Latest Horror Movie Headlines

04.06.2012by: Jake Dee

Horror Ten Spot: Favorite High-School Horror Flicks

Given all the horror subgenres and various locations each employ, it kind of appears the high-school horror flick is a relatively new addition. And when I say new, I mean the motif isn't a subset that harks back to the golden age of horror, to the RKO/Universal monster movies and such. In fact, in my crude research, I've found the high-school horror subgenre, if not fully born until the '70s, certainly found its footing in the decade of bellbottoms and hookahs. Over the last few decades the genre has evolved, weaving a humorous, often campy tone with pubescent metaphors of maturity, immaturity and adulthood. Many employ slasher tropes, with a masked-madman on a stalk-and-slit rampage. Joseph Khan's DETENTION, out this Friday, seems to be one such flick, admittedly with a much more overt tongue-in-cheek viewpoint. To prep for you this goofy looking sumbitch, we're taking a look back at some of the best examples of high-school horror done right. Class is in session!

#10. GRADUATION DAY (1981) - Herb Freed

SETTING:

La Caņada High School - La Caņada, California: A high-school track team is gorily felled by a maniac with a fencing mask and lance.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Fencing Sword

BEST DEATH SCENE:

A pit of spikes embedded on a high-jump mat impale an unknowing jock who lands on them from high above.

BOTTOM LINE:

One of two films released by Troma in 1981, GRADUATION DAY is largely devoid of the overt camp and kitsch the company now revels in with delight. Instead, it's embarrassment is of the unintentional kind. Linnea Quigley and Vanna White star in this hard to find slasher relic, hard to find because it's cheap and in many ways formulaic, with god awful over-the-top acting. That said, it's sleazy quality has enough merit to give it a look.

#9. CUTTING CLASS (1989) - Rospo Pallenberg

SETTING:

Excelsior High School - Norwalk, California: A teenage girl can't decide which of her two potential suitors may be responsible for a rash of grisly high-school murders.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Axe, Hammer

BEST DEATH SCENE:

The villain. Dude gets brained in the forehead with a hammer claw then falls on a running chainsaw to his morbid demise.

BOTTOM LINE:

Yeah, so this isn't much more than a lame-brain slasher whodunit set in the halls of a high-school, but damn...you thought I'd leave out that Brad Pitt picture? Seriously though, CUTTING CLASS is a pretty entertaining time upon first go around, effectively shrouding the culprit until the suspenseful auto-shop showdown. Roddy McDowall and Martin Mull bring a modicum of undignified humor this type of film otherwise doesn't deserve.

#8. STUDENT BODIES (1981) - Mickey Rose/Michael Ritchie

SETTING:

Lamab High School - Houston, Texas: "The Breather" pokes fun at all the slasher conventions when he trolls a high-school and tallies his death-toll.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Paperclip

BEST DEATH SCENE:

Unfortunately, most of the deaths are of the off-screen, cutaway variety. But if you want something outlandish, it doesn't get more absurd than braining a bitch with an eggplant!

BOTTOM LINE:

Before there was SCARY MOVIE, or even SCREAM (which was originally titled SCARY MOVIE), there was STUDENT BODIES, the OG horror lampoon. The flick is schlocky slapstick B-movie fare, but it quite cleverly deconstructs the slasher genre...adding a death-meter to the bottom of the screen, riffing on the sleazy heavy breathing of our killer's POV. The flick directly mocks flicks like HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, etc.

#7. CHERRY FALLS (2000) - Geoffrey Wright

SETTING:

Cherry Falls High - Cherry Falls, Virginia: High-school virgins are systematically butchered by an unassuming psycho with a hidden agenda.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

A big ass knife

BEST DEATH SCENE:

The opening. After seeing her boyfriend Rod get stabbed to death with said big ass knife, Stacy is treated by having her hands nailed to a tree and her innards gutted. Thing is, instead of an incisive payoff, our killer intimately smears a streak of blood across Stacy's lips. We then cut to the title card.

