With a name like that, you'd be forgiven for thinking this would be a 100 per cent sure bet for a cheesy blast. Sadly, you'd be wrong. GIRLS SCHOOL SCREAMERS isn't as bad as some reviews would have you believe, but this slasher-cum-supernatural horror is no forgotten gem either.
It has all the right elements, including six (ahem) teenage girls, who are students at Trinity Catholic School. It even has nuns – and a pitchfork murder. After being introduced as the usual fun-loving, pot-smoking and sex-mad reprobates, the schoolgirls (and us) are surprised that they are the best students the school has got. As a reward they are told they have been hand-picked to catalogue the artwork at a creepy mansion the school has just inherited. What fun!
Little do they know that an ex-student at their school died in a mysterious fall at that very same mansion in 1939. And the place is haunted – we see in a prologue a young boy chased out of the house by an apparition in a wedding dress with a face that looks like it was made with Plasticine with worms stuck into it (and judging by the budget for the rest of the film it probably was). Despite this opening – shamelessly recalling the opening of a much better supernatural slasher, SUPERSTITION (1982) – the girls still turn up for duty: Jackie (Mollie O'Mara), Elizabeth (Sharon Christopher), Kate (Mari Butler), Karen (Beth O'Malley), Susan (Karen Krevitz), Adelle (Marcia Hinton) and Rosemary (Monica Antonucci). The chubby Rosemary had already distinguished herself for eating a meatball sandwich right out in front of class, just like Dawn Davenport in John Waters' peerless FEMALE TROUBLE (1974). Along for the ride is kindly Sister Urban (Vera Gallagher) – she may not be a nun with a grudge, but she sure is a nun with a secret.
The girls race for the their bedrooms just like those aspiring contestants in AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL – but, sadly, it doesn't turn out that Miss J is hiding in a wardrobe with an axe, or Tyra Banks is lurking about waiting to stick curling irons where the sun don't shine. Naturally their young, self-obsessed minds turn to a seance. One exclaims excitedly, “That's a super idea!”; whilst another isn't so sure, “I'm not messing with that voodoo shit!”. Still, they press ahead and their Ouija board spells out p-i-c-t-u-r-e (the alternative title for this film is PORTRAIT), before blowing them off their seats in another special effects tour-de-force. Playing like Nancy Drew with a bad perm, Jackie then discovers a portrait, that, despite looking like it was painted by Helen Keller, is a dead ringer for her (if you squint your eyes a bit). So, in an unlikely twist of fate, Jackie is the spitting image of the schoolgirl who died in the house over 40 years beforehand. Now that can't be good news.
Soon – well after after 50 minutes of a movie that only runs 80 minutes – the bodies begin to hit the floor (and given the portly nature of the two boyfriends who turn up to give the girls a jolly good scare in time-honoured tradition, they make quite a dent (they must have been sharing Rosemary's meatball sandwiches)). When the murders do finally happen the film picks up a bit, but, again, the budget hampers things and you only get a few flashes of el cheapo gore. At least the makers squeeze a modicum of creepiness occasionally out of the surroundings, with a giant, motionless mannequin in the grounds of the house surprisingly menacing.
Naturally, Troma is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone with taste (either good or bad). In the early to mid-1980s they tried their hand at making slasher movies. MOTHER'S DAY (1980) was actually a brutally effective black comedy. Whereas SPLATTER UNIVERSITY (1984) was just plain appalling. GIRLS SCHOOL SCREAMERS – which got a belated release in 1986 – falls somewhere in-between the two. Neither effective, nor awful. Whereas it should be as cheesy as hell, it's just too run-of-the-mill and ponderous to satisfy. But it's too cheap and amateurish to be anything else really (although you do get the impression that the makers thought they were making a mystery thriller of note). Its mongrel nature – it's not really a slasher (although it borrows plenty from the subgenre's toybox) and it's not really a ghost story – means it ends up being pretty much nothing at all.
Troma may be lots of things (and few of them good), but to give them credit their films are rarely dull. I've described another movie before as having all the momentum of a slug on a skateboard, but it's an apt description for this too – a couple of extra murders in the opening two-thirds would have worked wonders. Even a slasher soundtrack accompanied with a xylophone doesn't help. Surely I won't be the first wag – or last – to quip that I've just made it through GIRLS SCHOOL YAWNERS. Great promotional artwork and tagline, though.
BODYCOUNT 8 female:5 / male:31) Female gets meat cleaver to the mouth