Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Slaughter High (1986)

... aka: April Fool's Day
... aka: Jolly Killer

Directed by:
George Dugdale
Mark Ezra
Peter Litten

It's April 1st at Doddsville County High School. School nerd Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) thinks he's lucked out when beauty Carol Manning (Caroline Munro) comes on to him and wants to have sex in the girl's locker room. But the joke's on Marty. After undressing, he pulls back the shower curtain to reveal a bunch of his classmates standing before him holding camera equipment and laughing. April Fool's! After shocking him with a car battery and dunking his head in the toilet a few times, the drill sergeant-esque gym coach (Marc Smith) walks in on the prank and decides to punish all involved with detention. To add insult to injury, some of the guys decide to get back at Marty by giving him a tainted joint that makes him sick, and screw around with some chemicals in the science lab, leading to a fire. A large, unsecured jar of nitric acid sitting high up on a shelf (in a high school science lab?) manages to fall, splashes Marty in the face and causes an explosion. He manages to survive the incident, but half of his face is now disfigured. Needless to say, he develops quite the grudge in the process.

Five years pass and everyone has gone on with their lives. Invitations arrive for their high school reunion. Carol is doing well as a model and actress and decides to pass on starring in a sleazy movie (producer Dick Randall cameos as her shady agent) to go to it. Dumb meathead Joey (Gary Martin) and his ditsy flame Stella (Donna Yaeger) have gotten hitched. Skip (Carmine Iannaccone) is riding around in an old jalopy, so apparently he's not doing too well. Nancy (Kelly Baker) has decided to hitchhike her way there. "Bad boy" Frank (Billy Hartman) shows up riding a motorcycle and wanting a beer. The even-less-defined Ted (Michael Saffran), Shirley (Josephine Scandi), Susan (Sally Cross) and Carl (John Segal) round out the group. Once everyone arrives they realize that Doddsville High has long ago closed and now sits in an overgrown field. They fail to notice that the only people to show up from their graduating class are the ones involved in pranking Marty years earlier. They also fail to realize that the reunion falls on the same exact day - April Fool's Day (which was the shooting title) - Marty was injured.

Night falls, a thunderstorm begins and everyone is forced inside the condemned building. They eventually come across a room all decked out for a party. There's plenty of food and drink and everyone's locker has been moved into the room and are stocked with belongings of theirs that turned up missing during their high school years. The only other locker in the room is Marty's. Inside is a rat and a yearbook he never got to collect because he was too busy going through months of plastic surgery and unsuccessful skin grafts. No one seems overly concerned about any of this, at least not enough to stop sucking down beer, smoking weed and snorting coke. To no one's surprise but their own, they've all been lured there by the physically and mentally scarred former nerd (decked out in a jester mask / costume) so that he can finally get his revenge. The school's janitor Digby (Jon Clark), now the caretaker, is around just long enough to become the first victim. Hey, he's the sole black dude in the cast, after all!

One guy drinks a toxic beer, his guts start spilling out and his stomach explodes, sending everyone heading for the exit as quickly as possible. Well, everyone except for a woman who gets sprayed with blood and decides to head for the shower room to clean up (!) instead. She's rewarded for her boneheaded action by melting down in an acid bath. Electrical wiring has been placed over the windows and doors to prevent anyone from escaping. The one guy who does manage to get out is impaled with a steel pole through the back of a car seat. A man working on fixing a tractor / lawn mower is chopped up when the thing gets dropped on him. Another couple decide to ease the tension by having sex and get electrified on some wired bedsprings. A head is impaled on a hook, a hand is nailed to the wall, arms are sliced with a pocket knife and there's an impalement, a hanging and a drowning in sewage.

As dumb as much of this is (knowing there's a killer in the same building, I have a hard time believe one person could just fall asleep, let along three people!), as bad as some of the acting is, as unbelievable as a cast of 30 / 40 year olds playing high school students is and as unoriginal as the premise is, this is actually one of the better 80s slasher flicks in my humble opinion. For starters, there's plenty of blood and gore on display, a nice variety of kills and some of the deaths are fairly creative. Add a little sex and nudity, a decent setting and some surprisingly funny dialogue and you've got one of the more entertaining films in this subgenre. Much of Harry Manfredini's score sounds exactly like his FRIDAY THE 13TH soundtrack. There's even a hockey mask Jason joke included.

Held back for release for a little while (it was filmed in 1984 and has a 1985 copyright date), this was filmed as April Fool's Day; a title that eventually had to be changed to avoid confusion with the American slasher "parody" of the same name. Both were released in 1986.


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