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CUTTING CLASS

ccdvdaCUTTING CLASS

3 Stars  1989/18/88m

“Some people would kill to fit in.”

Director: Rospo Pallenberg / Writers: Steve Slavkin & Bill Butler / Cast: Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Martin Mull, Roddy McDowall, Brenda Lynn Klemme, Mark Barnet, Eric Boles, Dirk Blocker, Nancy Fish, Robert Glaudini, Robert Machray.

Body Count: 7

Direlogue: “I’m gonna change my IQ…is 300 too high?”


When you consider that bona fide masterpiece Heathers was made in 1989, it’s difficult to look at its ‘lesser’ contemporaries without making a direct comparison. In a head-to-head, Cutting Class would surely lose, but then, I don’t think any other teen film from that year would best Heathers

So it’s a slasher film with comic trimmings set at Wurleigh High School, where student Brian Woods returns from five years away in the looney bin, where he was sent for cutting the brakes on his father’s car. Fatally so.

Brian attempts to rekindle his relationship with best bud Dwight, who’s keen on anything but, while his girlfriend Paula can’t help but notice the way Brian…leers in her direction a lot. Behold, in true Final Girl stylee (all credit to her), the many stares of Brian:

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This minor in-any-other-film-it-would-be-romantic quirk aside, there’s a homicidal shadow looming over the school as teachers and students fall victim to a lurking mystery killer, who’s inventive enough to utilise pottery kilns and  photocopiers as well as the usual axes and knives to do away with his prey. There are some convenient suspects in the arsey janitor (“I’m the only teacher you’ll remember!”), Roddy McDowall’s pervy principal who enjoys nothing more than letching over Paula and, of course, Brian himself, who is naturally blamed when the vice-principal is photocopied to death…

cc11aAs things trundle on, it becomes clear that the killer is one of two people – Brian or Dwight. So cast heartthrobs Donovan Leitch or Brad Pitt it is! Would it be too obvious if Brian was indeed the psycho rather than Dwight’s basketball ace? It depends how you look at it. Dwight is an asshole, the type of jock-character we want to see dead in any other stalk n’ slasher.

cc-brad-jillPaula, on the other hand, is not only the archetypal nice girl heroine, cheerleader, comfortable virgin and straight-A student, but she’s also played by the fabulous Jill Schoelen, the lesser-known Jamie Lee Curtis of the later 80’s horror circuit.

Paula’s also the daughter of the local District Attorney (Mull) who put Brian away and was the first victim, shot with a bow and arrow on his duck-hunting trip. He actually doesn’t die there and then and we return to the running gag of his attempts to raise the alarm and get to safety…

Things kick into a more entertaining gear once the killer is revealed via a mathematical equation, no less and the memorable one-liners start firing… The fleeing victims’ failed attempt to outsmart the maniac using chemistry is met with a “nice try though” from him and he later asks Paula to “feel his tingle” as she’s pushed to the limit of using violence when running away proves futile.

cc8aCutting Class is a prime example of everything late-80’s, from the quirky music, to the fashions, the hair, and the cars. It’s fun for a once-over, however it unfortunately wasn’t remastered for the DVD release and looks grainy and cheap, with limited and amateur looking blood-letting, exposing its budgetary and creative constraints, in spite of some real names on the cast roster and an indecisive streak that renders it unable to decide between needing John Hughes or John Carpenter! Give it a try.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Jill Schoelen did a few halfway decent horror films, including Popcorn, The Phantom of the Opera (with Robert Englund) and When A Stranger Calls Back before disappearing from the screen for a long, long time. Nancy Fish was also in Dr Giggles; Dirk Blocker was also in Night of the Scarecrow.

“No tee-veee…”

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HAPPY HELL NIGHT

3 Stars  1991/18/84m

A.k.a. Frat Fright / Hell Night (UK video)

“25 years ago he sold his soul to the devil… Now it’s time to pay.”

