Following on from the excessive brutality of Mil gritos tiene la noche (aka Pieces) and the festive fun of Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas, producing duo Stephen Minasian and Dick Randall turned their attention to the prank-gone-wrong formula with their 1986 effort Slaughter High. Originally titled April Fool’s Day, although the filmmakers would be forced to rename after Paramount released a film of the same name, the slasher spoof marked the feature debut for directorial team George Dugdale, Peter Mackenzie Litten and Mark Ezra. Although set in an American high school, the film was shot in London with a British cast who would sport fake accents, with many of the actors being far too old for their roles. In particular, Caroline Munro, who had previously appeared in the likes of Dracula A.D. 1972, The Spy Who Loved Me and William Lustig’s notorious Maniac, had just turned thirty six at the time of shooting.
Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) is the biggest nerd at Doddsville High. He has no friends, no style and no girl could possibly ever fancy him. He wears glasses, has greasy hair and lacks any self confidence. And if that is not enough, his birthday just happens to fall on April 1. So he thinks that luck is finally on his side when his sexy and popular classmate Carol Manning (Munro) takes an interest in him. Inviting him into the girls’ locker room for some hanky panky, Marty climbs into the shower and strips off, whilst Carol’s friends quietly sneak inside with cameras to shoot what is revealed to be a cruel practical joke. Suddenly, the curtain is pulled back and Marty finds himself naked in front of his class, who repeatedly shout ‘Where’s the beef?’ as they spray him before grabbing him by the ankles and dunking his head into the toilet bowl.
This caper has not gone unnoticed by the school coach (Marc Smith), who calls all of the perpetrators into the gym for punishment, whilst Marty heads off to the science lab to conduct his experiments. Determined to play one last joke on him, two of the boys, Ted Harrison (Michael Saffran) and Carl Putney (John Segal), catch him in the hallway and offer him a fake joint, which explodes and causes him to run to the toilet to throw up. Meanwhile, head prankster Skip Pollack (Carmine Iannaccone) sneaks into the lab and pours a powder into a beaker which he places onto a Bunsen burner. When Marty returns the beaker explodes and fire erupts across the table and up the side of a stack of shelves, where a bottle of Nitric Acid has been placed at the top. Unable to stop the fire in time, the bottle falls down and explodes as it hits the table, sending the acid into his face which makes him flammable. The rest of the class arrive in time to see him surrounding by flames and screaming in pain. The last they see of him is as he is taken away on a stretcher, his permanently scarred face covered in bandages.
Ten years later and Carol is a struggling actress, who is being forced by her sleazy producer, Manny (Randall in a tailor made role), to appear naked in a movie. Insistent that she does not want to be a part of it, she instead decides that she will attend her high school reunion, celebrating ten years since they left Doddsville High. When she arrives to meet up with her former classmates, they are surprised to discover that the only ones to have been invited were those responsible for the accident. After finding their old lockers full of high school memorabilia, the friends begin being picked off one-by-one by a psycho in a jester mask (the one which one of the bullies had worn on that fateful day), and soon they realise that Marty has come back for revenge. Carol, the only one to seem genuinely remorseful of what they had done to him, is the left to become the ‘final girl’ and is forced to try to stay one step ahead of the homicidal nerd.
Slaugher High has all the makings of a Troma movie. The acting is atrocious, the plot terrible and the cinematography is amateur at best. Whilst the score, performed by Friday the 13th regular Harry Manfredini, is adequate enough, there is an annoying theme tune that is constantly overused throughout the movie. Yet, much like the works of Troma (particularly Class of Nuke ‘Em High, which was produced around the same time), Slaughter High proves to be enjoyable enough that it can be forgiven for its shortcomings. Whilst the film never works as a serious horror film, it more or less succeeds as a slasher spoof, poking fun at the conventions and clichés of the genre whilst providing a few memorable kills of its own. A few in jokes are scattered throughout for those that care to notice, such as a brief appearance of a hockey mask (Minasian had been one of the investors for the original Friday the 13th), as well as a poster for Pieces on the wall of Manny’s office.
Whilst Munro is charismatic enough to provide a likeable lead, the star of the show is definitely Scuddamore, who hams it up as the nerdy Marty throughout the first act, before suddenly becoming a deranged slasher villain. What is the most tragic, however, is how Scuddamore proved to have been a wasted talent, as he would sadly take his own life soon after completing the movie, reportedly due to an intentional drug overdose. Slaughter High would be his only appearance, so horror fans will never know what else he was capable of. The remainder of the cast clearly have fun in their roles and for the most part the movie works as a satire on the genre and an example of camp eighties low budget horror, but as a serious slasher the scenes in between each kill are nothing more than killing time. Depending on what you expect from your slasher, you will either love or hate Slaughter High.