Back in September, I went on opening night to see SORORITY ROW, a flick that is a silly remake of a just-as- silly 1980s slasher. I really don’t like slashers in general, so why this lame remake inspired me, I’ll never know. But inspire it did, and I set myself the task of reviewing a bunch of slashers, the first round of which were school-based. Several months later, I actually committed myself to following through on it (hey, I told you I can’t stand slashers). Below is the first in this series of reviews.
When a movie calls itself SPLATTER UNIVERSITY, and then turns its title into a pun as appallingly ridiculous as “Splatter U.” (get it? Splatter “you?”), it might as well call itself WE’RE NOT AIMING VERY HIGH HERE, ARE WE? A little history lesson puts this film in context: after FRIDAY THE 13TH said it was okay to show blood and made a lot of money doing so, the floodgates opened and a whole slew of slashers came down the pike. They all followed the same, stale formula, pretty much; and while a few were truly effective (MY BLOODY VALENTINE is shamefully underrated), many were out solely for the buck, adding nothing distinct to the subgenre but another uninspired effort. Such is SPLATTER UNIVERSITY, which offers an education on lazy, messy filmmaking, and isn’t shy about it.
One of the worst and most overlooked clichés in horror is the peek into the psychiatric ward, and that’s exactly where this film starts. Having a bunch of people stare into nowhere and walk into walls was overdone even in 1984 (as was the slasher cycle itself, incidentally). This movie goes one farther by having one lunatic in a bathrobe crisscrossing his eyes and poking those of a mannequin’s head. Do mental institutions provide these when a patient is committed? I’ve never been institutionalized, so maybe some lunatic reading this can email me an answer. Regardless, a doctor wanders the hall looking for one mental patient, and finds him when he opens a broom closet. Watch the first attack closely, because you can shut the movie over after you’ve seen it. Here’s how nearly every death in the film will play out:
1. The killer’s POV shot of the perfectly calm soon-to-be victim about to get the knife (randomly on the floor of the psych ward? Sure why not).
2. Extreme close up shot of hand driving knife through what is obviously not human flesh (and this first guy gets it in the yarbles—ouch!), followed by gushing blood.
3. Victim stands for roughly 2 seconds before bending slightly at the waist as if stabbed (was the editor incompetent, or just careless? I’ll guess the latter.)
Repeat this once, and I’ll let it slide. Repeat it eight times, and you, sir, should be punished (insert your own lame detention pun here; I’m sure the people behind this flick would). In fact, you’ll see the same thing about two minutes later, as a professor at St. Trinians College gets offed in exactly the same fashion.
If you were worried that the kills were the only lazy element in the film, fear not. The scripting is just as haphazard, as is evident from the next scene when our female lead arrives to take a new job; just read the subtitle, “ST. TRINIANS COLLEGE/The next semester/Yesterday…” Huh? Folks, I couldn’t make it up if I tried. The slapdash scripting squanders the religious implications its setting offers, providing instead the escaped mental patient cliché. In place of complexity, it offers some of the most astoundingly mindless character decisions. For example, why would the lead trust her boyfriend’s alibi for one of the repetitive murders one second, then break into his house looking for damning evidence the next? Why is she the only one who’s more concerned by the fact that people on campus are dropping like flies? After the lead actress says she’s leaving the school, why does the head priest try to convince her to stay, and then later say he can’t meet her at the school when she calls to say she’s figured out who the killer is?
And yes, that last question means SPLATTER U. follows yet another 1980s slasher trend: the whodunnit. Ok, so let me get this straight. The director, writers and producers didn’t care enough to offer up a competent plot or bold kills, but they want us, the audience, to care enough to expend the gray matter to figure out the killer’s identity? Take my word for it; you won’t. Even if you revere slashers and live for a revival of their heyday, I can guarantee you’ll be hard pressed to fall in love with this ugly stepchild of the subgenre.
Special mention must be made of the film’s score. I don’t know how its synth-driven track went over in 1984, but at a distance of a quarter century, it’s ludicrous. Instead of enhancing the affair with its stings during the kills and its pounding chords, it dates the film terribly, confining it not only to the slasher ghetto, but to the 1980s. Dear God, why is my brain reeling with grade school memories of Ronald Reagan?
I can only commend SPLATTER UNIVERSITY for two things. Shockingly, it breaks from the “last girl” part of the slasher formula. Bold, right? And in truly bad taste, it offs a pregnant lady. But seeing that FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III had already beaten it to this punch by two years…
Elite Entertainment apparently thought as highly of this movie as I do, which shows from the two trailers that act as the only extras. Certainly there’s nothing elite about the extras or the movie, which hardly qualifies as entertainment.
Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of slashers. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give them a fair review on an individual basis. SPLATTER UNIVERSITY is a lazily assembled cash-in that only the most accepting or desperate fans will enjoy. As I’m not nearly as derivative as this film is, I’m sure you’ll give me a pass on not leaving off with a school pun.
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