Director: Brian Owens / Writers: Brian Owens, Ron Paterson & Michael Fitzpatrick / Cast: Nick Gregory, Franke Hughes, Laura Carney, Darren McGavin, Charles Cragin, Janez Vrhovec, Kate Delay, Ted Clark, Jeffrey Miller, Robert Restraino.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Technical difficulties – please do not adjust your dicks.”


A rare throwback to the cliches of 80s horror, possibly rendered as such due to its startling similarities to Hell Night proper, the Linda Blair mini-masterpiece about fraternity and sorority pledges being offed by a legendary thought-dead killer. Considering this flick was titled Hell Night for its UK video release and, if you look at the title card, one might think that the producer’s tacked the word ‘Happy’ on as an afterthought once they realised just how alike it was to the older film.

So, it’s 1991 and people were far more attractive than they were in the 80’s.

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A Yugoslavian/Canadian production, HAPPY Hell Night also revolves around a fraternity hazing stunt and the murderous subject of a local legend. The boys of the Phi Delta Sigma frat house are looking to win the competition for the most outrageous initiation prank, which will induct house president Eric’s lil bro Sonny into the brotherhood, thanks to some poking and prodding from dad Darren McGavin, an ex Sigma with some grisly secrets…

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As Hell Night kicks into swing, Sonny and another dorky pledge are sent off to photograph Zachary Malius, a Satanic priest rotting in a conveniently local institution for the last quarter of a century after slaughtering seven Sigma’s and a local girl. Expectedly, they fuck up their assignment and Malius totters from his cell and crashes the party, swinging a nifty ice-axe all the way! A handy powercut ensures most of the party revellers leave and there are some comical shocks; one nymphette is dim enough to handcuff herself to a bed frame and toss the key across the room, and there’s a rocking chair decapitation gag and gobs of nudity as expected.

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In spite of its status as something of a collectible (prior to DVD at least), HAPPY Hell Night is surprisingly well made and adequately violent with a sprinkling of semi-knowns peppered throughout the crowded cast roster: Sam Rockwell plays a young McGavin and future CSI star Jorja Fox is an early victim. One of the inbreds from Wrong Turn also appears as the requisite dorky prankster. The characters are quite intriguing too; brotherly love is tested between Eric and Sonny as they’re both giving it to the same girl, who is the nominal heroine.

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However, Malius is the star, commenting on each kill as he goes with such witty repartee as ‘No TV!’, ‘No sex!’, ‘No hope of international distribution!’ He’s like an overgrown, homicidal E.T., complete with overlarge black blobs for eyes and, admittedly, quite a creepy looking dude. This was one of the first slasher flicks I ever saw and I hated it at the time, but revisits have shown that it’s a fun little timewaster with cheesy dialogue, soap-opera acting and lots of Latin prayer-sayery at the weirdo ending. Try it and see!

Disco Deathtrap

PROM NIGHT

4 Stars  1980/18/89m

“If you’re not back by midnight… You won’t be coming home.”

Director: Paul Lynch / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower, George Touliatos, David Mucci, Marybeth Rubens, Joy Thompson, Sheldon Rybowski, Pita Oliver, Jeff Wincott.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “For a guy so fast on the dancefloor, you are the slowest!”


Life is a ballet where the dancer falls, or some such wisdom once sang the lovely Bucks Fizz. Indeed, if life is one big, merry dance made up of moshers, ballroom, jivers, Steps-lite routines and High School Musical glee, then why not swirl it all together in one big cocktail of super-fun-happiness-yeah!

Now, mixing the rumba that is Halloween with the delicate ballet of Carrie sounds pretty cool – but tossing in the grooves of Saturday Night Fever!? That’s Prom Night for ya! No, not the shitty remake. That was akin to mixing ice cream with shit. We’re talking about the original, one of the earliest and most successful low-rent attempts to take what John Carpenter did, go to Canada, and add a bit more stab n’ drip to it.

