Girls School Screamers (1986)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2009-01-25 10:12

Written and directed by: John P. Finnegan
Starring: Mollie O'Mara, Monica Antonucci, Charles Braun & Marcia Hinton

Reviewed by: Brett H.

“I dunno about the rest of you, but Mark and I had an outrageous weekend. ”
“What she means is she spent the entire weekend in the backseat of Mark’s car!”
“And no doubt, getting high!”

Girls School Screamers proved to be one of the first slasher films I bought on DVD back when I was in high school for a mere $7.99, which was obscenely cheap in those days. I made the mistake of viewing some of the trademark Troma special features before watching the film and thought I was going to be seeing the titfest to end all titfests. Unfortunately for me at the time, the film had absolutely no boobage and I wasn’t a very happy camper. Still, I admired the tremendous cover art featuring a rotted zombie face, various garden tools of slaughter and bikini babes in peril; the kind of awesome stuff that just screams for a rental. Nearly seven years have passed since my initial viewing and I’ve decided to give these Girls a second chance.

A rich art collector named Tyler Welles (Charles Braun) has passed away and leaves his entire estate to the Trinity School for Girls. The principal hand picks the best students to spend four days sorting through the artefacts and paintings and cataloguing them for public auction. The house is full of secrets, as the girls will soon find out. After prodding a nun for information after Jackie (Mollie O’Mara) finds a girl’s diary when playing hide and go seek with her schoolmates, they discover the mansion is home to a suspicious death. The smokin’, drinkin’ schoolgirls decide to have a séance to contact the spirit of the deceased girl, Jennifer, who informs them through a makeshift Ouija Board a single word, ‘picture’. Along with a friend, Jackie finds out there is only one picture in the room and she pulls down the drapes covering it. To their horror, the portrait of the deceased shares a distinct similarity to Jackie. They’re the same person. Bodies pile and the screamers scream and soon enough all truths will be revealed. Too bad all the girls won’t be around to see how it unravels. Then again, maybe they will…

A lot has changed in the time since I bought Girls School Screamers. The small chain that carried independent and cult works is now gone, leaving only a Wal-mart standing tall and supplying fans with the b-titles that are virtually as popular as modest mainstream hits. Times have been especially hard on Troma and the reason behind that is much the same. The devil-worshipping retail conglomerates are gaining more and more control over what viewers have access to, leaving the internet as the major solace to these forbidden pleasures. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this film much more than I did last time and it certainly deserves a spot on the shelves of slasher fanatics everywhere. If only for that cover art. A lot of people are afraid of the word Troma, but if a company such as Code Red had released this title, they’d eat it up with a spoon.

In the realm of the slasher, Girls School Screamers will fit in somewhere below the average. A film that has some amateurish acting (most everyone in the film would never go on to act again) but still cares enough to at least try to challenge the viewer with a relatively interesting plot and a good ending you most likely won’t figure out. Sure, it’s semi-predictable in the way that many slashers are, but the opening forty minutes are incredibly story based, much like Final Exam except with less comedy. Perhaps the only reason I remembered anything about this film at all is from the opening scene in which a young boy is dared to go into Welles’ supposedly haunted estate and is met by the creepy ghost of a bride hovering down the steps. She pulls up her veil to reveal the hideous, rotted zombie visage that’s proudly displayed on the cover art. It reminded me of Ghost Story, and it’s still quite eerie upon second viewing.

If you want blood, you’ll get a bit of it. It probably doesn’t quite deserve a 3 on the good ol’ Carnage Count, but there’s a fair amount of Karo syrup and red food coloring and some gooey electrocuted legs that should please those with a taste for cheap grue. Being this is a film Troma picked up for release rather than a ground-up production, you get something that’s more along the lines of a commercial slasher than the outrageousness that you’d find in something like Terror Firmer. The methods of mayhem in the film include a hook, meat cleaver and a pitchfork, although we never get to see much of the good stuff. Similarly, the lack of nudity in a movie with such a lurid title is a bit of a letdown, but unlike their characters, the actresses must have been a little prudish. Like many slashers of the mid eighties, Girls School Screamers boasts some fun music.

The DVD for Girls School Screamers was an early release from Troma and it creates an interesting paradox. Troma was one of the first studios to embrace the DVD format, but they never made their movies presentable with the quality one generally associates with DVD. The video quality is basically like decent VHS tape when the shots are well lit, while the dark scenes come out rather poor. It’s not a problem with being overly dark like Media’s old videos, instead the image becomes horribly pixelated. The mono audio is rather clear and there’s a little hiss. The special features include all the standard Troma extras of the time: Kabukiman’s hilarious anti-masturbation announcement, The Troma Intelligence Test (I scored over 75%!), a tour of the old Troma Building, Radiation March, scenes from Troma’s Edge TV, the film’s trailer, production stills and more. There’s even a trailer for another Finnegan’s Troma film, Blades. It’s all pretty entertaining and there’s a ton of skin and scenes from the Troma film catalogue and some great laughs. Sadly, this one doesn’t have a Lloyd Kaufman intro. All in all, Girls School Screamers isn’t one that most people should go out of their way for, but if you like your slashers moderately serious, on the cheap and containing a pretty good mystery, there’s enough to chew on here, especially with the DVD content. Of course, if you have any other early Troma DVDs, you’ve probably been there and done that. Rent it!

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