Retro-review: New this week on BluRay from Vestron Video Collector’s Series!
SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)
aka APRIL FOOL’S DAY, JOLLY KILLER
Directed by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Mackenzie Litten
Written by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Mackenzie Litten
Starring Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore, Carmine Iannaccone, Donna Yeager, Gary Martin, Billy Hartman, Michael Safran, John Segal, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross, Josephine Scandi, Marc Smith, Dick Randall, Jon Clark, Mark Ezra
Originally entitled APRIL FOOL’S DAY, though the name was changed when another film with the same name was released in theaters in the same year (it was a much better film too). But while SLAUGHTER HIGH is pretty much your typical slasher film from beginning to end, there are a few inventive kills and untentionally funny bits that make it kind of fun to revisit.
School nerd Marty (Simon Scuddamore) is picked on by an unusually large clique of friends. When he is lured into the girls locker room by the school hottie Carol (Caroline Munro, who was thirty-six when she played this teen role), a schooltime prank on April Fool’s Day goes horribly wrong as Marty is horribly disfigured in a lab explosion. Years later, the group meet for a class reunion, partying in the abandoned school they used to haunt. But a Jester masked Marty seems to be haunting the school as well this April Fool’s Day and he plans of getting revenge on every one of these pranksters before the day is over!
SLAUGHTER HIGH has some solid kills and I guess that’s what these slasher films are all about when you boil them down to basics. One guy gets crushed under a car when the killer pulls out the jack, though he doesn’t die immediately as the muscular victim if able to hold the car up for a little while, so the killer starts slicing his arms with a knife in order for the car to fall. Another couple is electrocuted while having sex on a bed leaving some pretty heinous burns. Acid is definitely the killer’s preference as a few people meet their end by either being splashed with or digesting acid. Plus there’s a surprise kill near the end that really is a shocker. All in all, as far as kills go, this one manages to make them varied and entertaining.
The problem is that the film is simply way too formulaic, following the slasher movie blueprint without straying an inch. Even through composer Henry Manfredini (who created the iconic score to FRIDAY THE 13TH) doesn’t offer anything new and just rehashes the piano chords from the FRIDAY THE 13TH series rather than coming up with something new. What Manfredini does add that is new is music that feels way too comical and cartoony to raise any goosebumps. The joker faced killer really isn’t very scary either and while the film attempts to make people jump over and over again in the name of April Fool’s Day, these startles are rarely successful.
Made in England, SLAUGHTER HIGH takes place on and around April Fool’s Day but it tries to make you think it’s the States. Not knowing the pranks take place all day in the US, the film adheres to the UK version of April Fool’s Day in this film which means the pranks only last from midnight to 12PM on the 1st of April. Little nuggets like that kind of add to the charm of the film. The twisted ending where the we enter the nightmares of a madman also make this film somewhat distinct in it’s subgenre of slashers as it doesn’t really center on the final girl in the end. Instead of a typical slasher, I guess this is technically more of a revenge flick than anything else. SLAUGHTER HIGH isn’t a bad little slasher. And while it is pretty typical most of the way through, some creative decisions towards the end actually makes it more fun than it should be. The F13 music was annoying to hear rehashed and the actors were simply cartoons of stereotypes (it’s especially funny seeing middle aged actors and actresses try to convincingly play teenagers), but with some solid kills and late in the game risks, it’s a fun one to look back on.
This special collector’s edition comes with an Audio Commentary by co-writers/co-directors George Dugdale and Peter Litten, an interview with composer Henry Manfredini, “Going to Pieces” featurette with co-writer/co-director Mark Ezra, an interview with Caroline Munro, an alternate title sequence, still, gallery, trailer and radio spots!