Monday, April 20, 2009

Slaughter High (1986)

Reviewed By: Billy

When it comes right down to it, most slasher maniacs are nothing more than big babies. Think about it – they’re almost always out for revenge over something that wasn’t that big of a deal to start with. Take my brother’s counterpart, Jeremy Melton, in Valentine, who essentially goes on an extended killing spree because a few girls turned him down at a middle school dance. And what about the murderous nerd in Terror Train, who plots an entire revenge scheme that includes dressing in drag and getting his victims onto a barreling locomotive just because he was tricked into cuddling with a corpse. Hell, even the Vorhees family could be accused of overreacting; why did Jason’s mother go on a revenge-inspired killing spree when her son was never really dead in the first place?

With this in mind, Marty Rantzen in Slaughter High might, at first glance, seem justified in his murderous night of payback. The unwitting victim of a high school lab prank, Marty the nerd ends up getting half his face eaten off by Nitric acid. Sure, this totally sucks – but let’s dissect the situation even further. The “popular” kids (a motley crew of actors believable as high-schoolers like I’m believable as one) set it up so Marty’s little lab experiment will go up in flames. Yeah, that’s not very nice…but once his lab table’s on fire, does Marty go running for help? Nope. He doesn’t even run out of the room, period. Instead, he starts whimpering and shaking the desk back and forth, until the jar of acid comes crashing down on his face. Now I ask you…whose fault is this disfigurement really?

So in Slaughter High we have another big baby who tracks down his former classmates for a night of hellish fun. And thankfully for Marty, rounding up the old gang is apparently as easy as writing up a phony invitation for their 5-year reunion. Umm…shouldn’t receiving an invite for a 5-year reunion be a red flag? What high school class on earth is ready to see each other again that soon? And the fact that they arrive to a deserted old building that’s locked up doesn’t seem to arouse their suspicions either (apparently the high school closed down immediately after the accident…and in five years has somehow accrued the kind of wear and tear most buildings exhibit after a good half-century of vacancy). In fact, within minutes of breaking into the old school, they’re pounding back beers and snorting up cocaine, ignoring the fact that signs of crazy old Marty are everywhere.

Speaking of our victims…this is probably a good time to mention that Slaughter High features perhaps the most unattractive cast of characters since Felissa & company packed their bags for Camp Arawak. The majority of actors here are British and appear to be pushing forty, which makes their attempts at portraying college-aged American kids a real pleasure to watch. Horror stalwart Caroline Munro is our quote-unquote final girl; sporting crazy black feathered hair and wearing what appears to be a bedsheet cinched at the waist with a WWE Championship belt, Caroline makes absolutely no attempt whatsoever to come across as either young or American, except for an early scene in which she adopts a vaguely New York accent…which then disappears as soon as she tackles the word “weird” (which comes out something like this: “wiiiiiiiiiiiiid").

Anyway, being that Marty was a lab nerd, we should expect that he’s at least a creative killer…and he is. One guy chugs a chemical-laced beer and ends up with swollen intestines busting through his stomach…and a few scenes later some girl’s flesh melts away while taking a bath (yes…this high school had a bathtub in the locker-room…didn’t yours?). The best death scene comes, naturally, during sex. Even after seeing two of their friends killed, Frank and Stella (an alarmingly out-of-shape couple who, if they really are in their early 20s, seriously need an intervention) sneak upstairs for a little hanky-panky, which ends in one hell of an orgasm when Marty sends an electric current shooting through the bed (and yes...this high school also had a wrought-iron bed...didn't yours?).

Finally, our wicked Mr. Wizard finishes knocking off this posh group of Brits…er, I mean, red-blooded American kids...and our little “eye for an eye”-sore is complete. Except…it’s not. From here, Slaughter High dissolves into one of the most insane slasher climaxes since Nancy’s mom got yanked through the window in A Nightmare On Elm Street; the final five minutes consist of all the victims coming back from the grave as zombies before Marty wakes up in a hospital, dresses up like a nurse, and stabs a doctor in the eye. Oh, and then he starts pulling his own skin off. I’m not really sure if this was time padding…or maybe the fact that the movie is credited to THREE different writer/directors. Anyway, it makes no sense, which is fitting since nothing that precedes it makes any sense, either.

There are a lot of reasons to enjoy Slaughter High; I liked Harry Manfredini’s score, which is a note for note rehash of his Friday the 13th work plus a faux-rock theme song featuring the lyrics “April Fool’s Day” and repetitious maniacal laughter. It’s also hard not to like a movie that dares to give us a full-frontal shower shot not of our leading lady…but of our nerdy killer! That’s real bravery, folks…I mean, Jason and Freddy were never man enough to disrobe for the camera.

Was this movie the lost slasher classic I’d been hoping it would be? Not really. But it is an overall enjoyable 90-some minutes…so, cheers to that. Or, as our “American 20-somethings” might say…Cheerio to that!



  1. I just recently rediscovered the coverart for this movie: "Marty Majored in Cutting Classmates." Priceless.

  2. You look like you're on an 80's cheesy slasher roll over here. :)

    God, I love/hate it.

  3. Becky: Yes...the poster for this movie is CLASSIC. It's actually much better than the movie itself...sadly the case with so many 80s movies...

    The M'Hael: Yes, we're loving/hating it too!

  4. HA! Great review, this one just got released on DVD, didn't it? Another from the glory days of shitty slashers that has slipped through my fingers. Must pick it up, soon!

  5. yeah, what is up with these incredible posters that i would hang on my walls as if they were family photos? and then these sloppy movies that have nothing to do with what's promised on the cover...oh sad day

  6. Johnny:
    Yeah, came out on DVD about a week ago. I picked it up for 10 bucks, and I'm not sorry I paid for it...I'd been looking for it for awhile.

  7. Since you commented on my review, I must do it for yours. I totally agree with everything you wrote here. These actors were ugly [except for Munro], old, and really stupid. That sex scene still cracks me up everytime I think about it. And who in the hell takes a bath in a high school bath tub [?] after someone is murdering their friends? So ridiculous! But then again, I guess that was the point and it sure entertained the hell out of me.

    If my 10th year High School reunion is anything like this, I'd be cool with it. Beer sounds great about now...

  8. Fred,
    I agree -- the only way I'd agree to a 10-year reunion is if I was promised someone's gut would explode from beer.

  9. I have a soft spot for "Slaughter" that mainly stems from my appreciation for the creepy ass decrepit school setting.And Marty's jester mask.

    Improbabilities like the "kids" having access to an electrified rod with a gauge that measures just how badly a fucker is getting fried are beside the point.