Somewhere between full-on horror movie and downright spoof, SLAUGHTER HIGH scores points for off the scale cheesiness as well as managing a pulse-pounding chase scene towards the end.
Taking the clichés of the slasher film, SLAUGHTER HIGH turns them up to ten. Like many a slasher before, it starts with a prank gone bad. Class nerd at Doddsville High (the ill-fated Simon Scuddamore), is tempted into the girl's locker room by the school siren, Carole (Caroline Munro appearing as one of the subgenre's oldest ever 'teens' at 36 years old!). She's not really after his body, but it's all part of a plan to humiliate him on April Fool's Day (which also happens to be his birthday). Marty strips naked, but rather than the buxom Carole he's confronted by his classmates with a video camera (even though this is tokenly meant to be 1976). They taunt him mercilessly, repeatedly shouting “Where's the beef?” (surprisingly complete with full frontal male nudity). Then to add insult to injury they give him a minor electric shock before flushing his head down the toilet.
Marty escapes from further humiliation when the coach breaks up the fun and games. Confined to the gym for a workout detention the group blame Marty for their incarceration, so they plan to carry on their plan by giving him an exploding joint. However, it literally backfires when the lab where Marty is working bursts into flames. The final insult is when he knocks a jar of acid which burns off half his face. Perhaps not the best birthday ever, Marty is rushed off to the nuthouse for grueling skin grafts ...
10 years later (although 1976 and 1986 look very much alike in this flick) Marty is only a distant memory for the group as they gather back at the school for a reunion. Funny thing is, only the group that were behind Marty's crappy birthday turn up. At first they are locked out of the school, but when they manage to get inside they find the school dilapidated in all but one room where there's party balloons and their old school lockers. Deciding to make the most of the night they party it up, but one of them gets more than a bad case of indigestion when he drinks a tin of acid disguised as beer, and his guts literally spill on the floor. Panic sets in and the group tries to get out, only to find all the exits electrified. It soon becomes clear that they have been trapped by a homicidal maniac and are going to be bumped off one-by-one ...
Filmed as APRIL FOOL'S DAY (and changed when it was realised that the title was already taken), SLAUGHTER HIGH is like an early 80s slasher on speed. Everything about it is exaggerated. The kids are at least a decade older than they should be in the lengthy prologue; the American accents are broader (which should come as no great surprise as the majority of the cast was English and the whole thing was made in the South East of England!); the acting is as broad as it gets with plenty of gum chewing, eye-rolling and scenery munching; the clothes worn by the cast are more vulgar (especially Ms Munro's voluminous white pantaloons, which she manages to keep spotless throughout - true class!). The gore is also joyously over-the-top (especially in the un-rated VHS US release) - a woman gets melted in a bath of acid; someone is eviscerated with a fly-mo; a couple go out with a bang when their bed is electrified as they are about to climax; and another gets a hatchet buried in the face.
SLAUGHTER HIGH is also blessed with a great villain. Has the nerdy Marty really come back from the nuthouse to exact his revenge? Well, seeing as that little gem of info is given away in the tagline I expect you can guess that yes he has! However, that doesn't stop him wearing one of slasherdom's best ever masks: a creepy old man's face with a jester hat on top. He jungles every time he steps into shot - although it doesn't seem to act as any kind of deterrent for the dim-witted victims-to-be. SLAUGHTER HIGH is certainly as silly as it can be for its first half without turning into downright parody, but the second half of the film scores with some surprisingly effective cat n' mouse theatrics towards the end. The scenes of Marty chasing the final girl, his jester bells ringing madly and holding aloft a javelin rival the best chase scenes in any classic slasher.
SLAUGHTER HIGH was sold as being from the people who brought you FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). Of course, as with most of these claims there was a germ of truth in it. Henry Manfredi provided the music, which is definitely evocative of those Crystal Lake slashers, but apparently he didn't write the horribly catchy theme song here. There's even an appearance put in by Jason's iconic hockey mask during the obligatory practical joke (well one of them!). Producer Stephen Minasian also was one of the financiers of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, which is another rather tenuous link. However, rumours that the catering firm was the same on both films remains unconfirmed.
Actually, the man whose unmistakable stamp on this was the late, great impresario Dick Randall, who also blessed the world with PIECES (1981) and the super trashy giallo THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS (1972). You can also spot him in SLAUGHTER HIGH as a sleazy looking producer – not much of a stretch!
Finally, it's been well-documented that Simon Scuddamore - who played Marty - killed himself within weeks of the film being made. A sad loss, and one that adds another layer of poignancy to his performance and the fate of his character.
All-in-all, SLAUGHTER HIGH remains languishing in DVD limbo, without a release on the horizon. That's a shame, as, whilst not to everyone's taste, this zany slasher has cheesy charm to spare.
BODYCOUNT 13 female:6 / male:71) Male killed on coat hook