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Review: Student Bodies (1981)

Reviewer: Michael Sarago


We open on the night of Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday. Someone approaches a house, breathing heavily. Inside, a telephone rings and a lonely blonde babysitter cheerfully answers, bringing us into familiar slasher movie territory. On the other end is her friend (and lead character) Toby Badger, who wastes no time revealing herself as the bookworm virgin by giving her answers to history class questions. When Toby is invited over to the house for some fun, she immediately turns down the offer, of course, and exclaims “You better be careful! Sometimes when a person acts wild and crazy, well, wild and crazy things happen to them.” Words of wisdom, my friends. But does the blonde babysitter take the advise? Of course not. Soon enough, her boyfriend enters the house and both are inevitably murdered with a very odd choice of weaponry. So begins the silly slasher parody, Student Bodies.

At the proceeding funeral of the recently deceased students, the creepy school janitor makes no effort to be subtle, warning everyone that sex kills. And Toby couldn’t agree more. Being the über virgin that she is, she firmly believes that sex is “bad and dirty” and wants absolutely nothing to do with it, which is made abundantly clear by the numerous pins of protest attached to each layer of her clothing (with a final pin strategically attached to her bra, which reads “For the last time, I said NO!”). But her strong morals soon prove problematic as she finds herself the lead suspect when more of her friends bite the dust while in lurid sexual acts. With no other choice, Toby decides to take it into her own hands to follow the clues and catch the killer before it’s too late.

By the year 1981, the world has already been exposed to the slasher genre with classics like Black Christmas, Halloween and Friday the 13th. But at such an early stage in the slasher craze, Student Bodies comes as quite a surprise as it spoofs the genre reasonably well. Writer/director Mickey Rose, who was a previous collaborator on a few Woody Allen films, provides plenty of wacky circumstances using the silly parody style made popular by Airplane and the like. The plot here is as simple as can be, leaving intricate storylines out of the picture and focusing on nothing more than slasher movie low points. All of the victims, none of whom can think above the belt, are portrayed in an over-the-top fashion and somehow manage to be dumber and hornier than humanly possible. Whenever opportunity knocks (which is anywhere, anytime), these teens find someplace to sneak off to and have sex, at which point the killer appears, ready to shed some blood.

The spoofing, however, doesn’t end with the victims. Known only as The Breather (for obvious reasons), the killer is also so much of a cliché that even he can’t help but poke fun at his odd behavior. At one point, he asks himself “Why do they always run away from me? It’s the galoshes! They’re a dead giveaway. Why do I wear them? It’s not even raining!” And to make things funnier, throughout the film we’re provided with text pop-ups that reveal important plot points and idiocies like unlocked doors, suspects and the body count among other things.

Although you’ll most likely find yourself laughing for the better part of the film, there’s also a fair amount of jokes that fall horribly flat. The style of humor tends to get overly corny and doesn’t quite hold up to today’s standards very well. As it reaches the final act, it really begins to lose steam and becomes rather stale. And even though it’s a parody that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, the ending was just a bit too lame and felt very awkward and out of place. It was almost as though the filmmakers were on a tight schedule and filmed a random ending at the last minute just to wrap things up and move on. But, that being said, having a love for the slasher genre will make it pretty difficult not to enjoy this little gem. Being released so early in the game and being the first of it’s kind, Student Bodies deserves a lot more credit and recognition. It surely has it’s flaws but also contains plenty of funny and memorable material that’ll keep you quoting this film long after it’s over. This is a must have for any slasher movie collection.



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