High School Holocaust!!!

Gory Greetings! Your old pal Brain Hammer is back from the grave and ready to party! This super sized edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features four of my all time favorite high school hack ’em ups from the glory daze of the 80’s horror craze. The teachers are tough…and the exams will be MURDER!

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

An idealistic pacifist music teacher named Andy Norris (played by the bearded and sensitive looking Perry King) is transferred to Lincoln High, an ultra violent and dangerous inner city high school. After settling into the neighborhood with his pregnant wife he immediately runs afoul of the local teenage gestapo, led by the brilliant yet twisted student Peter Stegman. (played by Timothy Van Patten of “White Shadow” & “Master Ninja” infamy)

Stegman is a ruthless kingpin of crime who controls the booming high school drug and prostitution rackets. His slightly less than impressive gang consists of: Drugstore: the skinny and strung out drug dealer and wisecracker, Fallon: the muscle who beats people up and breaks in the new prostitutes, Barnyard: the token fat slob who loves The Clash, and Patsy: the pasty faced punk rock skank. The five of them somehow manage to control the entire school population and staff AND dominate other rival gangs via intimidation and violence. There’s an awesome racially fueled gang fight between the Swastika sporting punks and a Black gang highlighted by the young Caribbean accented gang leader saying “No one messes around with my man Leroy. I’m gonna cut you white meat!” A fresh faced and non twitchy Michael J Fox appears in an important supporting role as a band geek who takes a shank to the kidneys after narcing on the gang for selling his best friend a lethal dose of dust.

Mr. Norris tries his best to do things by the book and keep the kids in line but it proves useless. He tries to turn the kids in but the police are unable to do anything because of a lack of proof. His only ally in the school is the burnt out and booze addled Biology teacher, played very convincingly by the legendary Roddy McDowall. After a sick and disgusting act of retribution where the punks skin every cute little bunny in the bio lab, Roddy eventually snaps and decides to teach his class at gunpoint! Mr. Norris barely manages to talk him out of blowing the students away, and he will eventually regret that decision.

During a bizarre bathroom showdown with the teacher, Stegman smashes his own face into a mirror and convincingly blames Mr. Norris for it. Norris finally gets pissed off and destroys Stegman’s beloved automobile in return. Stegman then declares all out war on the teacher. The movie reaches a whole new level of nastiness when the punks show up at the Norris household and gang rape his pregnant wife! This unspeakable act leads to the final showdown at the big band recital. The pasty faced punk rock skank (who looks very fuckable by the way!) shows up and presents Polaroids of the dirty deed to Mr. Norris, which is enough to finally make him ditch his pacifist ways and start spilling blood like a man! This teacher will assure that the class of 1984 will earn a higher degree in pain!

I’m a huge fan of this masterpiece of prophetic punk rock perfection, which was written and directed by Mark L. Lester, who also helmed the 80’s clas-sick “Commando.” Few revenge themed films are this satisfying. The sequence where Mr. Norris has to fight his way though the high school and finally gets his revenge on the gang is fantastic. Arms are severed, table saws sever spines, people are set on fire, plummet to their deaths, and are crushed with cars! This flick is also exceptionally well made and acted. It almost plays like an after school special, only with a bad case of herpes. This flick drips with a genuinely sleazy punk rock atmosphere. There’s a nifty scene where Stegman and his pals go to a punk rock club and skank to the ripping sounds of Teenage Head! Speaking of music, I almost forget to mention the incredibly cheesy theme song “I Am The Future” which was provided by Alice Cooper. Quite an embarrassment for old Alice, as it sounds like a very lame Broadway tune!

Anchor Bay released a beautiful dvd of CLASS OF 1984 that features goodies like the trailer, a director’s commentary track, and interviews with Perry King and his on-screen wife Merrie Lynn Ross. I highly recommend a purchase. This one gets better every time I watch it. “Life is pain. Pain is everything. You will learn.”

