Written and Directed by: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra and Peter Litten
Starring: Caroline Munro, Carmine Iannaccone and Simon Scuddamore
Reviewed by: Josh G.
I’ve seen a common poster for Slaughter High a few times in my life, boasting that it is ‘From the Makers of Friday the 13th’. I have yet to see a connection between the two, aside from Harry Manfredini executing a silly score, somewhat resembling sequels to the series. Oh yeah, and a character scares his friend by putting on a hockey mask, later asking “Who did you think I was? Jason?”. Slaughter High was one of a picking of slasher movies released in 1986 (noticeably shot in 1985) that revolves around April Fool’s Day, and choosing to use that as its title. As we know, Paramount’s April Fool’s Day won the battle, and the Canadian genre-confused slasher Killer Party decided to dump its The April Fool name. Who knew spring tricks were so popular in the mid eighties? Not me. The first time I saw Slaughter High, I thought it was totally absurd. Two years later, I still think so. But there are some high points to explore in this low budget high school.
It’s 1980 at Doddsville High School, where student Carol, played by Caroline Munro is heating up dork Marty’s (Simon Scuddamore) hormones in the girls’ bathroom. It’s April first, and has the popular group ever got a fool for their favorite punching bag. Thinking that he is about to make love to Carol in the shower, Marty undresses, only to be ambushed by a group of rowdy teenagers, laughing and dragging the poor naked geek across the bathroom. But the other April Fool that they have set up for him goes awry, leaving Marty Rantzen burned and scarred for life. And all on his birthday too! Five years later, select teenagers from Doddsville are asked to return to the now rundown school for a class reunion, and it doesn’t appear that the students have grown up any. It’s not before long that beer and drugs hit the scene, and everyone remembers Marty, the kid who had that ‘accident’. The mystery of who sent them here becomes fairly clear when the adults who had a hand in destroying Marty are killed off in clever ways by a man dressed in a jester mask.
I still find it terribly hilarious that the makers of Slaughter High managed to bag one of my favorite actresses, Caroline Munro, to be a high school student, when she was probably pushing thirty-five. It’s one of her weaker performances, but she does shine the best out of all the teenagers/adult cast members. She may be the most hated character by Marty for breaking his heart, but she is the lesser of all evils in reality. She shows compassion for Marty after he is scarred, and when she finds out that she is pranking him on his birthday, she almost backs out of humiliating him. Acting is pretty cringe worthy when she talks on the phone to Manny (Dick Randall) her agent, her deliveries are a bit stereotypical for 80s horror performances. It’s ‘acty’. Munro is still a fun lady, and plays it to her best. Maniac is gone, but she keeps her youth as the school Queen. In fact, even though I know the rotten pasts of these people, I simply cannot side with the killer for the sake of some likable beings. Then again, that may have more to do with my prejudices against nerds.
In the beginning, we see extra students on the campus, but once inside, the focus is on the ten troublemakers and Marty. With this, the school feels smaller, almost already broken down, so when we return in 1985, there is not a big switch in tone, other than darker hallways. Digby (Jon Clark), the old janitor, makes an appearance later on, now the caretaker of the soon-to-be demolished educational building. He’s a body count supporter. The other nine graduated students blend together sometimes. Joe, Ted, Carl and Frank (Gary Martin, Michael Saffran, John Segal and Billy Hartman) do not have many important characteristics about them, and whoever dies first doesn’t matter to the plot, aside from a sex scene. Even then, I’m sure that could have still been possible. Skip (Carmine Iannaccone) is the only important male, besides Marty, that you need pay attention to. He’s the jock who was the physical purpose for Marty’s disfigurement. From here, just know that Shirley (Josephine Scandi) is the common girl who needs to take a bath (yes, a bathtub is in the school), Susan (Sally Cross) is disposable, Nancy (Kelly Baker) is our whiner and Stella (Donna Yeager) is the funny party girl who will have sex under any circumstance. Quite a pack we have here.
A trailer for 1987's China Doll is shown before Slaughter High begins, and from then on, Vestron Video’s feature is best enjoyed however the viewer likes his or her coffee. Be warned though. There are ‘r-rated’ and ‘unrated’ versions floating about. The best way to distinguish them is by their colors. The unrated box, which is what I am basing this review off of, is black, whereas the ‘r-rated’ is red. The killer, who sports a simple but interesting jester mask and school uniform, knows how to concoct some deadly experiments. In fact, how the killer manages to spook and kill his victims, in ways that have a small chance of working out as planned, is very lucky for him. How does he get that chest exploding substance into sealed beer cans? How is he able to pump acid into the taps leading to the bathtub? Furthermore, why would he drain blood in order to make the toilet flood it to creep out Carol? And Hell, he is so puny, that lifting up a fully grown man by one hand should be impossible! Superhuman strength? Bah! Yes, it can all be explained by the bittersweet ending, but before you get to that, the wacky scale has risen beyond sensibility. You feel like you are watching a shitty horror comedy. Which, supposedly, you are.
You may or may not see bush in this film’s unrated version. A shot goes by passably quick, and it can be hard to tell if nudity is shown below the waist, for the dark area could very well be panties. You receive two sets of breasts, a few asses, and full frontal Marty dick! I sure was not expecting that. If you want to take that and run, then yes, Slaughter High does have bush. In addition, blood flow is heavy with mowers, hatchets, javelins, and more! Electrocuted beds (!) and mud pits (!?) are added examples of killer creativity. At first the jester just pops out of nowhere and murders his foes, but he soon has to be the fox, chasing Carol and Nancy through the halls very quickly with his pure white striped sneakers. Into the bathrooms, out the office, and through the gym we go! Funny jokes are played while sub par lines are spoken. It’s all amateur stuff, but it is worthy. Slaughter High remains about as cliché as most early slashers, like the elders of the subgenre. Despite existing in a bizarre world, it seems like one of the good (and by good I mean cheesy bad-good) horror flicks to slip through the cracks of the appreciated retro D movies. Originality counts for something, even if it only shows up for a few moments.
Some scenes are absolutely classic. When Frank and Stella are making love, Frank starts talking dirty to her, but can’t seem to get it right: “Tits...um...fuck...uh, tits. Screw. Aahh, shit!” The killer has really outdone himself in the preparation for his revenge. He has locked all of the doors and booby-trapped the windows with an electrical current. Talk about getting even! Though, if he really wanted to get even, maybe he should have foiled in the cocaine, since everyone seems to being doing it. I wonder how Caroline Munro now reflects on Slaughter High as a choice for her resume. Or anybody, for that matter. Scuddamore as Marty is a bit quirky, but it works for this type of film. Poor Simon committed suicide before this hit distribution by a suspected intended drug overdose. This was the only film that he was in. Life sometimes ends in depressing ways, much like everybody in Slaughter High. It’s still comical, but the film equally delivers in evil atmosphere, and with such gruesome murders, Slaughter can be downright cruel. Stupid, but worth a look for asinine amusement. It receives its diploma with a B+ for fun, an A- for hilarity, and a C+ for overall goodness. Rent it!
*Now available on R1 DVD through Lionsgate Entertainment, and R0 DVD through Arrow.
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