staring people like Bruce Le, Bruce Li, or Jackey Chang and a cornucopia of soft-core erotica which is probably why this looks so amateurish, Roger Corman made more professional films than this when he started in the 50s. It's just bad, but strangely entertaining in a so bad it's unintentionally good.
So To end my review of SLAUGHTER HIGH, the main question is, did I enjoy it?
Well I kind of did, it had this strange likeable quality to it, a sort of cheesy charm that although being extremely flawed such as the scene where Munro throws a javelin down to the body of Marty, but instead of aiming it at him she essentially gives him a weapon, and the complete what the fuck ending which didn't make any sense until you go 'oh, wow they copped out there'. The strange thing about the ending is that it's more professional than the previous 90 minutes, some great camera work and lighting that doesn't compensate for the rest of the film. It's considered a lost slasher classic, but to be perfectly honest it could have stayed lost as it achieves absolutely nothing new and offers little more than the same old same old. I am glad i've seen it because it's what keeps this site going, but would I recommend it? Probably not, it's worth a rent or if it's on the Horror Channel, but would I spend hard earned cash on it, well no unless like me you can find it cheap as chips.
So it's probably better to watch films such as Nighmare On Elm Street or the awesome Slumber Party Massacre instead.
Arrow have released a brilliant disc, not only does it come with a restored print of the film, you get two commentaries, one with Caroline Munro and one with Mark Ezra, 2 very interesting inteviews with Caroline Munro and Mark Ezra, the former talks about the film and basically says it's shit and the Munro interview is a sort of overview on her career as she talks about the films she made for Hammer and how she became very close friends with Joe Spinell (Maniac) and it's an interesting watch. You also get some great commissioned art work from artist Rick Melton which is part of a double-sided sleeve with an Italian poster, a great booklet on the film from Calum Waddle along with a great poster feature the new artwork. So all in all a great package, it's just a shame the package is 100 times better than the film.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
It seems that very few people have seen this awesome cult classic known as Slaughter High. It was made in 1985. Right in the middle of the big slasher craze that happened in the 70’s and 80’s. But Slaughter High isn’t like most of the slasher movies that came out in the 80’s. Sure it was cheesy, but it was also a very good movie(if you don’t take to seriously) I’m really amazed that it hasn’t got a DVD release until now. But I guess late is better than never.
Slaughter High(like most of the 80’s slasher movies) has a very simple plot. Marty was a nerd that everyone made fun of. All the jocks and pretty girls teased, taunted and tortured him mercilessly. Things went to far when one of their jokes backfired, disfiguring Marty for the rest of his life. Five years later Marty throws a reunion for all of his school “friends”. That’s when the bodies begin to pile up.
The first thing I noticed the first time I saw the movie is the terrible accents . Almost all of the actors are british and it’s hilarious to hear them try to talk with an American accent. But it somehow actually helps the movie and makes it even more enjoyable. There are many things I love about this movie, but the thing I love most is all of the gore and the awesome kill scenes. We have electrocutions, exploding intestines, and death by tractor trailer just to name a few. The gore effects are also great, almost Savini quality. There is also a little T&A but it’s nothing special. Like most slasher movies the acting isn’t very good by most of the cast, but Simon Scuddamore does a great job playing Marty. Caroline Munro also does a pretty good job.
Slaughter High is a great movie but it does have it's flaws. The first flaw being the music, Which has a weird 80’s punk sound to it. The other flaws are the terrible script and the ending. But you can’t expect a great scrip from a movie called Slaughter High. The part I disliked most about the movie is the horrible ending which I will not give away. It would have been a lot better if it would have ended five minutes earlier.
So if you’re a fan of 80’s slasher movies, you need to take a trip through the halls of horror(sorry, I had to do it) and buy the new DVD release of Slaughter High. Lionsgate did a great job with the DVD and even though it says rated R, it is the uncut version.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Following on from the excessive brutality of Mil gritos tiene la noche (aka Pieces) and the festive fun of Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas, producing duo Stephen Minasian and Dick Randall turned their attention to the prank-gone-wrong formula with their 1986 effort Slaughter High. Originally titled April Fool’s Day, although the filmmakers would be forced to rename after Paramount released a film of the same name, the slasher spoof marked the feature debut for directorial team George Dugdale, Peter Mackenzie Litten and Mark Ezra. Although set in an American high school, the film was shot in London with a British cast who would sport fake accents, with many of the actors being far too old for their roles. In particular, Caroline Munro, who had previously appeared in the likes of Dracula A.D. 1972, The Spy Who Loved Me and William Lustig’s notorious Maniac, had just turned thirty six at the time of shooting.
