Sunday, 1 April 2012

Slaughter High

1986, US, Directed by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Litten
Colour, Running Time: 91 minutes
Review Source: Satellite Broadcast; Video: 1.85:1, Audio: Stereo

Billed as a 'horror-comedy', Slaughter High (or April Fool's Day as it was shot, plus released in Japan on VHS - note this this not to be confused with another eighties slasher of the same name) kicks off with Caroline Munro playing an American teen who lures nerd-boy loser Marty into the shower for some apparent frolicking and other virginity-losing activity, only for Marty to find when he emerges from a shower cubicle without clothing that he's been the at the butt-end of another high school prank when he's photographed naked before having his head dunked into the toilet. The sadistic bunch of bullies get dragged into detention while one of them - apparently still on the lookout for more 'hilarious' pranks at the expense of Marty's sanity - tricks the nerd into smoking a spliff that results in the laboratory going up in flames and the young lad being scarred mentally and physically. Years later the same bullies arrange a little reunion at the now derelict high school, unaware that Marty is showing up on the same night but with vastly different intentions at heart - the homicidal manifestation of years worth of pent up rage; revenge.
The comedy aspect of this minor slasher from the eighties is to have a variable effect depending on viewer maturity levels I would imagine - very little in the film made my weary eyes crinkle at the other end of a smile, leading me to believe that the label was actually an excuse for the fact that most of the talent present is hopeless. Munro tries her best with a non-English accent, and at least looks very good as usual, while most of the other actors bumble through their lines in a fairly bizarre fashion. I also found it difficult to identify with the bullied boy, Marty, because he's such a rag that he's not even vaguely likable given the brief characterisation shaping him on screen. The deaths and gore effects are at least a little imaginative, plus the location of the abandoned school could have embellished the film with more atmosphere had it been played straight. But with feeble and illogical scriptwork, weak synth scoring, and humour that doesn't work for more than a couple of screen minutes in total, it's difficult to say - beyond the aforementioned gore/deaths, the weirdly offbeat nature, and an admittedly interesting ending - that this is essential viewing for anyone except slasher movie completists.

I viewed this via a Sky broadcast, thoughtfully presented in its original aspect ratio, however following a Lionsgate DVD release in the US a few years ago (both individually and as part of a four-film set), the best version on disc has appeared in the UK courtesy of Arrow Films (from which the above image is obviously taken) - a set that contains reversible cover artwork, poster, booklet, interview, biography of Caroline Munro, and two audio commentaries, as well as the film itself uncut for the first time in the UK. Royal carpet treatment indeed, though whether the film deserves it is as usual down to personal tastes.

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