• Slaughter High



    Released by: Lionsgate/Vestron Video
    Released on: October 31st, 2017.
    Director: George Dugdale/Peter Litten/Mark Ezra
    Cast: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross, Billy Hartman
    Year: 1986
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    The Movie:

    This 1986 production is one of those uniquely eighties era horror/comedy hybrids that has managed to develop quite a cult following over the years thanks to its omnipresence as a popular VHS rental. But is it a good movie? Not so much good in the traditional sense, but it sure is a lot of fun.

    When the movie begins on April 1st, we meet Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore, who apparently committed suicide shortly after the movie was released), the local high school science nerd who is perpetually picked on by the typically dumb jocks who seem to rule the school. Foxy Carol Manning (Caroline Munro) pretends to have the hots for poor Marty and leads him to the girls' locker room where he gets naked in the shower stall. Of course, Carol's friends all come in with a camcorder and videotape the poor naked nerd as a few of the jocks dunk the poor sonuvabitch into the toilet. The coach comes in and puts a stop to it, though nothing is really done about it. Later that day, two of the jocks give Marty a joint, which he puffs from while working in the lab only to find out it's got something in it. He gets sick from it and runs to the bathroom to puke. When this happens, one of the jocks, Skip Pollack (Carmine Iannaconne), puts some powder into Marty's experiment which winds up blowing up in his face. As he reels from the jolt, a bottle of acid falls off of a shelf and lands on poor Marty's face, sending him to the hospital where he was the recipient of some skin grafts.

    Five years later, there's a class reunion. Or so it seems. All of the jocks that picked on poor Marty are invited back to the school on the night before April Fool's day. Nobody else is there, except for the old caretaker who tells the kids to look around all they want but not to start any fires. He also tells them the old school is going to be torn down soon. The invitees all indulge in some drink, drugs and sex, all the while a man in a jester's mask is hunting them down and killing them off in some increasingly nasty ways...

    Borrowing heavily from Brian De Palma's Carrie only played with tongue placed firmly in cheek, Slaughter High is pretty goofy stuff. Shot in England doubling for the U.S.A., some of the actors let their accents sneak in a couple of times. The low budget effects work is surprisingly effective but the acting is pretty terrible across the board and the dialogue is even worse. The film doesn't have much in the way of logic going for it, and for some reason the stalkees decide that they'll be okay if they can only make it to noon, because Marty's killing them for April Fool's Day and April Fool's Day ends at noon (???). It's fun to see Caroline Munroe running around in a loose fitting top and a nifty cameo from producer Dick Randall (with a Pieces poster displayed proudly on the wall behind him) is great, but there's nothing here that's in the least bit frightening. The film is pretty much completely devoid of tension or suspense.

    A couple of kill scenes are creative - a poisoned can of Pabst Blue Ribbon results in an intestinal explosion and the scene in which a woman's skin is melted off in the bathtub is rather keen. A couple of completely unnecessary nude scenes add some exploitative seediness to the picture. The movie, as presented on this Blu-ray, is in its unrated form meaning that the gore scenes and nudity are all intact, as they should be. None of that helps the bad acting, bad dialogue, cliché ridden script or ridiculous logic gaps, but why would you want it to? This isn't high art, this is a cheap horror movie called Slaughter High and as bad as it is in a lot of way, it delivers just what you want from it. Think of it as cinematic junk food – it’s light on substance but it tastes good and sometimes you’re just in the mood for cheap thrills, splattery gore and goofy acting.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Slaughter High arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray disc with the feature taking up just over 21GBs of space. Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer, the picture pretty good, definitely better than the DVD version that came out a few years ago (which was fullframe and taken from a tape master). This new presentation is taken from a proper film source and it’s a nice improvement. Detail is generally quite nice if not quite reference quality. The colors look nice and natural here, skin tones as well, and we get a nice uptick in depth and texture. Black levels are solid and contrast looks just fine. There are a few spots where the compression could be better but thankfully these are the exception and not the rule. There are minor white specks evident throughout and the odd small scratch here and there but no major print damage to note.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Again, this is a noticeable upgrade over the DVD which sounded flat and fairly weak. Dialogue is much cleaner and clearer than before and the chaotic finale that takes place towards the end of the film has a lot more punch now. This makes that scene a bit more effective. At the same time, the levels stay balanced so that the effects don’t bury the performers. The film’s score has good bounce to it but never overpowers the dialogue and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with co-writers/directors George Dugdale and Peter Litten, moderated by Michael Felsher. They start off by talking about how eerie the old school asylum that they shot the part of the movie in really was – parts of it, they wouldn’t even go into! They then talk about how they came to make the picture with Mark Ezra after the success of the Friday The 13th movies, how the film was originally to be called April Fool’s Day, who did what on set (everyone basically chipped in where they were needed), having to re-write parts of the picture when the effects work was late, the cost involved in doing more than one take, what various cast members have been up to since the picture was made and how they managed to get some of those performers in the first place. They also talk about the toils of making a non-union film in the United Kingdom, constant budgetary issues that they ran up against, the effectiveness of the score, the film’s distribution history and quite a bit more. This track is not only quite interesting, but often times genuinely hilarious – Dugdale and Litten have got great senses of humor and are an absolute blast to listen to.

    Up next is an audio interview with composer Harry Manfredini moderated once again by Felsher who notes that they tried to find the master tapes for the score itself but came up empty. Regardless, the music is still included here – the first time that it has been commercially available – sourced from a mono music and effects only audio track (basically a track made without dialogue for foreign territories that might want to dub the film). This means that you do hear the sound effects over the score, but regardless, it’s great to have this option included. As far as the interview goes, it starts with Manfredini talking about how he got started composing for films, how his education tied into this, the importance of his work on Friday The 13th and his thoughts on composing for horror pictures in general. He then goes on to speak about how he came to work on Slaughter High, what he tried to bring to the project and what his experiences were like working on the picture. The interview runs up to approximately the twenty-four minute mark at which point the score takes over.

    Going to Pieces is a nineteen minute long featurette with co-writer/director Mark Ezra who talks about making his first movie as a kid with his sister and how he got hooked, went to film school and then wound up working in the business. He then talks about how and why he wound up working with George Dugdale and Peter Litten and what that experience was like, the importance of meeting Dick Randall, how they tried to cash in on the slasher craze that was lighting up the box office at the time, who wrote what and came up with the murder set pieces, how they wound up casting some Americans who were in the UK attending school, how Munro wound up in the picture, the locations that were used in the shoot, an amusing interaction with Telly Savalas and quite a bit more. Interesting stuff! After that, check out My Days At Doddsville, in which actress Caroline Munro spends just under fifteen minutes talking about she came to appear in the film. She talks about her appearances in Hammer projects and her affinity for horror film, her thoughts on the story, working with the three member writer/director team and the challenges that are inherent in that, and how George Dugdale, who she was romantically involved with and would soon marry, was quite hard on her during the shoot! She also talks about the fact that she was quite a bit older than the other performers in the movie, her thoughts on their work and how everyone in the cast was very supportive of one another. Munro has a great memory and always comes across like a genuinely nice person (if you’ve ever met her in real life, you’ll get the same vibe). Her stories and memories here are quite interesting and worth listening to.

    Outside of that we get an interesting alternate title sequence using the April Fool’s Day title, a still gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, two minutes’ worth of radio spots, menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray keepcase fits inside a slick foil-embossed cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Slaughter High is a lot of good, gory fun. A fine cast, some great kill scenes, a good premise and some solid direction make this one really entertaining. The new special edition Blu-ray release from Vestron Video absolutely smokes the old DVD, presenting the film in very nice shape and with a solid selection of extra features as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!