Slaughter High (UK DVD)
Directed by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Litten,
Distributed by Arrow Video
If there’s one particular legacy that the 1980’s holds within the horror genre, it’s the slasher film. With the success of Friday the 13th kick-starting an infernal machine of quick and nasty body count flicks – some looking to shock and impress, others to make a rapid cynical buck – audiences of the decade were inundated with endless casts of young people just waiting to end up at the business end of their stalkers’ weapons of choice. Many were great, others were just plain crap, and a few managed to straddle the in-between with enough craziness to become genuine curios. Slaughter High is one of those films.
Originally entitled April Fool’s Day before having that moniker stolen from it by another production in the same year, Slaughter High opens on the aforementioned day with a bunch of jocks and their wenches playing a cruel practical joke on the high school nerd, Marty Rantzen (Scuddamore). Believing he’s about to engage in steamy coitus in the shower rooms with the gorgeous Carol (Munro), he quickly finds himself at the receiving end of some particularly nasty bullying. Not only is he filmed naked in the shower, prodded with a javelin, given a swirly, electrocuted when reaching for a towel, and made violently sick by some fake weed he’s given but they also see fit to fuck with a science experiment he takes off to complete.
Well, of course, fucking with science experiments never goes well and poor Marty ends up with his head covered in acid and trapped in a burning room, while his tormentors stare on with expressions like they’re watching their parents engage in scatological sex play. Fast-forward 10 years to the day, and those involved receive invitations for a high school reunion. After they arrive, it quickly becomes apparent that they are the only invitees, and their host is one hideously scarred, pissed off Marty hell bent on bloody vengeance.
A basic body count flick if ever there was one, Slaughter High’s Marty-fodder are an entirely unlikable bunch of complete and utter assholes, and making it through the first half of the film will likely be a chore for many. Before the killing starts, performances (apart from the impressively genuine Scuddamore) generally range from just passable to utterly unbridled with an explosion of horribly cheesy dialogue and theatrical shaking-head screams. It’s hard to hate it, though, as it all so distinctively ‘80s – think back to Fright Night, and how almost quintessential of the decade Stephen Geoffreys’ delivery of the “You’re so COOL, Brewster, I can’t stand it!” line is. Well, they pretty much all speak like that here. Constantly. All of this comes together in such a way that you can’t help but wonder if you’re actually watching an outright parody of the genre rather than a more subtly tongue-in-cheek approach.
Once the deaths begin and Marty shows up sporting a pretty creepy jester mask, Slaughter High begins to get a lot more interesting, and a lot more mean-spirited. Exploding intestines, hanging, some electrifying sex and even a gruesome acid bath are just some of the ways these bullies are offed, and as the finale approaches we’re even treated to a couple of effective shocks and tense stalk sequences. Ultimately, everything culminates in a totally nutso psychedelic blood-spewing zombie nightmare sequence complete with massive hair, and lighting and costuming straight out of a Billy Idol music video. The embedded schizophrenia throughout means it isn’t particularly hard to tell that multiple directors had the reigns here; yet despite the ups and downs, horrible dialogue and ropey acting, the out-there spirit and mix of playful and mean natures in Slaughter High help it remain endearing. It could never be accused of ranking among the most solid entries of the decade, but it’s definitely one that fans of the slasher-factory ‘80s will have some fun with.
Arrow Video’s DVD presentation of Slaughter High comes with a fully uncut transfer (with the title 1 April Fool’s Day), and the staggering amount of special features that you see below. Two different audio commentaries offer very different takes on the film with the first featuring co-director Mark Ezra filling in a huge amount of info from the filmmaker’s perspective, and the second being a more energetic and fun approach with star Caroline Munro, journalist/critic Calum Waddell and DVD World editor Allan Bryce. Mark Ezra also appears in a circa 11-minute interview with more information on the film’s inception and early production. Fans of scream queen Munro will lap up the next piece, as she discusses her career across the genre from Slaughter High to Maniac to working with Jess Franco, and more. A trailer rounds off the on-disc extras.
You’ll also notice plenty of physical extras from Arrow on this edition in the list below, however they were not included with the review copy. Still, it’s another huge amount of effort to create extra materials for a film that could easily be argued as undeserving of such treatment. Kudos to them for that with an easy 4 knives gained.
3 out of 5
4 out of 5
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