 

SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)

Simon Scuddamore (RIP) stars as Marty Rantzen, a nerdy Doddsville High chemistry major who is constantly tormented by a rowdy pack of mean spirited classmates. An elaborate series of April Fool’s Day pranks begins with Caroline “Maniac” Munro’s character Carol Manning teasing Marty’s cock and luring him into the girls shower. Marty’s wet dream becomes a nightmare when instead of a naked and soapy Carol he discovers the gang lying in wait for him instead.

Armed with flash photography, they poke the naked teen with a yardstick and yell “WHERE’S THE BEEF?” Then they give him a taste of 280 volts, which is enough to send him to the floor. The black janitor sees this happen and runs and tells the gym teacher that “they’re foolin’ about in the girl’s shower room!” The boys drag Marty into the toilet and proceed to give him the mother of all swirlies. Poor Marty might have drowned if not for the coach finally showing up to save his naked ass.

The coach punishes the culprits with a detention workout, and enjoys humiliating Marty a bit too much before letting him off the hook. The wisecracking and jester mask sporting leader of the gang – Skippy, vows revenge on Marty and hatches yet another demented scheme to pay him back. Two of the bullies pretend to apologize to Marty and offer him a laced joint as a mock peace offering. Marty accepts and goes off to the chem lab, where he eagerly fires it up. The tainted dirtweed makes Marty sick and he runs to the john to throw up. That gives Skippy the chance to trick the coach into letting him leave the detention, at that exact same moment mind you, so he can sneak into the lab and cook up an unstable chemical concoction on a red hot bunson burner. I should also mention the bottle of nitric acid lurking overhead on a flimsy wooden shelf. Marty returns to the lab after puking his guts up just in time for Skippy’s sabotage to take effect and a massive fire breaks out. Marty tries to stop the fire and gets a face full of nitric acid for his efforts. Then the lab explodes.

Marty somehow survives the accident, but is badly burned and horribly disfigured. As he is being wheeled out by paramedics Carol attempts to apologize which gives Marty one last chance to grab at her – BUT IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM! Or a flashback if you will. Carol was having a nightmare. Since graduating from Doddsville High, Carol has grown up and become a successful b-movie actress. Her sleazy agent Manny (played by the infamous Dick Randall) tries to talk her into a career in porn. You can tell Manny is a producer of tremendous class because he has a “PIECES” poster on the wall of his office! Carol turns down Manny’s generous offer to star in skin flicks and decides to go to her crummy class reunion instead.

Incredibly enough the entire motley crew of high school friends that participated in the April Fool’s Day brutality years before agree to return to the school for a special April Fool’s reunion. Even more incredibly, the gang seems to find nothing particularly unusual about the fact that Doddsville High has been closed and deserted for five years, or that they were the only alumni invited to the reunion. Undeterred, the old friends decide to break into the abandoned school for a night of wacky fun. Then things get even more bizarre when they discover that a well stocked party has been prepared in one of the classrooms. Someone even took the time to set up their old lockers inside the classroom. After some joking around for old times sake Skippy takes credit for the evening’s festivities. Then he does some of Carol’s “really good” cocaine and immediately nods out.

Things get interesting when Marty (now sporting Skippy’s old jester mask) makes his presence known in the halls and nails the former black janitor turned black caretaker to a door. Then the same guy who gave Marty the laced joint chugs a beer can full of acid which causes his intestines to swell until they burst through his abdomen, causing a mighty explosion that sprays blood onto the face of the cross eyed asian chick! She wanders off and goes upstairs to take a bath (!) and slips into a tub full of acid. Marty’s former tormentors are then forced to hide out in the school or attempt to flee into the night. Marty majored in cutting his classmates, and one by one they are impaled, disemboweled with a riding lawn mower, electrocuted during sex, drowned in sewage, and hung. This unbelievable carnage leaves Carol alone to run around the halls of horror for a good long time before the eye popping twist ending is brought in to throw everything out the window again. APRIL FOOL’S!

