Back in September, I went on opening night to see SORORITY ROW, 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 to the task of reviewing a bunch of slashers, the first round of which were school-based. Several months later, I stopped stalling and actually committed myself to following through on it (hey, I told you I can’t stand slashers). Below is the third in this series of reviews.
If I were going by the logic of SLAUGHTER HIGH, I would be 74 years old and British. Casually strolling through Picadilly Circus, walker in hand as I headed for a spot of tea, I would look forward to reclining in my elderly years as a happy septuagenarian. Right before I got slain by a pissed off nerd.
Asking yourself “WTF?” You should be. Because as much as I’m not a “WTF” guy, this is the most “WTF” slasher flick I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the jaw dropping insanity that is SLAUGHTER HIGH. Think I’m in engaging in hyperbole? Get a load of this:
The movie jumps right into things with a panning shot of the front of an “American” high school. Inside, Caroline Munro’s character, high school senior Carol, is luring the school’s biggest nerd Marty Rantzen into the girl’s locker room for some quickie sex. How fortunate we the audience are that a hand rips down a calendar sheet to reveal that it’s April Fool’s Day. Pull back a shower curtain, and there’s Marty, stark naked, with the biggest bush of pubic hair in film’s history, facing not only Carol but what seems like 47 other mischievous students. As the gym teacher punishes them for their prank, they manage to set up Marty for Prank # 2, which involves Marty smoking a tainted jay and quarterback Skip sabotaging his science experiment. As a fireball explodes, Marty is burnt to a crisp. The entire first 1/3 of the movie plays like a teen sex/nerd comedy, reminiscent more of REVENGE OF THE NERDS and Bob Clark’s PORKY’S than a horror film. Though the movie could’ve played off the pranksters as mean spirited (and rightfully should have), the tone suggests that they’re just having a good time. Nothing for the first 26 minutes—the acting, the dialogue, the rather catchy theme song with the cackling singer—suggest this is a horror flick at all.
The movie then kicks into its second gear, as the cruel students set off five years later to the school for a 5-year reunion. Ehh? In this script’s alternate reality, that makes perfect sense. What doesn’t is the severe change in tone. As the assembled baddies arrive, this turns on a dime into another movie. It becomes just another FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoff, containing all the hallmarks of the slasher subgenre: an isolated location; characters who don’t react logically to danger; people separating often when there would be obvious safety in numbers; the whole overrated “final girl” thing; and Marty running around in a jester’s mask, slaughtering everybody and absorbing much more abuse than he should be able to withstand. Punctuate each murder with a musical sting orchestrated by—you guessed it—none other than FRIDAY’s composer Harry Manfredini, and this is “What if Jason were a horribly scarred geek in a high school instead of a mongoloid in a lake?”
And then, there’s the ending. Marty revels in a job well done, but not for long, as the film manages to rip off 3 much better horror flicks in a matter of 3 minutes. Hey, that’s an average of a rip off a minute. None of what comes at the conclusion fits either the sex comedy or the slasher film; this ending is right out of left field, but knowing the lead up, it’s exactly what I should have expected. As the credits rolled, I was so confused that I couldn’t tell what had happened in any of the film.
What does any of this mean? Taken as a whole, it’s likely that the filmmakers had no idea what kind of film they wanted to make, or any knowledge of the word “cohesion.” According to the credits, it took three men to write this, and all three also directed. Perhaps one wanted to make a sex comedy, the second a FRIDAY film, and the third… well I can’t explain what he might have wanted to make. What all three combined to make was a mess. But a unique mess, I’ll give them that. Like the recent MEGA SHARK vs. GIANT OCTOPUS, SLAUGHTER HIGH exists in its own universe. If you need more proof, consider this: according to one character, April Fool’s Day ends at noon.
Want a little more skewed sanity? Our “final girl” Carol is an 18 year old American high school senior. So how did Caroline Munroe get this role, considering she’s sincerely British and was 36 during the filming? I know it’s common to cast post-teenage actors to play teens. But someone pushing 40? Really? The fact that most of the cast painfully try and fail to conceal British accents flings this flick further into its own universe; especially when one character mentions the 7-11 down the block, and wanting to see “America the beautiful.” Even the school is clearly not American; I’ve taught in several high schools, and I’ve never seen one with a full bathtub and bedrooms.
SLAUGHTER HIGH is so whacked out that I don’t quite understand how I expected an average package of extras. Instead, I was greeted with a trailer that boasts the film comes from the makers of FRIDAY THE 13TH. This is clearly a bald-faced lie, unless you consider a composer and one guy who put up money for that flick to be “the makers of.” And then there’s the trivia track. You’ve got to see this to believe it. Why bother to give background about the film, when it can inform you that Adolf Hitler was the man behind the Volkswagen? A film with logic this bizarre deserves a commentary track with logic this bizarre.
Films based in schools often seek to educate their audience. So in recap, what did I learn from SLAUGHTER HIGH?
• Caroline Munroe is the oldest teenager in history
• Kevin Costner may have struggled with an English accent, but he was only returning the favor to the cast of this film
• Some nerds have a really big bush of pubic hair
• Some girls would rather try reaching in vain for the faucet that’s pouring sulfuric acid into the tub, instead of getting out of the tub
• A movie can be 48% PORKY’S, 48% FRIDAY THE 13TH and the remaining 2% a bizarre concoction of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, CARRIE, and DRESSED TO KILL
• Films that claim to be “From the Makers of FRIDAY THE 13TH” aren’t necessarily from its makers
• Harry Manfredini knows how recycle his music from other films
• It only takes one director to make a film that is all over the map, but three can do it as well
• Nebraska was the last state to ban electrocution as a sole form of the death penalty
and most importantly of all…
• Unlike every other day in the calendar year, April Fool’s Day ends at high noon
Don’t be an April’s Fool, even after noon! Support Icons of Fright and Amazon, and order SLAUGHTER HIGH here!