As was the case in all of the stalk n’ slashers of olde, things begin in the past. Not 1732 or anything, but six years before the main section of the film. At a creepy old school, four kids are playing a macabre version of hide and seek they call ‘Killer’ – totally a riff on the formula. Along comes Kim and her younger siblings, boy/girl twins Robin and Alex (in matching stripy sweaters just to labour the point), who are, in no uncertain terms, told to go away by Kim’s classmate, Nick.

Kim and Alex continue in different directions while little Robin decides to take a closer look at the workings of the game of ‘Killer’, which culminates in the nasty little brats ganging up and scaring her until she takes a tumble backwards out of a window…to her DEATH!!!

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs - Prom Night has everything

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs – Prom Night has everything

The kids quite coldly under react and make a pact never to tell and the death is blamed on a handy mental patient who is then burnt by fire and incarcerated. Six years later – to the day, natch – Kim and Alex, now model teenagers and offspring to straight-laced Principal of Hamilton High, Leslie Nielsen (!), are prepping for the school’s senior prom, where Kim will be crowned queen along with her boyfriend… sister part-killer Nick! Complex, ay?

Being that Kim is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, we know she’s the final girl from the outset and, as usual, JLC delivers a great performance in spite of her worst slasher hair-do (including her looney-bin wire mop from Halloween: Resurrection). Nick (the late Casey Stevens) is the only participant in Robin’s death who seems to harbour any remorse. Two of the others, Kelly and Jude, are Kim’s best friends! You’d think they’d be smart enough to give her wide berth considering they killed her lil sis! But no, this is a slasher film and thus character sensibility has no place here!

Jude is the not-as-pretty girl who couldn’t get a prom date until porky wannabe-playa dork Slick turns up and inexplicably wins her affections. Kelly is the jittery chick who can’t work out whether or not she should let her pushy boyfriend enter unchartered territory. Then there’s Wendy, former ringleader of the guilty group, bratty then, mega bitch now…and clingy ex-girlfriend of Nick’s. Wendy therefore hates Kim and recruits school bad-boy Lou to organise a prom prank that will see them sabotage the crowning ceremony and humiliate Kim and Nick forever! Ooh, the melodrama! It’s just like an early incarnation of Degrassi Junior High.

...plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

…plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

Meanwhile, Kelly, Jude and Wendy have all received crank calls from a whispery fiend who says he’ll see them at the prom. Despite their past crime and some major hinting from the caller, none of the girls seem to take much notice of the warning. Nick blissfully misses his call altogether. Elsewhere, the man convicted of Robin’s murder has conveniently escaped from his mental insitution and murdered a nurse in doing so. The rent-a-shrink supposes he could return to town to seek revenge! There’s also the slow, drooling school custodian who turns up to stare at pretty young girls intermittently (especially when mooned) – is he more than just a red herring. Is he, huh?

The pieces are on the board, now it’s time for action! Yes, the prom finally begins and brings with it some much needed killing. It’s almost an hour’s wait for the debut murder, a vicious throat-cutting with a shard of broken glass. However, this horror pales when compared to the disco-dance scene when Kim and Nick decide to ‘show Wendy how it’s done’, cheered on by their evidently high classmates, the overlong sequence is overflowing with horrible moves that make the sugary routines in High School Musical look like funeral marches. Jamie Lee spins, twirls, makes bizarre Semaphore-like signals with her arms, and does this bizarre above-the-head clapping motion…

More sanely, Jude loses her virginity to the ironically-named Slick while Wendy and Lou scheme to hijack proceedings. Alas, the killer intervenes on both counts, doing away with the young lovers first and then chases Wendy for ages around the deserted school. It’s a great scene, the best in the film, and has rarely been matched in subsequent efforts, flawed only by the fact that ultimately we don’t get to see the film’s nastiest character buy it on screen, having to settle instead for hearing the thwacks of the ski-masked killer’s axe going into her head.

