Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Return to Horror High (1987)

by Brian S. "Peaked in High School" Roe

Within the first five minutes of watching Return to Horror High, I understood completely why it was in the dollar bin. As a rule when Marcia Brady is given second billing on the cover, a viewer should put the DVD down and walk away. Or better yet throw the disc away and use the case to hold something of value, like a ripped version of Captain Kronus or Blacula. Instead I sat through 94 minutes of boring, choppy blandness that was strongly flavored with the stink of smug “ain’t we clever” nonsense smeared all over it.

Okay, I can get my head around a horror/comedy. There have been a few decent ones, but this one ain’t it, my kiddies. It’s like someone’s mom wrote the script based on what she thought slasher movies were about, basically tits, blood, and dry ice fog. I am not against these three things in any way. However when female nudity is clumsy and forced, including the classic line “No exploding tit shots!” followed seconds after by an exploding tit, I am dubious as to the aesthetic value of showing it. It’s as if the producers had a recipe for a horror movie but didn’t know when to add the ingredients.

But this was the 1980s, right? Mobile phones took up entire briefcases, glasses used lenses the size of TV screens, and every movie had to have a softcore sex scene. And this one’s no exception, finally kicking into a soft rock soundtrack for our soft lead characters to rub themselves softly against each other. Goddamnit! That’s the whole fucking problem with this movie! It is soft, and bland, and pointless. White-bread-with-mayonnaise-and-Kraft-American-singles-style soft and bland. Even the grueling dissection scene is only notable for the truly odd squeak that comes out of the male victim. That’s no sound for a man to make, ever!

This softness seems intentional, like the filmmakers wanted to have murder, sex, and dry ice fog but didn’t really want to offend anyone. I can’t help but compare this to the superior Slaughter High as a more mean spirited yet more effective movie.

What, the story? A film crew goes to a high school where murders happened to film a movie about the murders but then get murdered. Maureen McCormick looks like a relatively sexy policewoman-themed stripper (the black gloves are a nice touch), um, the producer is a dick, the director is a weakling, the janitor talks about his dick, the special effects guy has a lame rattail coming off the side of his head, the fake blood looks worse than the stuff that comes from the dollar store, the producer talks about his dick, George Clooney is in the movie for two or three minutes and looks like he’s sixteen, and then it ends and ends and ends. Four fucking sequel hooks including the line “They always make sequels.” You self-referential jackasses!

This kind of know it all smart-ass crap is the reason why I never want to watch Scream. And when it’s handled as badly as RTHH, it makes me crazy. I don’t want to be reminded that I’m watching a movie. Try to act like suspension of disbelief might be an option. I wanted to punch this movie until it quit moving.

There are some oddly disturbing moments in the film. Maureen McCormick gets strangely turned on by all of the carnage, even getting to the point when she rubs blood into her breast while talking about someone’s intestines full of feces. She eats a chili dog while her captain is looking at a corpse and some of the chili drips onto his coat. But the most unsettling scene is when she is drinking out of a paper cup of soda without a straw, but the cup makes a straw slurp sound! It boggles the mind! And then she sips out of the straw while it is out of the cup and it makes an even more odd straw suck sound, like she was slurping Jell-O through it. Here the filmmaker decided to exploit the full use of Foley to convince the audience that something was amiss. All through strange sounding straw slurps.

Return to Horror High has all of the atmosphere and sense of dread of an ABC After School special and the erotic tension of a farm report. I only watched this because my VCR broke and all my good movies were on tape. Time to start buying more DVDs pronto. Don’t watch this movie. You’ve been warned.