SLAUGHTER HIGH was produced by the dreaded duo of Steve Minasian and Dick Randall, who also brought us slasher clas-sicks like “Pieces” and“Don’t Open Til Christmas.” The film was originally going to be titled “April Fool’s Day,” but Paramount beat them to the punch. Paramount should have beat them with even more punches, as the film featured a recycled score from “Friday The 13th” alumni Harry Manfredini. Most of the“original” score consists of eight synth notes that are maddeningly repeated over and over again. It is impossible to watch this flick without getting that tune stuck in your head. “Slaughter High” is sometimes accused of being a generic, or even inferior 80′s slasher flick, but the nasty gore effects make it stand out in a big way. The unrated version of this flick features some very juicy splatter.

Tounges are firmly in cheek for most of the proceedings, and fans of unintentional humor will get a kick out of the lame attempts to hide the actors’ thick British accents. I always get a big kick out of Dick Randall’s cameo as the sleazy producer. Simon Scuddamore does a great job as Marty, and makes a very sympathetic lead. It’s a shame that he committed suicide shorty after starring in this picture. I would have liked to have seen him in other things. Caroline Munro looks beautiful here as expected, but her makeup and wardrobe is some full on 80′s hideousness. Actually, all of the actors are fairly disgusting looking in one way or the other. The film is uniformly unpleasant, ugly and greasy. In a lot of ways “Slaughter High” can be considered the epitome of the “for the bucks and yucks” splatter flick

Some people have complained about the twist ending, but I think it makes sense within the context of the film and it adds a lot of fun to any repeat viewings. It also provides the filmmakers with an opportunity to throw in yet another splatter murder. No complaints here. This one is a true fucking clas-sick! SLAUGHTER HIGH was released uncut and uncensored on dvd by Lionsgate as part of their “Lost Collection” of wacky 80’s treasures, and no respectable slasher collection is complete without it.

 

CUTTING CLASS (1989)

Paula Carson (Jill Schoelen!) is a pretty high school cheerleader who gets caught in a lover’s triangle between her troubled basketball superstar bad boy boyfriend Dwight (Brad Pitt, in his first major film role!) and Brian (Donavon Leitch), the disturbed yet sensitive new kid who has just been released from a mental institution after killing his father. Dwight and Brian have a secret history (“Righty tighty, lefty loosey!”) and when Brian shows up offering Paula his hot dog because she had “that look” Dwight explodes with jealousy.

When Paula’s Father (Martin Mull!) goes off for a duck hunting vacation he has an arrow put through his chest by an unseen assailant with a deadly grudge against the bumbling district attorney. Then the killer pursues Paula and eliminates any member of the student body or faculty that gets in the way. The asshole art teacher gets extra crispy inside a 500 degree kiln, the haggard vice principal has her face smashed into a xerox machine, and the flabby gym coach is impaled with an American flag while happily bouncing on a trampoline! A couple of Paula’s friends are snuffed too. Then the killer sets a deadly trap inside a classroom for Paula and the Math teacher to solve or suffer the consequences (SAW stole everything from this movie!). No one said surviving high school would be easy, but Paula didn’t didn’t know someone very close to her would be willing to kill to fit in.

CUTTING CLASS opens with a fantastic scene where Jill fetches the morning paper clad only in her white t-shirt and it’s sexy as hell! You don’t see anything, but she just looks so damn naughty doing it. I love that scene! Pretty much the whole movie consists of men leering at Jill’s character. Every man in the movie (with the exception of her father) checks out her ass and tries to get her in the sack. The art teacher enjoys closely examining her stretching and accommodating young muscles. The flabby gym coach snuggles up close to help her improve her archery technique. Even the fruity high school principal played by the late great Roddy McDowall (“Class Of 1984″) can’t resist her. He even buys Jill a new cheerleading uniform just for the supreme pleasure of seeing her bend over in a short skirt to pick up the package! Jill carries the film as the leading lady with ease, and always looks great doing it. B-movie favorite Brenda James (“Slither”) co-stars and steals the show as the fast living hot blooded redhead cheerleader with no panties and breasts big enough to feed a family of four! WOW!

