Lionsgate // 1989 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // October 19th, 2007
Righty-tighty or lefty-loosey?
The 31 Days of Halloween can really take a toll on a person.
I'm referring, of course, to the movie geek ritual of watching a different horror film every night in October. Most of us don't make the full 31, but we give it a shot. The best films -- for instance, The Innocents, The Haunting, and, of course, the original Halloween -- get saved for the end of the month.
Trying to combine business with obsession, I've been reviewing some horror for DVD Verdict; unfortunately, Alex de Large had a better time watching movies in A Clockwork Orange than I've had watching some of these direct-to-video titles. My latest shot at cutting corners was viewing Cutting Class, a last-gasp, late-'80s slasher notable for an early appearance by one (William) Brad(ley) Pitt (Troy).
Young Brad plays Dwight, a lunkhead high-school jock who might be a killer. He is dating Marlo Thomas sound-alike Paula (Jill Schoelen, Popcorn), who might be a victim. They are both classmates of Brian (Donovan Leitch, I Shot Andy Warhol), who was just released from a mental institution, where he was confined for offing his father, so we know he, at least, has been a killer. There are other people who might be killers or victims, including the principal (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes) and the janitor (Robert Glaudini, Parasite).
It's not until late in the film that the characters realize that there have even been any killings. People just disappear, and no one really thinks twice about it. The audience, of course, knows otherwise. We've already seen a handful of mundane and largely bloodless murders.
The good news is that Cutting Class doesn't take itself seriously and plays more like a teen-slasher movie parody. The bad news is that it's not particularly funny or scary.
It definitely has its charms, especially when compared to the recent spate of dtv horrors I've seen. The look is bright and colorful, like an Afterschool Special, and there's a forgettable rock score that, like Brad's red-striped high-top Adidas and straight-leg jeans, plants it firmly in the Reagan-Bush years. The characters are fairly innocuous high-school types -- Brad drinks a lot of beer and drives too fast, but the kids are respectful to their elders, concerned about their grades, etc. The adults are the kind of silly caricatures made popular in Grease, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and hundreds of other such films. There's also a nice little plot twist tossed in around two-thirds of the way that keeps you guessing for a couple of minutes.
Ultimately, though, a weak script sinks this one. The film really doesn't go anywhere you haven't been before, and it takes the least interesting route to get there. The high-school satire is not pointed or original enough to sustain a feature-length running time, and a recurring bit about a character who is injured, but not killed, seems like it belongs in another film. The killings are not particularly suspenseful or graphic and involve randomly chosen characters we don't care much about anyway. When we do get an explanation as to why the killer killed, it's incredibly lame and doesn't tie things together in a satisfying way.
If you had to take bets on which actor would go on to bigger things, Mr. Pitt would be a distant second to the appealing Jill Schoelen. She has a great sense of timing and a nice natural quality that neither Pitt nor Leitch, in their underwritten roles, display here.
This edition is billed as the Unrated Version. Were it assigned a rating, I'm guessing it would be PG-13. There is one brief and completely gratuitous shot of a woman's breasts and some laughably poor gore effects. This is the kind of movie where we see a close-up of someone wielding a sharp object, then a cut to said object embedded in another character, with some sticky-looking red goop applied.
The disc sports an adequate, if uninspired, transfer and audio track. For extras, we get the usual round-up of trailers for other Lionsgate films.
Cutting Class is not bad or cheesy enough to have camp value, and it's not interesting enough to work as a slasher. It's intermittently entertaining, though, and won't have you cursing yourself for hitting the "play" button.
An early choice for the 31 Days.
Guilty of minor crimes.
Review content copyright © 2007 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated