• Splatter University (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: January 29th, 2019.
    Directed by: Richard W. Haines
    Cast: Forbes Riley, Ric Randig, Dick Biel, Kathy LaCommare
    Year: 1984
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    Splatter University – Movie Review:

    Richard W. Haines’ Splatter University revolves around Julie Parker (Forbes Riley), a pleasant enough young woman who has just taken a teaching positions at St. Trinian’s College (Mercy College in Dobb’s Ferry, New York was used as the location), initially unaware that her predecessor was murdered in her very classroom by a patient who escaped from a nearby mental hospital.

    Things don’t go well for Julie at first. When Father Perkins (Haines himself) reports her to Father Janson (Dick Biel) for going against the school’s rigid curriculum by discussing abortion in the classroom, she and the school’s wheelchair-bound headmaster get off on the wrong foot. Regardless, she soon befriends fellow teachers Cynthia (Laura Gold) and flirty colleague Mark (Ric Randig), quickly striking up a romance with the latter. As Julie does her best to control her rather unruly cast, comprised of all the promiscuous and horny ‘teens’ you’d expect, the murderer responsible for the earlier teacher’s death appears back on the scene and starting knocking off faculty members and the student body alike leaving Julie to figure out who is behind the killings before she winds up the next victim.

    That plot synopsis probably makes Splatter University (which is a great title for a horror movie) sound more exciting than it is. The movie is not without its positives – the college location works well, the murder scenes are nicely handled and there are some pretty solid gore effects used in those kill scenes – the film suffers from drastic shifts in tone, uneven pacing and pretty flat acting from almost the entire cast. Had this been compensated for, as it is with a lot of low budget horror pictures, with energy and enthusiasm we might be able to more easily gloss over the fact that this is a pretty drab looking picture in terms of its camerawork and color schemes and the fact that it’s just not all that interesting.

    Riley is likeable enough in the lead, she comes across as a genuinely nicely person, but she doesn’t enough charisma to carry the picture. Leading man Randig also appeared in Lloyd Kaufman’s 1982 comedy Stuck On You, which Haines edited before then working on The Toxic Avenger and directing Class Of Nuke’em High. As such, it’s no surprise that Troma distributed this when it played theaters (Kaufman and Herz both have their names in the opening credits). Regardless, he and Riley don’t have a whole lot of chemistry together here. The cast members that play the students aren’t all that interesting either, most of the characters are mildly irritating, making it hard to care when they get sliced and diced.

    Even at just under eighty-minutes, this one feels too long.

    Splatter University – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Splatter University to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen “newly scanned & restored in 2k from 16mm camera negative.” Obviously, the transfer can only look as good as the elements, and these elements are in less than perfect condition but all things considered, Vinegar Syndrome has done a nice job here. There’s some damage that couldn’t be eliminated and some shots show noticeably better detail than others but despite this, the picture is stable. The image can look soft but it always looks film-like, retaining all the grain you’d expect and showing a reasonable amount of depth and texture as well.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The track is fine for the most part. There is some occasional distortion here and there and a few passages of muffled dialogue but the score and effects sound solid enough and the levels are generally well-balanced.

    Two commentary tracks start off the extra features, the first of which is with director Richard W. Haines who is joine by make-up effects artist Amodio Giordano. This track, which was originally recorded for the 88 Films release in the UK, peters out around the seventy-minute mark but it offers up a lot of info about the making of the picture. Haines leads the charge, talking (somewhat dubiously) about how he had more serious intentions when he made the film but having to pad it out to feature length meant including more comedic moments. He also talks about the cast and crew as well as the locations used for the shoot, and quite a bit more. Giordano offers up some insight into the effects work and some of the tricks involved in all of that. The second commentary is with the cast of the popular slasher movie podcast, The Hysteria Continues!. If you’ve heard any of their prior tracks then you know what to expect – well-informed opinions on the qualities, good and bad, of the film as well as an assortment of trivia and insight into what works and what doesn’t.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also included an audio interview with composer Christopher Burke that clocks in at just short of thirty-six-minutes in length. He speaks about how he came to meet Haines and collaborate with him on this project as well as what was involved in scoring the film with a synth and a tape recorder – low budget ingenuity at its best! It’s quite an interesting listen, actually, as he also covers other cult film related jobs he’s had over the years, some of which are pretty surprising and make this worth checking out.

    There are a few other minor extras also found on the disc, including a still gallery, an option to enjoy the film’s theme song on its own, a gallery of script pages, a collection of radio spots, a TV spot and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Menus and chapter selection are also included on the disc.

    As this is a combo pack release, there’s also a DVD version of the movie using the same restoration and with the same commentary included in the clear plastic keepcase. Reversible cover sleeve art is also included. Vinegar Syndrome offers this as a limited edition of 1,500 pieces with a slipcover available directly from their website.

    Splatter University – The Final Word:

    Splatter University is pretty mediocre stuff but credit where credit is due, Vinegar Syndrome has done a nice job on the Blu-ray release, presenting the film in solid shape and with some good extra features. Your mileage may vary as far as the feature goes, but fans of the film will certainly appreciate the effort that has been put into this Blu-ray.

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