The piece de resistance of the killer crashing the prom proper and mistakenly beheading Lou instead of Nick is the sweet topping on this cheesecake. It leads to a disco-floor showdown between the ‘mystery’ killer, Nick, and Kim, which is almost as awkward as the dance scene from 20 minutes earlier, and backed by the same over-energised disco songs (“prom night / no more feeling uptight / everything is alright…”) that sound like the worst of ABBA covered by Alvin & The Chipmunks… Kim manages to subdue the fiend and the requisite unmasking occurs with heartbreaking results for her.

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Prom Night is essentially a nicely done revenger but leaves a few loose ends – some primary cast members disappear from the film completely with no explanation. The premise was echoed in I Know What You Did Last Summer seventeen years later, despite being based on a book written in 1973. It gains more from its cheesy composites than it loses, with a good cast playing mostly nice characters, Wendy’s great chase scene, the paperthin cloak n’ dagger act and the broadcast ‘thoughts’ of some of those involved. A lot of people don’t like Prom Night because it’s slow and not very wet with grue, and I’d like to say they’re WRONG! But my inner-Buddha democratic self will not allow it. For Vegan Voorhees, it doesn’t get better than disco NRG, an axe-wielding killer and Jamie Lee fucking Curtis – what more could there be!?

The sequels were variable and largely unconnected aside from Hamilton High’s presence in all four; #3: The Last Kiss is the best of which. The 2008 remake recycles only the brand name and general theme but was so watered down it doesn’t merit being affiliated with the franchise at all. It’s horror for 12-year-old girls, and an antithesis of its own genre.

Blurbs-of-interest: Curtis has made six slasher flicks altogether plus the TV series Scream Queens; Anne-Marie Martin, who played Wendy under the name Eddie Benton, has a tiny role in Halloween II and later wrote Twister with hubby Michael Crichton. Antoinette Bower (Curtis’ mom) was in peculiar Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song. Jeff Wincott is brother of Michael Wincott. Director Lynch also turned in Humongous the following year. Brock Simpson, who played Young Nick, appears in all four Prom Night movies in different roles (dying in 2 and 4).

THE BURNING

THE BURNING

3.5 Stars  1981/18/87m

“Don’t look – he’ll see you. Don’t breathe – he’ll hear you. Don’t move – YOU’RE DEAD!”

Director: Tony Maylam / Writers: Peter Lawrence & Bob Weinstein / Cast: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Carrick Glenn, Carolyn Houlihan, Ned Eisenberg, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter, Lou David.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “This guy is burned so bad, he’s cooked – a fucking Big Mac – overdone!”


Don’t you love that title? Say it aloud in a booming movie voice: “The BURRRR-NING!” Say it to your friends! Get them saying it! We’ll start a chant!

1981 is the year as far as slasher movie saturation is concerned. Halloween and Friday the 13th had set the rules, Prom Night and Terror Train had proved there was profit to be made by following the same template. Plenty of other films had returned the goods in the interim, some of them shamelessly ripping off their forerunners. Rumour has it that a couple of budget production companies were vying for the rights to the so-called ‘Cropsy Legend’, a summer camp tale to roast marshmallows to. The winning bid eventually came from a group of individuals who would later found Miramax – Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The other production later became Madman.

So, it’s a summer camp slasher movie then… Been there, seen that. Twice in as many years, in fact. Still, all is not lost. The Burning goes for the jugular, almost literally. By design, it seems, it was purely intended to push the bar in terms of bloodshed as far as it would go.

As usual, things kick off with a past-event trauma that sees summer camp janitor Cropsy turn from litter picker and hedge trimmer to teen-picker-offer and finger-trimmer; he’s accidentally set alight when a juvenile prank goes awry. Five years later, he’s finally released from hospital, hideously scarred (and for the time being, unseen), and more than a little angry at all things summer campy, teenagey, and fun. Kinda like your common or garden grandparent.