Then there’s the man himself – Brad Pitt. He plays a tough but tender high school rebel with a penchant for child endangerment (he even wears a red jacket to make it obvious that he is a rebel without a cause!). He gets to display his incredible white boy basketball skills AND unleash a jivey sounding black voice to say “I ain’t got no basketball scholarship!” after blowing his big shot with “the university!” I especially like the scene where Brad assures his girlfriend that he’s bigger than her father “where it matters.” This is truly a debut leading man performance to be proud of.

Brad’s male co-star is the internet favorite Donovan Leitch. Popular with both the guys and the gals (especially the guys), Donovan also appeared in the 1988 remake of “The Blob” (great flick). I got a chuckle out of reading his credit as “featured dancer” in the 1984 urban classic “Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo!” Donovan does a great job as the disturbed young man who rides a bike with rainbow tassels on the handlebars and implores people to “gimme that man talk.” MAN TALK?!?

Director Rospo Pallenberg’s “Cutting Class” was one of the very last gasps of the 80′s slasher craze. And a great flick too. I think it’s criminally underrated and often misunderstood. It’s not so much a mocking parody of a high school slasher flick, but is instead a rather tame high school slasher flick done with a lot of cheesy humor. No surprise, as it was written by Steve Slavkin, who also wrote the beloved tv series “Salute Your Shorts!”There’s no graphic gore, but a fair amount of blood is splattered. The mystery of the the killer’s identity is sort of a joke, or perhaps I just find characters identified as “violent schizophrenics” who have endured hours of shock therapy to be overly suspicious.

Horror fans with a sense of humor and a taste for the gloriously cheesy 80′s should really enjoy this. Lionsgate was kind enough to recently release an unrated version of CUTTING CLASS on dvd. This would make a great addition to any 80′s horror fan’s collection.

 

HELL HIGH (1989)

A sexually repressed biology teacher named Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney) is tormented by memories of the violent impalement death of two sexually frustrated greaser teens that she accidentally unleashed during her tender youthful years as a pink party dress sporting Jon Benet lookalike. All grown up but mentally disturbed, Ms. Storm begins to crack when one of her very worst students – a nasty punk named Dickens (Christopher Striker – RIP) begins harassing her. The tension reaches a breaking point when Ms. Storm snaps and slaps the Dickens out of Dickens in class. Humiliated, Dickens vows revenge on the teacher.

The incouragable sociopath Dickens is never far away from his loyal followers – Smiler and Queenie. Smiler (Jason Brill) is the token obnoxious giggling fat fuck moron, and Queenie (Millie Prezioso) is a slut with attitude and a taste for the colorful fashions of Cindy Lauper. The gang becomes a fearsome foursome when Dickens befriends a pretty boy pussy named Jon Jon (Christopher Cousins) who recently quit the school’s football team because he couldn’t take the pain. Dickens shares his trusty bottle of Jack Daniels with Jon Jon after school and then the two fast friends bond some more while following Ms. Storm home from school. Jon Jon starts whining about how he doesn’t like “the stink of it,” which prompts Dickens to respond with the classic line “You don’t like the stink of nothing. Besides, there’s nothing after high school. There’s only more stink.”

The boys follow Ms. Storm back to her isolated home near a swamp and get their jollies peeping at her in the shower. Much to the lads (and the viewers) shock and delight, the closeted and conservative looking Ms. Storm actually has a smoking hot body, and she seems to get a big kick out of groping her soapy breasts in the shower (Do girls really do that?!?)! The next day, the pack of misfits attend a football game at the school. This allows Dickens a chance to approach an injured player on the sidelines and threaten to “open up” his leg wound with a huge oversized knife! Then the gang hop into Dickens’ car and drive onto the football field so Jon Jon can intercept the ball mid-throw and ruin the game for his former team mates.

