I don’t know what the hell has happened to Fangoria.com lately but I do still trust the word of longtime scribe for the mag, Michael Gingold. Being a super-duper SLAUGHTER HIGH fan it was less his comments about the quality of the film that reached me, but those about the quality of the DVD.
Video transfer? I can live with that. Video is not a dirty word in my household. But the pop-up track idea was awkward yet full of possibility – possibility squandered, according to Gingold. A damn shame, too, all Lionsgate had to do was pluck someone from Retro Slashers to do the writing and it would have been a far better affair!
Unless you’re a die-hard slasher completist, it’s understandable if SLAUGHTER HIGH is, as stated on the case of its “Lost Collection” Lionsgate DVD edition, one of those “movies you totally forgot about.” And if you do happen to recall catching it during its very brief theatrical release or via VHS from Vestron back in the day, well, it’s pretty much as goofy as you remember.
This very late-in-coming entry in the 1980s slasher cycle (completed in 1985 but not released till a couple of years later) starts with a protracted prologue in which high-school misfit Marty (Simon Scuddamore in oversized dork glasses) is tormented by his cruel 20- and 30something classmates, until one of their pranks ends with him being horribly burned. Cut to an undisclosed amount of time later, when one of those students, Carol (Caroline Munro), is now an actress turning down a sleazy movie offer from her agent, played by SLAUGHTER producer Dick Randall. (Would that Munro had followed her character’s lead…) Instead, she heads off to a reunion at the old school with her old friends, all of them now “grown up” but not looking appreciably older.
Fans of the form will immediately know, of course, that the get-together has been staged by the deranged, vengeance-seeking Marty—though why, if he’s so thirsty for payback, he makes it so hard for his would-be victims to get into the building (it’s all locked up when they arrive), goes unexplained. Anyway, they eventually do get in and, after much wandering through darkened halls, arrive at a well-lit room decked out for a party. Cue the beer-drinking, drug-taking, splitting up for sex and other good reasons and a Harry Manfredini score comprised of borrowed riffs from his classic FRIDAY THE 13TH compositions combined with cheesy synthesizer noodlings.
The blood soon flows freely, though not quite as freely as some viewers may expect or hope given that this is the “Uncut Version.” The only scene that might challenge an R today involves a naked woman burned to death via acid in a bathtub, a setpiece that also challenges credibility for those who might wonder why she doesn’t just clamber out. They might also ponder why murderous Marty dons a jester costume, whose jingling bells would seem to preclude the possibility of sneaking up on potential victims. A good deal of SLAUGHTER HIGH, the brainchild of no less than three writer/directors (George Dugdale, Mark Ezra and Peter Litten, the latter of whom also oversaw the makeup FX), is over-the-top enough in its embrace of the subgenre’s clichés—with acting that follows suit—that it almost, but not quite, suggests that the whole thing is intended as a sendup. Those who enjoy the camp value of nuggets of nostalgia like this might derive a certain amount of amusement from it anyway.
They shouldn’t let the “Uncut Version” status lead them to believe a video restoration has been undertaken here, though: the fullscreen picture has the appearance of a VHS transfer, complete with attached Vestron logo. There’s also a vintage trailer that once again, while played straight, today suggests a satire on the order of Eli Roth’s THANKSGIVING from GRINDHOUSE. And what’s supposed to be the key extra, an optional subtitled “trivia track,” is a great disappointment. Playing out very sporadically, and largely as a series of multiple-choice and true-or-false questions, it’s barely concerned with the movie for about the first 20 minutes, instead dealing with factoids about brassieres, gymnastics and bunsen burners. When Marty is given some reefer and the viewer is hit with, “A ‘joint’ commonly contains what drug?” you may find yourself wondering who wrote this stuff, and who it was intended for.
Finally, the queries get around to SLAUGHTER HIGH itself (testing your ability to recognize its plot as being ripped off from CARRIE), but things don’t improve much. All the info here seems to have been gleaned from a quick study of the movie’s IMDb pages, and the debt to that site is revealed when the potential answers to one name-that-title question include “DER NAME DER ROSE.” Potentially interesting subjects go ignored—surely there’s a reason two different onscreen characters insist that “April Fool’s Day ends at noon”—and the assertion that 1989’s CUTTING CLASS was a “spin off” of HIGH is just plain wrong (despite a German DVD release suggesting a connection). By the time lone survivor Carol is being endlessly pursued by the villain and the track is challenging your knowledge that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD doesn’t have a “final girl,” it’s clear that this feature is aimed at people who are far from dedicated stalker-film devotees. But who else would pick up this disc in the first place?