The Burning forces itself in a few different directions to its most obvious inspiration. There aren’t just horny teen counsellors at Camp Stonewater, no siree, it’s in full swing with proper campers. Because of this, the characterisations are quite interesting, with cliques and pranks galore. There are a couple of sexy girls, the boys who chase them, the requisite bully, the gorky kids, some skinny, some fat, some speaking with strong accents and there’s Alfred. Alfred (above right) is the nerd who nobody likes, doesn’t want to be there, but likes to perv on the girls. Here, The Burning plays around with our expectations, leading us to believing that we’ve met and bonded with our final girl – then the bastards kill her off first!

Cropsy has returned, conveniently right after his story was told around the campfire and he’s got a big pair of pruning shears to hack, slash and skewer those who have taken leave from the safety of the main camp for a couple of nights in sleeping bags. One camper down, when dawn comes and the counsellors – Todd and Michelle – discover her absence, they’re also informed that all of the canoes have mysteriously floated away as well… Five campers are elected to paddle back to camp on a makeshift raft to fetch assistance. Needless to say, they don’t make it. What occurs is easily among the most notorious slasher movie demises ever. The rickety raft comes upon a lone canoe and, attempting to retrieve it, find it’s occupied by Cropsy, who offs all five of them in thirty seconds flat.

The first time I saw The Burning I was not expecting this and nearly fell off my chair in shock at the uber-violence on display – and that was a cut version! Seriously, it’s pretty intense, even if the effects – Tom Savini’s – look a little ropey here and there. Bones are hacked, torsos stabbed and a young Fisher Stevens’ fingers are cut back to stumps. It’s gross. Really gross. Bleeeccchhh!!11!1!1!!!

After some respite, some Brandy and some crack, I felt composed enough to return to the film. Counsellors Todd and Michelle are a bit worried about the raft’s apparent disappearance while nasty bully Glazer finally gets his way with sexy Sally, unwisely beyond screaming distance from the rest of the campers. Now, slasher films ain’t particularly intelligent at the best of times but a nice touch in the script of The Burning is that the sex between Glazer and Sally is bad. She tells him as much, he apologises, she says OK and agrees to go again. It’s when he runs off for a condom that Cropsy puts in an appearance, shiny shears in hand…

While Sally is last seen trying to hold off the shears of DEATH, Glazer is followed back towards her by the ever-curious Alfred, for reasons unknown – maybe he woke with morning glory and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Instead of observing some spank bank material, Alfred watches while Glazer tries to wake a ‘sleeping’ Sally and gets those garden tools of doom right through the neck and is hoisted up and pinned to a nearby tree (below). Nice retribution for the camp asshole.

Alfred summons Todd who is duly clipped by the shears and rendered unconscious while Crospy goes for Alfred, resulting in a rather protracted and tedious chase through the woods to some random delapidated building in the middle of nowhere.

Elsewhere, the raft-of-salvation floats lazily back to the remaining campers who soon find it’s still got bits of their dead friends attached to it. Todd returns, hoping Alfred made it to safety, to witness the gruesome discovery and convince Michelle and the surviving campers – now traumatised beyond help in their pink dungarees and long socks – to use the raft-of-death to paddle back to camp for help.

Alfred is captured and trapped by Cropsy, who baits Todd into the gloominess of the inexplicably situated mine-thing for the big flamethrower-featuring showdown, where we get a look at the extent of the killer’s toasting and it transpires, flashback stylee, that Todd was one of the teens who caused THE BURNING (…use that voice again). After a struggle, Alfred frees himself and stabs Cropsy with his own shears, allowing Todd to embed an axe in his skull, resulting in a big spray of blood from his mouth.

The make-up for Cropsy is far beyond ridiculous. You might say he’d never be released from hospital in the first place, but, hey, this is the realm of the slasher movie and it’ll do what it wants. Things end with a new batch of campers hearing the story around the fire. Sequel? Nah, nobody’d survive that axe.