Later that night the kids decide to go to Ms. Storm’s house for a little fun. The pack of hooligans head into the swamp to gather up as much slime as they can in garbage bags and then proceed to vandalize her house. They throw the slime all over the house, dump a bucketful on Ms. Storm’s face, jump up and down on the roof, and break a window in the front door. Their festivities are briefly interrupted by the high school’s lesbian swim coach, who unexpectedly shows up at the house to visit Ms. Storm. Unbelievably, the coach doesn’t seem the least bit concerned to find her friend babbling hysterically and covered in slime. The broken window doesn’t faze her either. Instead of doing something crazy like calling the police, she gives Ms. Storm an incredibly fast acting quaalude, tucks her into bed, and leaves!

This gives Dickens and the gang the perfect opportunity to break into her home. The mean spirited pranks turn sinister when both Dickens and Queenie take turns molesting the drugged and delirious teacher. Fortunately for Ms. Storm, Dicken’s concept of “nailing this bitch” consists solely of pawing at her breasts and scrunching up her nightgown a bit. Some in-fighting between the kids gives Ms. Storm a window of opportunity to escape, which she attempts to do by swiftly defenestrating herself! The gang is shocked and horrified, but express more fear for their futures than remorse for their deeds. Jon Jon even mutters “There goes my future.”

But unfortunately for everyone involved, Ms. Storm isn’t dead. The now battered and bloody biology teacher finally snaps and goes berserk. Her demented night of vengeance is best summed up by the European title of the film – “Raging Fury!” The gory highlights include heads being bashed with rocks (very brutal!), pencils shoved into temples, multiple bloody impalements, throat slitting, and human dissection experiments. This teacher is tough, and her final exam will be murder.

HELL HIGH is a fairly unique horror film from the dying days of the 80′s slasher craze. It didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, only raking in a meager $187,920. For some reason this film received terrible reviews, mostly from critics who apparently didn’t even watch the movie before reviewing it. I say that because comparisons to “Carrie” and “Prom Night”are beyond me. Perhaps the title is misleading, because this is hardly your run of the mill high school slash ‘em up. This flick plays out more in the sleazy revenge-themed tradition of flicks like “I Spit On Your Grave” and“Class Of 1984.” There are a couple of very nice T&A shots along the way. Hats off to director Douglas Grossman for fine use of stunt breasts. Maureen Mooney was pregnant during the filming and had tiny tits anyways.

I thought the acting in this film was better than average. Maureen Mooney does a great job in the lead role, as does Christopher Striker. There’s great chemistry between the two, you really get the feeling that they hate each other. Sadly, Striker passed away from AIDS shortly after the film finished shooting. “Hell High” is also notable for featuring one of the very best male screams in all of horror history, provided by Christopher Cousins. Your eardrums will also be assaulted by some hideously catchy original pop music provided by Johnny Vance. The theme song “I’ll Trust In You” will haunt your dreams for weeks after seeing this.

I have fond memories of first seeing this flick back in 1990 on Joe Bob Briggs’ “Drive In Saturday Night” show on The Movie Channel. The fine folks at Shriek Show helped bring back those memories by releasing a fantastic dvd of HELL HIGH that includes goodies like a directors commentary track, interviews, trailers & TV spots, and best of all – a hilarious commentary track with none other than Joe Bob Briggs himself! Like all of Joe Bob’s reviews and commentary tracks – this one is hilarious and incredibly informative. (I stole literally everything from his commentary track for this review!) I’m a huge fan of this flick and highly recommend a purchase.

 

CLASS DISMISSED! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!


One Response to “High School Holocaust!!!”

  1. cemetery high

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