• Girls School Screamers (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 24th, 2021.
    Director: John P. Finegan
    Cast: Mollie O'Mara, Sharon Christopher, Mari Butler, Monica Antonucci, Karen Krevitz, Marcia Hinton
    Year: 1984
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    Girls School Screamers – Movie Review:

    Produced and directed by first time filmmaker John P. Finegan (with post-production and distribution handled by Troma) in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania originally under the title The Portrait, 1984’s Girls School Screamers opens with a scene where a few boys are goofing around outside a creepy old house. One of the boys is dared to go in, and when he accepts, he comes face to face with a ghoulish female figure whose grim visage is covered in worms.

    From here, we meet seven college girls attending an all-girls Catholic school - Jackie (Molly O'Mara), Liz (Sharon Christopher), Kate (Mari Butler), Karen (Beth O'Malley), Susan (Karen Krevitz), Adelle (Marcia Hinton) and Rosemary (Monica Antonucci) – who are selected to help Sister Urban (Vera Gallgher) inventory the estate of the recently departed Tyler Welles (Charles Braun), who has left his sizeable home and valuable art collection to the school.

    After packing up some weed, some Budweiser and some tacky eighties lingerie, the girls and Sister Urban arrive and soon get to work. After a strange visit by Dr. Robert Fisher (Tony Manzo), the girls then learn that Tyler Welles’ niece, Jennifer (also played by Molly O’Mara), who once attended their school, died under mysterious circumstances in the home. After holding a makeshift séance and finding a portrait depicting Jackie as a dead ringer for Jennifer (or at least it’s supposed to, in reality it doesn’t look anything like her at all), it seems that the spirit of Jennifer Welles has come back looking for revenge.

    Girls School Screamers starts off with a bang, that opening scene with the worm faced ghoul is pretty great. From there, the movie slogs for a while, padding its running time with some cattiness between the girls that doesn’t really wind up going anywhere, only to pick up the pace considerably once the ‘resurrected Jennifer’ angle comes into play. It ends strongly, with some really fun practical gore and monster effects thrown into the mix to keep things entertaining and to make up for the film’s slower middle stretch. A few slasher-esque elements are also worked in the plot in the last half hour or so, though don’t go into this expecting a total gorefest as it never quite gets to that level.

    The acting in the film is fine. No one here is going to win any awards but some of the girls, who remain fully clothed throughout, are pretty fun to watch, even when they aren’t doing much more than wandering around a neat hold house and bickering at one another. The movie has that sort of wonky, eighties, low budget charm that can and does go a long way towards making this one as watchable as it is. Vera Gallgher doesn’t have much charisma as the aged nun in charge of the girls’ endeavor but she seems like a nice old lady so she gets a pass.

    Girls School Screamers – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Girls School Screamers to region tree Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. “Newly scanned and restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative,” the picture quality here is excellent, basically rendering the shitty looking old Troma DVD a coaster. Taking up 25.7GBs on a 50GB disc, clarity is very strong, even in the darker scenes, and detail is excellent. There is almost no print damage here at all, the picture is surprisingly clean, and color reproduction is pretty much perfect. Black levels look good too. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems to note, the picture always looks suitably filmic. No complaints here at all.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, comes with optional English subtitles and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track as well. There is some sibilance in a few spots but otherwise the track is clean and nicely balanced. The films genuinely cool score sounds very strong here as well.

    Extras start off with a commentary track featuring writer/director/producer John P. Finegan flying solo. He does a deep five into the history of the movie, explaining how he came to write, direct and produce this feature without a whole lot of practical experience under his belt. He gives some info on the mansion location used for the shoot, how much he appreciates the contributions of the cast and crew, using some NYU film school students to help get the movie made, the quality of the lighting and cinematography in the movie, the influence of certain ghost stories and films, how Troma added some of the gorier moments to the film once they picked it up. There's a lot of dead air here and Finegan probably should have recorded this with a moderator present, but when he is engaged he's interesting to listen to.

    A second commentary track with editor/assistant director Tom Rondinella and second assistant camera/second assistant director Bill Pace is also included on the disc. This track is a lot busier and more informative than the first. They offer up specific information about certain shots in the film, talk about what it was like working primarily inside the mansion location, memories of some of the cast and crew that they worked with (most of whom were not professional actors), changes that Troma made to the movie, what the shooting schedule was like, using everyone they could anytime they could to fill on set, their thoughts on some of the performances, how the leg shaving scene is the only scene that was supposed to have blood in the entire film and plenty more. These guys are clearly having fun looking back on the movie and this is a pretty interesting track.

    As far as video extras go, Vinegar Syndrome includes 28 Seconds Of Violence, which is a lengthy half-hour making-of documentary that is comprised of newly shot interviews with Finegan, Rondinella and Pace as well as actor Peter Cosimano and sound designer John Hodian. This covers a fair bit of the same ground that is gone over in the commentary tracks, but it’s still a fun watch. Finegan and company talk about his influences, how he came to make the film without any real experience, casting the movie, what it was like on set, how various participants wore quite a few different hats on the production, securing the main mansion location for the shoot, how Finegan’s father wound up in the movie, scoring the film, how Troma marketed the film and more.

    As well as menus and chapter selection options, this disc also comes with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    Girls School Screamers – The Final Word:

    Girls School Screamers isn’t a forgotten horror classic but it’s a pretty entertaining B-movie despite its slow middle stretch and it really does delivery a pretty solid ending. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray presentation is excellent and there are some decent extras here as well. A solid release through and through.

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