The Burning got cropped of most of its elaborate gore effects by the time it was released in the summer of ’81, incidentally one week after the startlingly similar Friday the 13th Part 2 was unleashed. Friday is far better and it’s sad to learn that Savini turned down that for this, but his work is the most intriguing thing about this little timekiller, which not only also features Jason Alexander – with a full head of hair, no less! – but also future Oscar-grabber Holly Hunter, both as campers, the latter with only about two lines of dialogue. If you can’t spot her, she’s Sophie, the one who shouts “hey Todd!” a moment before the raft-of-death discovery.

So why only a three-star rating? The Burning is distinctly lacking in something that makes the first two Fridays such great genre examples. Make no mistake, it’s a good film, one of the goriest on the list and surprisingly thoughtful at times. Perhaps it’s just too obvious that its primary concern is to make the audience cringe rather than root for the survivors? Or the Final Boy thing, which is a case of ‘Nice try…but no.’ There’s a cruel streak running through proceedings, borderline misogynistic, with the first camp victim singled out for a particularly spiteful demise, not to mention the luckless hooker who invites Cropsy upstairs after his release. Bizarrely, those responsible for his chargrilled condition were all boys… Maybe a kick-ass heroine would’ve bandaged some of these wounds. These minor complaints aside, it’s still essential viewing for genre aficionados.

**Edit** – I skimmed the DVD again and upped it to three-and-a-half stars, soft touch that I am.

It was finally released uncut on DVD in the UK in 2002 and the US in 2007, previously missing nine seconds of footage from various murder scenes.

Blurbs-of-interest: the editor Jack Sholder, directed both Alone in the Dark and Elm Street 2. Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman contributed the intense synthy score. Carrick Glenn (Sally) was in Girls Nite Out.

GRADUATION DAY

GRADUATION DAY

3 Stars  1981/18/92m

“The class of ’81 is running out of time!”

Director/Writer: Herb Freed / Cast: Christopher George, Patch MacKenzie, E. Danny Murphy, Michael Pataki, E.J. Peaker, Richard Balin, Carmen Argenziano, Virgil Frye, Beverly Dixon, Hal Bokar, Linnea Quigley, Denise Cheshire, Billy Hufsey, Tim Hintnaus, Carl Rey, Linda Shayne, Karen Abbott, Vanna White.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “You have lovely eyes. My sister had eyes like yours. She’s dead now.”


Back in 1996 I read a book called Games of Terror, one of only a few theoretical insights into stalker movies (as they were dubbed by the writer) and of the films briefed, I found all but Graduation Day within a couple of months – bearing in mind this is long before DVD back-catalogues. Hell, it was before DVD! Six gruelling months of trying to bag a copy, a local collector sold me his VHS tape for £9 (along with Madman) and I merrily skipped home for the premiere.

Graduation Day is one of those ‘meh’ films. Probably due to overexposure to lost classics of the period (Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Terror Train), or possibly the fact that the film is just a bit crud, finding things to like about it is a bit difficult.

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Proceedings begin in the usual way, with a past event trauma that spurs on the killer at a later date and gives him something to talk to the final girl about. In this instance, over the groove-tastic disco stomper that plays through the credits, a female track runner – Laura – sprints to glory before falling down dead. We’re later told this is down to a blood clot, but everybody else blames the track coach for pushing her too hard.

A couple of months later, Laura’s military ass-kickin’ big sis Anne returns from abroad to collect a special graduation award in the dead girl’s memory. Meanwhile, a black-gloved killer is stalking and slaying the other members of the track team, clocking in all murders at just thirty seconds, the same amount of time it took Laura to win her death race. First to go is big-headphones jogging girl (throat slashing), followed by moody gymnastical-girl (sword through the neck)…

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In between kills, our killer stops by his gym locker and draws a big red cross over the face of the most recent victim, working his way across the picture from left to right.

