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Case Number 16151: Small Claims Court

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Slaughter High

Lionsgate // 1986 // 92 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // April 14th, 2009

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All Rise...

At Just-Say-"No" Camp, Appellate Judge Tom Becker learned to never slaughter high.

The Charge

Take a trip through the halls of horror!

The Case

One of the dumbest slashers of all time gets a sorry treatment from Lionsgate. But is it all bad news?

Slaughter High opens with a bold scene of a group of crazed high school teachers dragging a boy into a locker room and assaulting him. No…wait…those aren't supposed to be high school teachers, they're supposed to be high school students. They're just played by actors on the wrong side of 30—some more wrong than others.

OK, the real story: Carol (Carolyn Munro, Maniac), a sexy senior (student, not citizen), clumsily lures the dim but honor-rolled Marty (Simon Scuddamore) into the girls locker room for some high jinx. Yes, it's Marty the Geek, who apparently hasn't seen enough low-rent horror pics to realize that these things never end well.

Is Marty actually going to get to use that condom he's been toting around since the Reagan inauguration? No, it's just an April Fool's Day joke at the poor sap's expense. Marty is about to become yet another geek sacrificed at the altar of high school cool. The phony seduction bit is just the start of one of those pranks-gone-wrong—the number one killer of uncool teens during the '80s. Lucky for Marty, a passing coach catches and punishes the miscreants who had so shamed him; less fortunately, this just leads to an unbelievably drawn out "revenge" plan that results in the ill-fated Marty being "horribly disfigured." When the camera lovingly and endlessly focused on the instrument of Marty's misfortune—a bottle marked "Nitric Acid" perched atop a rickety shelf in the science lab—you'll have to wonder why such an accident didn't happen sooner.

Anyway, Marty's face gets melted off. Fast forward a few years, and that old gang of theirs is assembling for a class reunion. No one bats an eye that the reunion is scheduled for April Fool's Day or that it's taking place at the now-shuttered high school. If, unlike me, you're willing to overlook those lapses in judgment, consider that when they show up for the reunion in the afternoon and find the school locked up tight and obviously abandoned, they still sit around for three or four hours—until nighttime—before getting suspicious that this might be a prank. Even then, instead of calling it a day and heading for a bar, they decide to break into the uninviting building and poke around, finding senseless death and dismemberment at every turn.

As everyone knows, there are upsides to being doused with a caustic chemical and severely charred, including gaining superhuman strength and the ability to be in two places at a time. These accidents also seem to unlock psychic powers, so you know things in advance—like, that someone is going to take an impromptu bath in an incongruously placed tub in an abandoned high school, or a couple of paunchy former classmates will get horny in the face of annihilation and have sex on a conveniently discovered metal-framed bed. Since you have psychic powers, you have enough time to rig up the bed like ol' sparky and cause lye to pour out from the tub's faucet.

How many will suffer terrible physics-defying deaths to satisfy Marty's crazed April Fool's Day vengeance? Or is the whole thing just an elaborate prank? Will anyone walk out alive from…Slaughter High?

Well, if you've ever seen a slasher movie, particularly an '80's slasher movie, you can probably answer that question.

Now, I like '80's slasher movies. The worse they are—eye-gouging acting, ear-bleeding dialogue, brain-shattering logic—the more entertaining I find them. The badness of the film is usually exponentially related to its entertainment value. I found Slaughter High to be mightily entertaining.

By 1986, when Slaughter High came out, slasher movies were being released at a relentless and mind-numbing pace. The popularity of home video ensured that these films had some kind of a market. Slaughter High hits some nice nostalgia chords for the cheesy-minded, but on balance, it's a mediocre entry, its strengths lying in its weaknesses. From the way-over-age teens, to a lawsuit-inviting segment that rips off the calisthenics-as-punishment scene from Carrie (down to the music), to the profound stupidity of the characters to the surmounting of the odds to get in gratuitous nude scenes, to the synth-pop score by Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th), to the spit-and-ketchup effects to the schlock-shock ending, Slaughter High makes a strong argument for the Reagan years having really been a simpler—or at least more simple-minded—time.

Slaughter High is being released through Lionsgate as part of the "Lost Collection"—films from the '80s that you might not remember existed. Usually, when low-budget stinkers get "lost," there's a reason, and I can't recall any consumer clamor for a definitive edition of Slaughter High or its "lost" brethren, including Hiding Out, Homer and Eddie, and Morgan Stewart's Coming Home. But as I often say—ruefully—if it means getting more stuff "out there," then sure, create a completely useless DVD line.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with these lines, the product is not exactly top-notch. Slaughter High sports a full-frame transfer that looks like it was taken from a DVD source. Seriously, the picture looks like hell. Audio is not much better, but at least we get subtitles (in English and Spanish). For extras, we get the trailer and useless trivia track that you can run instead of the subtitles. Every now and again, old cheapies like this get special edition releases with nice transfers and commentary tracks—Alice, Sweet Alice, Brain Damage, Strange Behavior, Boardinghouse, and Patrick, to name but a few. There's something heartening about putting that extra bit of effort into a niche release. Too bad Lionsgate doesn't think the same way.

For what's it worth, we get the unrated cut here, which I'm guessing means another second or two of the aforementioned and much appreciated gratuitous nudity—or maybe it's the unexpectedly naked character at the beginning of the film that would have cost this an R.

The Verdict

Slaughter High is a dreadful slasher, but since I get a kick out these things, I enjoyed it. The quality of the film and the presentation are sub-par, but if cheesy '80's slasher is your thing, dig in. For the rest of the world, this is one guilty disc.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Unrated
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Trivia Track
• Trailer


• IMDb

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