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) is the biggest nerd at Doddsville High. He has no friends, no style and no girl could possibly ever fancy him. He wears glasses, has greasy hair and lacks any self confidence. And if that is not enough, his birthday just happens to fall on April 1. So he thinks that luck is finally on his side when his sexy and popular classmate Carol Manning (Munro) takes an interest in him. Inviting him into the girls’ locker room for some hanky panky, Marty climbs into the shower and strips off, whilst Carol’s friends quietly sneak inside with cameras to shoot what is revealed to be a cruel practical joke. Suddenly, the curtain is pulled back and Marty finds himself naked in front of his class, who repeatedly shout ‘Where’s the beef?’ as they spray him before grabbing him by the ankles and dunking his head into the toilet bowl.
This caper has not gone unnoticed by the school coach (Marc Smith), who calls all of the perpetrators into the gym for punishment, whilst Marty heads off to the science lab to conduct his experiments. Determined to play one last joke on him, two of the boys, Ted Harrison (Michael Saffran) and Carl Putney (John Segal), catch him in the hallway and offer him a fake joint, which explodes and causes him to run to the toilet to throw up. Meanwhile, head prankster Skip Pollack (Carmine Iannaccone) sneaks into the lab and pours a powder into a beaker which he places onto a Bunsen burner. When Marty returns the beaker explodes and fire erupts across the table and up the side of a stack of shelves, where a bottle of Nitric Acid has been placed at the top. Unable to stop the fire in time, the bottle falls down and explodes as it hits the table, sending the acid into his face which makes him flammable. The rest of the class arrive in time to see him surrounding by flames and screaming in pain. The last they see of him is as he is taken away on a stretcher, his permanently scarred face covered in bandages.
Ten years later and Carol is a struggling actress, who is being forced by her sleazy producer, Manny (Randall in a tailor made role), to appear naked in a movie. Insistent that she does not want to be a part of it, she instead decides that she will attend her high school reunion, celebrating ten years since they left Doddsville High. When she arrives to meet up with her former classmates, they are surprised to discover that the only ones to have been invited were those responsible for the accident. After finding their old lockers full of high school memorabilia, the friends begin being picked off one-by-one by a psycho in a jester mask (the one which one of the bullies had worn on that fateful day), and soon they realise that Marty has come back for revenge. Carol, the only one to seem genuinely remorseful of what they had done to him, is the left to become the ‘final girl’ and is forced to try to stay one step ahead of the homicidal nerd.
Slaugher High has all the makings of a Troma movie. The acting is atrocious, the plot terrible and the cinematography is amateur at best. Whilst the score, performed by Friday the 13th regular Harry Manfredini, is adequate enough, there is an annoying theme tune that is constantly overused throughout the movie. Yet, much like the works of Troma (particularly Class of Nuke ‘Em High, which was produced around the same time), Slaughter High proves to be enjoyable enough that it can be forgiven for its shortcomings. Whilst the film never works as a serious horror film, it more or less succeeds as a slasher spoof, poking fun at the conventions and clichés of the genre whilst providing a few memorable kills of its own. A few in jokes are scattered throughout for those that care to notice, such as a brief appearance of a hockey mask (Minasian had been one of the investors for the original Friday the 13th), as well as a poster for Pieces on the wall of Manny’s office.
Whilst Munro is charismatic enough to provide a likeable lead, the star of the show is definitely Scuddamore, who hams it up as the nerdy Marty throughout the first act, before suddenly becoming a deranged slasher villain. What is the most tragic, however, is how Scuddamore proved to have been a wasted talent, as he would sadly take his own life soon after completing the movie, reportedly due to an intentional drug overdose. Slaughter High would be his only appearance, so horror fans will never know what else he was capable of. The remainder of the cast clearly have fun in their roles and for the most part the movie works as a satire on the genre and an example of camp eighties low budget horror, but as a serious slasher the scenes in between each kill are nothing more than killing time. Depending on what you expect from your slasher, you will either love or hate Slaughter High.
NOVEMBER 21 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
Good afternoon class. Can I have your attention please? Don’t give me that look, I’m just as anxious for the day to end as you are, but let’s push through it shall we? Now I’m going to start you off with an easy question. Who here has ever seen Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace? By show of hands. Come on, don’t be shy about it. Okay, quite a few of you. So, those of you who did see it; who among you felt, as I did, that it would have been considerably more effective as a recurring element of a sketch show rather than as a full half-hour comedy programme in its own right? Did any of you feel, as I did, that its recreation of the badly dated production values, limp writing and weak performances found in the genre-based television of the late 70s/early 80s was only fitfully amusing, and that it didn’t take long to grow tiresome?
If you answered yes, chances are that your reaction to Slaughter High may well be similar to mine.
Now, it’s no secret that I like me some slashers. They’re that rare breed of film where innovation of any kind is irrelevant, so long as the requisite quota of absurd gory deaths, cheesy dialogue and gratuitous nudity is met. However, this might just be me, but I don’t think it hurts if the material is approached with at least a degree of sincerity. The bad writing and bad performances should not be self-consciously so. They needn’t be trying to make Citizen Kane with a machete, but the viewer should at least get a sense that all those involved really want to make a good, solid movie. As you may have surmised by now, I did not get that impression from Slaughter High.
As it was made at the tail end of the first wave of slasher movies, it’s more or less a given that Slaughter High would feel a bit stale. Typically, it’s an adolescent revenge story that can be summed up in a sentence: a nerd who was humiliated and accidentally disfigured in an April Fool’s prank that went too far seeks revenge on those that wronged him by staging a bogus five-year high school reunion. (It may come as little surprise that the film was written and shot as April Fool’s Day – curiously, it even carries that title in the opening credits – until Paramount paid off the producers for the rights to the title before releasing their better known April 1st slasher the same year.) Taken on its own the overfamiliarity of the premise is no great problem, but add it to the other little niggles and it all gets a bit trickier to swallow. The real elephant in the room is the age and nationality of the actors. It’s again pretty much accepted that the bulk of the ‘teenagers’ in these movies are in reality a bit older, but this one really takes the biscuit. Caroline Munro, lovely as she is, was 37 when this film was made, and she looks it. That’s not a slur, by the way. Any straight man of flexible morals would still happily accept an invitation to visit the girl’s showers with her, but as Penthouse Forum fantasy archetypes go you’d buy her more as the sexually frustrated gym teacher than the promiscuous cheerleader.
But here’s the real kicker; though it tries to pass itself off as an all-American slasher, Slaughter High is actually a British production. This fact is abundantly clear almost immediately, as there is not a single convincing American accent to be found. Nor does much of the dialogue ring true-blue USA. Subsequently the whole endeavour feels like some half-arsed British amateur dramatics production of an American play. It doesn’t help that school setting and the surrounding countryside (brief though its appearance may be) also look about as convincingly American as Dick Van Dyke is convincingly cockney. You can dress it up as Mom’s apple pie, but it still smells like spotted dick with custard to me. (Yes, Americans, that’s the actual name of a British pudding.) And perhaps it’s inevitable that a film with three directors would feel a tad disjointed; just because it worked for Airplane!, don’t expect similar results.
Of course, none of this need be a negative. This enhanced absurdity may well boost the entertainment value for some, particularly given the death scenes which, even for the time, are notably lurid; take the mid-coitus electrocution, and the exploding stomach (both of which are briefly shown in the trailer below). Fans of the ridiculous should be happy as Larry, then. But, to bring it back to my Garth Marenghi analogy, to me it just feels a bit too knowing, too clever-clever nudge-nudge wink-wink. While it wears its 80s origins on its sleeve, in many respects Slaughter High feels spiritually closer to the (considerably inferior) 90s second-wave slashers, in all their ‘post-modern/ironic’ self-importance. It’s doesn’t skimp on the gore and nudity like most of those did, though, which I’ll admit does go some way to making amends.
The disc itself is another winner from Arrow, with commentaries, interviews and other such supplemental material in abundance, and the digital transfer of the film looks great. But still, were I to compile a list of the great forgotten entries in the first wave of the slasher genre, I rather doubt there’d be a place for this one. Check it out by all means, but don’t anticipate a lost classic.