At this time, some other, less important characters (suspects!) are introduced. There’s Delores, played by bad movie fixture Linnea Quigley, who will do anything to pass her music class, including seducing the face-like-a-slapped-arse teacher. There’s also an affair going on between the principal and his secretary, which contributes nothing to the slashathon we’re anticipating. Leery campus cop MacGregor likes to clamp down on the dope smokin’ students and creep around in the trees and the despised track mentor Coach Michaels, whom everybody blames for the accident. Lastly, is Laura’s grieving boyfriend, Kevin, who is all sensitivity and broodiness. Hmmm…

grad7<<< That’s Anne. Anne is our final girl, although she looks a bit like a final drag queen, don’t you think? That’s a lot of makeup for a military recruit. Gasp! Maybe she’s hiding something!!

I digress… While the boring characters talk about graduation ceremonies n’ shit, the killer offs a few more budding athletes. The third murder is truly that old classic of homicide: the football with the sword protruding from it. That’s an American football, by the way, and Mr Killer tosses it back to its owner who catches it sharp-end first. Watch in awe as the sword-ball spins in slo-mo through the air, defying all laws of gravity and credence as it goes! There’s some time out for a song about graduation and a roller-disco that boasts a seven minute nu-wave rock song while another couple of kids are chased and murdered outside. Although decapitation may be preferential to skating in circles and listening to Felony’s ‘Gangster Rock’ 12″ extended rollerboogie remix. Actually, when I re-watched the film recently, I noticed that they actually sing the song three times on loop.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the interesting look that Felony employ:

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Fedora’s, lip-gloss, mascara and those double-guitar things. Yikes.

Morning comes and brings with it news of the missing teenagers, but the principal is more concerned with the logistics of the day and ignores it. A couple more deaths ensue and then a couple of squealy girls (one of them played by Wheel of Fortune letter-turner Vanna White; below) discover the body of moody gymnastical girl stuffed in a locker and blame falls on Coach Michaels, who’s just been given the boot over the whole Laura thing.

Vanna (right) as disco-clad squealy girl

Vanna (right) as disco-clad squealy girl

A right kerfuffle ensues and the killer’s identity is finally revealed, much to the surprise of nobody except the cast members and Anne is soon thrown into direct combat, which allows more corpses to swing out on doors, severed heads to be found on crash mats and the like…

Graduation Day is one mess of a film. There’s some nifty speed-cut edits thrown in but some simple shots are completed screwed up with demented high-speed zooming. It’s the film they should remake but probably never will. Amidst the bad scripting, some horrible acting and diabolical pacing problems, there are remnants of a good tale here, it’s just tangled up by the crowded supporting cast, many of whom aren’t required at all. If you wondered about the blonde girl who disappears early on without explanation (Diana), the actress was fired and replaced by Quigley for refusing to disrobe on screen.

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Director and scribe Herb Freed appeared in the 2006 documentary Going to Pieces to add a few tidbits about his film – the fact that he’s now a Rabbi may indicate he’s moved on. And if you’re wondering why I was so generous with my rating, I’m trying to justify the six months spent looking for the damn thing.

I want to be this person's best friend

I want to be this person’s best friend

Blurbs-of-interest: The make-up effects here were all courtesy of a woman (!), Jill Rockow, who later worked on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Boogeyman 2. Editor Martin Jay Sadoff worked on Friday the 13th‘s Part III and VII. Christopher George was in both Mortuary and Pieces. Michael Pataki appears as Dr Hoffman in Halloween 4. Carmen Argenziano was Dr Mendrakis in When a Stranger Calls and later turned up in Identity. George and Quigley turn up all over the place. Denise Cheshire, who played moody gymnastical-girl (or Sally), was the swimming double for the famous shark attack victim Chrissie Watkins at the beginning of Jaws.

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