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July 26, 2011

Movie Review: Slaughter High (1986, Arrow Video)

There were few films towards the end of the “slasher cycle” during the late 80’s that really carried the wonderfully mindless splattered spirit of the earlier classics from the decade. Popular “bodycount” films like the first four Friday the 13th movies, The Burning, My Bloody Valentine and Happy Birthday To Me may have been devoid of strong acting performances and a sound narrative but they sure as hell were fun to watch. The creativity of the deaths were huge in these movies. The lousy slashers at the time didn’t follow the formula. George Dugdale, Peter Litten and Mark Ezra’s Slaughter High (AKA April Fools Day) attempted to follow what it was that actually worked for those movies : Gory deaths, graphic nudity and Harry Manfrendini. Ok, Harry only worked on the Friday the 13th films, but you know what I mean. It's really a mix that's hard to beat for genre fans Arrow Video has put together their own release that, to say the least, is a good answer for the paltry Lionsgate DVD from a few years ago.

Buy Slaughter High on DVD at Amazon UK

We start off the DVD with a quick introduction by one of the three directors, Mark Ezra. Then the original April Fools Day titles scroll across the screen. This was later canned by Paramount in favor of Slaughter High because the name was being used for Fred Walton's terrible slasher that shared the same name . Marty Rantzen (Simon Scuddamore) is a nerd’s nerd. He loves chemistry, wears gigantic coke bottle thick glasses and fancies the womanly assets of a woman that would never lay him, Carol (Caroline Munro, Maniac, The Last Horror Film). Carol and her pals are up to no good. The first prank has Carol seducing Marty in the school shower room. Before you know it, the geek is naked with his package flopping around like one of the worms from David Lynch's Dune. Laughs are had by all – except Marty. For the next prank couple of the douchebags that swirlied Marty earlier in the day give him a trick joint that ends up blowing up his lab and disfiguring him.

Fast forward several years later to our grown-up students – that still look 35- where they are now getting ready to have a high school reunion. These folks have no idea who sent out the invitations but that’s not going to stop them from dying in numerous inventive ways. How these folks are dispatched is easily one of the best reasons to watch Slaughter High. Like the Lionsgate release, this Arrow DVD release is uncut. The only difference here though (and it’s a big one) is that you can actually see the wonderful gore FX by John Humphreys, Peter Litten and Robert Turner. The “acid bath”, “stomach explosion” and other grue previously cut in the UK and on the R-rated US Vestron Release are all here on this new DVD. Marty’s swinging crank from the first shower shaming has also wiggled its way onto this release as well.

The extra features on Slaughter High don’t disappoint as we get a few featurettes from High Rising Productions: Lamb To The Slaughter – The Scream Queen Career of Caroline Munro. Still looking lovely, Munro discusses her Hammer Film experiences, Maniac, the ages of the actors on Slaughter High and the trifecta of directors. The subject matter on this featurette is very broad and Munro appears very enthusiastic about her films. Next up is Jesters and Jolts – Mark Ezra Remembers Slaughter High. The writer and director talks about how he cobbled together the script. Ezra doesn’t seem too fond of the dialogue from the film. Not really a big surprise there but still refreshing to hear that candidness.

Two audio commentaries were also produced for the DVD – One with Mark Ezra, that’s moderated by author, J.A Kerswell and another with the star Caroline Munro moderated by High Rising Films producer, Calum Waddel and writer Alan Bryce. The commentary with Ezra has some interesting stories about how Munro where she apparently refused to do any nudity and that Ezra was in the Jester costume much of the time instead of Scuddamore. The Munro commentary is very good. She seems much more receptive to the questions that are asked by the moderators. She recalls Scuddamore being a very sweet man and seems to have happy memories of the shoot.

To round out the bonus features, you get some liner notes by author, Troy Howarth, an interview with composer Harry Manfrendini , a nice and bloody “red band” trailer from the Vestron release and a humorous Easter egg with Caroline Munro .

Quality wise, the Arrow Release of Slaughter High is easily the best. The Lionsgate DVD from 2009 looked like a foggy tenth generation bootleg of an EP tape that someone had laying around in their basement. It was just a poor, lazy release. Arrow has done some nice restoration work here. It’s not perfect by all means but it has some very noticeable improvement on the picture that will make fans of Slaughter High quite happy.

Overall, Arrow has done a fine job with Slaughter High. It's a no brainer between this release and the Lionsgate DVD. This is a British release so if you're anywhere other than the UK you best get a region free player. For an enjoyable slasher like Slaughter High that's finally seeing a quality release, it's certainly worth it. Recommended!

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