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Review: Return To Horror High (1987)

Reviewer: Erik The Red


In 1982, Crippen High School was the scene of a series of brutal, savage murders. The homicidal maniac who committed the crimes was never caught. 5 years later, a low-budget film company attempts to film the true story of what happened in the very high school the murders occurred in. Not surprisingly, things get very bloody.

Right from the opening scene in which local police discover 7 (or was it 8?) dismembered bodies strewn about the campus, we know not all is what it seems at Crippen High. The film’s writer (Richard Brestoff) is the lone survivor, and tells the tale of what happened to his crew in a series of flashbacks, intercutting what happened 5 years earlier to the events during the film production. The film-within-a-film concept is used throughout, many times with a violent murder being interrupted with a “Cut!” or other crew involvement. Oh…it’s not real, it’s just a movie! Or is it?

One of the detriments of Return to Horror High is the fact that it simply doesn’t know exactly what type of movie it wants to be, and tries too hard to be too many different things at once: a horror comedy, a whodunit, a straight-up slasher film, etc. It’s obvious there were many writers involved (It was four, by the way). There are also an abundance of abandoned sub-plots and quite frankly, some scenes that will leave you scratching your head in confusion. Some of the in-jokes and self-referential material would later be used more effectively in films like Scream, but it’s obvious that that co-writer/director Bill Froehlich was definitely trying to do something different with this one, even if it was a bit too much at times. And speaking of Scream, check out the killer’s long black outfit and white mask. Looks a little familiar, no?

Return to Horror High sports an eclectic cast of performers, including a group of former television stars (The Brady Bunch’s Maureen McCormick, Phillip McKeon from Alice and Ben Casey himself, Vince Edwards) Alex Rocco as the fast-talking, sleazy producer, and a brief appearance by future ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ George Clooney as an arrogant young actor whose prickish ways get him offed in the first 10 minutes. Oops, did I give that one away? It’s doesn’t really matter, trust me.

While not a splatter flick, there are enough decapitated heads and dismembered limbs to satisfy all but the most jaded gore hounds, and the scene where the science teacher gets his well-deserved comeuppance and is dissected frog-style is the flick’s gross-out highlight. There are lots worse ways to spend 94 minutes, and aside from the brain-numbing plot twists and severely open-ended climax, Return to Horror High actually has some really great moments and is a fine addition to any slasher fan’s library.



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