Meet Marty Rantzen, the uber-nerd of Doddsville High School. The resident jocks and hot chicks don't seem to like him very much and are always playing jokes on him. Thanks to a horrible April Fool's joke gone wrong, Rantzen is badly burned and scarred in a chemistry lab accident. Cut to 5 years later, when our unsuspecting jocks and hot chicks are invited to a class reunion at the now condemned school building. Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to get them all there and has set up one hell of a party filled with booze, drugs, and DEATH!
Marty the Nerd
I don't want to get carried away with picking apart the unrealities of the plot setup, but there are a lot of things that defy logic. I mean, wouldn't it seem odd when only 10 people showed up for a class reunion? And if you show up for your class reunion and the building is dilapidated and all locked up, would you stick around for like 5 hours before trying to get in (or, you know, leaving)? And walking around the school, the whole thing is in pretty bad shape... except for one room which is pretty lamely decorated... and this setup doesn't set off any alarms for people? Another strange plot point is how the characters deduce that Marty is attempting to kill them all on April Fool's day - the anniversary of his accident. But for some reason, they decide that April Fool's day ends at noon? What? (Update: According to BC at Horror Movie a Day: "IN EUROPE that’s how April Fool’s Day works. Here in the real world of America, we celebrate that shit all day!")
But that's all missing the point, isn't it? It takes a little while to get started, but it's fun once it does. Again, the progression of the plot (such as there is one) doesn't make much sense, but I appreciated the touch of Slasher Marty using chemistry-related means to kill off a few of the guests. I must also admit that the use of the creepy old woman jester mask thingy is pretty damn awesome (gratuitous shadow/silhouette shots of the hat, along with the auditory jingle are reasonably effective). Some of the kills strain credibility (to say the least), and because of the setup, we don't really care about... any of the characters, really. Even Marty isn't particularly likeable. He didn't deserve to be burned up in a chemical fire, of course, but that doesn't really make him a guy I want to spend a lot of time with. But the kills are at least somewhat creative at times, if not as gory as they could have been.
Marty lurks in the shadows!
I've got a mixed mind about the music by Harry Manfredini (of the Friday the 13th movie series fame). There are really two modes in evidence here: First, you've got a so-bad-it's-funny 80s synth-rock song that gets repeated ad nauseam throughout the movie. Second, you've got the typical F13/Psycho rip-off, with the shriek violins and whatnot. It's so obvious and overdone that it actually kinda works. The film is obviously not going for any sort of emotional resonance, it's just hoping to revel in the gory fun of your typical slasher film, and in that respect, the music works.
The ending of the film is rather bizarre, for a couple of reasons. First, it happens during the day, which is odd in itself. Second, well, I don't want to ruin the ending, but it's an amazingly bizarre, almost nonsensical sequence of events (which might, in some ways, answer some of the plot-related questions above - but then, it also opens up a whole new can of crazy worms).
In the end, what you've got here is a thoroughly 80s slasher film. It follows the conventions reasonably well and it has a few interesting touches, but it's not very good in any sort of objective sense. In fact, it's pretty bad, but it's a reasonably fun and entertaining bad that's well worth a watch if you're a fan of 80s culture and slashers. **
More screenshots and comments in the extended entry...
Update: Stacie has posted her review, along with all the other Film Club reviews. She also points out one of my favorite things about the sex scene that I forgot to mention. Check it out.
April Fool's Day!
As previously mentioned, this movie is pretty firmly part of the Slasher Calendar, taking place on April Fool's Day.
This is a teenager?
This is the drop dead gorgeous Caroline Munro. I suppose she's what passes for the heroine of this film, but while she is incredibly hot, there's no way she really passes for a teenager... or for that matter, someone who is 22 years old. She was easily in her mid thirties here, and to be honest, most of the rest of the cast is in the same boat (but the rest of the cast is nowhere near as nice to look at).
I believe this is what's referred to as "foreshadowing."
I love how the movie handles the physics of a bottle of liquid dropping on the table. Apparently it shoots a jet of acid directly at your face. The funny part is that they show the bottle crashing into the table, and the liquid doesn't splash much, then it cuts to his face and you get the above screen. Heh.
So after breaking into the building, they wander around the dilapidated building until they stumble onto this room, which is cleaned up and decorated in a decidedly craptacular manner. Again, no warning bells for these characters here? This is perhaps why it's not so bad watching them die horribly.
In one of the most hilariously typical scenes in the film, this guy takes a long drag on the joint, then while trying not to exhale too much, he says "That's good shit, man..." as he passes it on to the next in line. You really need to see this moment to get how perfect and hilarious it is. Classic.
At one point during the party, this douchebag shotguns a beer. I double-checked, and yes, he's drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The implication is that Marty used his chemistry superpowers to poison the beer so that drinking it will cause your intestines to burst out of your stomach, but those of us familiar with Pabst Blue Ribbon aren't fooled.
Again, I'm pretty sure that Pabst Blue Ribbon does this anyway.
Another in a long line of silhouette shots...
One of the odder kills happens when two characters, who know that they're locked in this building with a homicidal maniac, decide to take a time out and fuck. Oh, and she's actually cheating on her boyfriend (who I believe was attempting to fix up a riding lawnmower in an attempt to escape - don't ask). Marty electrocutes them both.
Again, the conclusion of the film happens in broad daylight, giving you your first really good look at the killer... It's a pretty cool costume for a killer.
Look, it's the hulk! This is from the aforementioned crazy, almost nonsensical ending in which all the people who were killed come back as quasi-zombies or something.
Well, that wraps it up for this movie. I can see why it's become something of a cult hit, but it's not one of my favorites...