Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Return To Horror High

It was Christmas 1996 when Dimension Film's released Scream to box office success and good reviews, it had a massive impact on horror and especially the slasher genera which had dried up after it's hay day in the 80's. It did this with the simply idea of been a self-aware slasher film posing the question 'what if the characters in a slasher film had seen all the classic 80's slasher film'. Though its impact on the genre at the time is undeniable I often feel it is miss labeled as been the first self-aware slasher film when films such as Student Bodies or todays subject Return To Horror High preceded it by close to a decade.

The 1987 films opens by telling us five years earlier the town of Crippen was shaken by a series of brutal murders at Crippen High School, the killer was never caught and the school became abandoned. Cut to the present where police are looking over the dead bodies of a film crew that had set up shop in the school to make a movie of the events, the only survivor is Arthur Lyman Kastleman (Richard Brestoff), the writer of the film. He explains to the police what had happened, this is our framing device for the rest of the film as we see the story of the film shoot, which was anything but smooth, from Kastleman wanting to make the film accurate to the events, the director who wants to make it to be a more subtle horror and a producer who want a blood and breasts filled slasher. Lead actor Oliver (played by a young George Clooney) walks out on the film to shoot a TV series, the lead actress complaining about how graphic a rape scene is and worse of all the killer has returned and is hacking his way through the cast and crew.

It is an interesting experience watching the film, such as one scene, a flash back from the schools principle about the events that had happened which is interrupted by the producer revealing it to be the film they are making, we get this a couple time, never knowing what is a flash back, the film in the film or a dream. I imagine this style could annoy some people but personally I loved it, it fit the tone the film set, which is to not take itself seriously at all.

There are some great scenes parodying slashers, such as the characters looking at a picture of a chainsaw in a book and commenting 'its been done' when discussing what weapon the killer in their film will use, or using the police interviewing Arthur to make jabs at how it isn't uncommon in slashers that body’s drop like flies yet no one notices untill the third act.

The film is funny too, one of my favourite running gags in the film is Officer Tyler, an unbelievably cute but perhaps somewhat clumsy policewoman constantly flirting with the chief by unbuttoning the buttons on her uniform, standing right up next to him notably trying to draw attention to her cleavage. This could have been really gratuitous if not for how adorable actress Maureen McCormick is in the role, and that she stays adorable when covered in blood is quite a feat.

The dialog is great as well, such as after a phone interview produces Harry Sleerik (played with a wonderful amount of sleaze by Alex Rocco) tells his assistant to send the interviewer a gift with this line; 'If she's a looker, send the douche-bag some flowers, if fat, just dump some candy on her.' Now how can you hear that without at least grinning to yourself?

I haven't spoken much of the actual plot as when it isn't following (and parodying) the standard slasher formula it delves into its own mad little world of move making and murder and I don't want to give much away.

A great little comedy horror film with a good cast that knew how silly the film was and just ran with it, everyone one screen looks like they are having a hell of a time with this one. Actress Lori Lethin is especially great playing pretty much every main female role in the film other than Officer Tyler, this is even joked about in the film when Arthur says to the police; 'Somebody doesn’t show up for work somebody else doubles up on that job, see we had one actress play three different characters, just plopped on a new wig!' Lethin plays the films heroin along side Brendan Hughes as Steven Blake making an enjoyable team you want to see get through this as they start to unravel they mystery.

Maybe not to everyones taste but I say if you can check this one out!

Friday, 3 April 2015

April Fools Day

I'm a fan of slasher films, of course I like the big three; Halloween, Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, but in the glut of their heyday in the 1980's many get lost in the shuffle, which is a shame because there were some true gems out there such as Pisces, Chopping Mall, Christmas Evil and todays subject April Fools Day.

Released in 1986 by Paramount Pictures the film could also be described as a dark comedy whodunit, mixing humour with a somewhat Agnatha Christie style mystery. The set up is several teens have been invited to spend the weekend leading up to April Fools Day at the mansion owned by mutual friend Muffy on an island just off the main land. On the ferry over a prank by two of the teens leads to one of the ferrymen been seriously injured and having to be rushed to hospital using the local sherifs boat, the sherif in turn has to take the only other boat to get back to the mainland, leaving the teens without a way off the island.

Once at the house the teens realise Muffy has set up lots of pranks around the house from dribble glasses, whoopee cushions, chairs with folding legs that will collapse if you lean back to doorknobs that will simply fall off when you use them. The pranks go down well as the night progresses and when the teens head off to bed we surprisingly only have one couple having sex, the others mostly falling into more pranks including an exploding cigar. One teen Skip sneaks off to the boat house to smoke a joint when a figure walks out the shadows.

The next day the rest assume Skip is just off goofing around someplace and it isn't till someone spots his dead body floating in the water that they start to become suspicious, one by one they start to go missing and body’s are found until only two remain, who is behind it all?  One of the ferrymen out for revenge, Muffy herself, or are the strange letters and newspaper clipping about an escaped mental patient more than another prank?

I really loved this film and it may end up on my favourite slasher films list, it's humorous especially in the first half as they fall into Muffys pranks but quickly descends into horror and suspense in the latter as the body’s pile up and the mystery deepens. It also deviates from the typical slasher formula in places, the character Nan is your typical last girlbut is found dead mid way through, stuff like this keeps you off guard even if you know the tropes.  And the cast is good, from the acting to the characters, I didn't find any annoying, they were all fun and likeable and interacted well with each other.

Now I should warn, the ending of this film is a love it or hate it kinda thing, I know people who can't stand it but personally  I love it. So I say, check it out and decide for yourself!