BOTTOM LINE:

Though it suffers from a mild case of tone-deafness, CHERRY FALLS is more than a droll turn of the century high-school slasher joint. The late Brittany Murphy stars with Michael Biehn and Jay Mohr in this tale about a gaggle of virginal teen girls being stalked and slayed one by one. A dark touch of humor splashed amid the bloodletting is an appreciated touch, and despite being neutered for TV airing, the flick does enough to stand out from a sea of lesser likeminded efforts.

#6. TRICK OR TREAT (1986) - Charles Martin Smith

SETTING:

Hanover High School - North Carolina: A kid grapples with morality when he summons his rock-god hero back from the dead to lay waste to his bullies.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Sammy's electric guitar lightning bolts

BEST DEATH SCENE:

Upon Sammy's big return to the stage, he fires bolts of electricity from his guitar into the crowd, laying waste to any lame poser who dare get in the way.

BOTTOM LINE:

Although pretty damn cheesy now-a-days, TRICK OR TREAT is a much welcomed spin on the high-school horror flick. With Ozzy and Gene Simmons tearing up the set, we've got a some trivia for this odd little coming of age death-metal horror show. Glen Morgan, who plays Eddie's best friend Roger in the film, went on to write FINAL DESTINATION, THE X-FILES and direct the WILLARD and BLACK CHRISTMAS remakes. TRICK OR TREAT was his only acting gig.

#5. THE FACULTY (1998) - Robert Rodriguez

SETTING:

Herrington High School - Austin, Texas: A monstrous and malefic alien life-form subsumes a Texas high-school where it's up to a ragtag band of survivors to fuck the thing up.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Pens filled with a homemade speedball concoction

BEST DEATH SCENE:

I've always liked the scene where John Stewart - the biology teacher - gets stabbed in the eye with the lethal substance. Not only aesthetically pleasing, but begins to alert the students how to defeat the alien takeover.

BOTTOM LINE:

More or less a high-school take on THE THING meets BODY SNATCHERS, Kevin Williamson writes a pretty entertaining script realized by Robert Rodriguez. It's a glorified B-movie, no doubt, but a nice departure from your typical stalk-and-slash high-school approach. The star-studded monster-movie has some pretty solid FX work by KNB as well, before industry CG became unbearably cartoonish. Besides Salma, Jordana and Famke in the same film? Good heavens!

#4. MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976) - Rene Daalder

SETTING:

Central High - Los Angeles, California

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Various

BEST DEATH SCENE:

I dig the scene where our bullied avenger serves comeuppance to a hang-gliding jock-neck. He rigs the equipment so that all control is lost, thereby sending the jock flying headlong into an open power line. Dude explodes on contact!

BOTTOM LINE:

In what could be viewed as a perfect companion piece to CARRIE, Rene Daalder's MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH is an iniquitously overlooked 70s revenge thriller. On one hand it has all the stylings of a cheap exploitation joint, replete with the scratch, grain and hiss of a true Grindhouse film. On the other hand, the film serves quite the allegorical message about the universal horrors of high-school, using extreme fits of violence to illustrate the point. Definitely worth seeking out!

#3. PROM NIGHT (1980) - Paul Lynch

SETTING:

Hamilton High School - Toronto, Canada: After the "accidental" death of a child six years prior, a spiteful madman marauds a high-school and hunts down a foursome of students.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Butcher Knife

BEST DEATH SCENE:

Wendy chased through the halls and classrooms for a good amount of time before being chopped to death with an axe. Quite a masterful sequence of suspense.

BOTTOM LINE:

One of the quintessential high-school slasher joints, as the flick cemented Jamie Lee Curtis' status as a generational scream queen. Takes place largely on a school campus, and though the pacing is a bit laborious at times, being made in 1980, it precedes a lot of sub-generic offshoots and imitators. The whodunit element is a vastly appealing one, as it turns out the killer is closer to the victims than originally suspected.

#2. SCREAM (1996) - Wes Craven

SETTING:

Woodsboro High - Woodsboro, California: A throng of wise and weary high-schoolers are methodically stalked-and-slashed by ghostface-masked psycho.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Hunting Knife

BEST DEATH SCENE:

The opener with Drew Berrymore...stabbed in the chest, strangled, disemboweled and hung from a tree.

BOTTOM LINE:

While only a few death scenes actually take place on a school campus, in any of the SCREAM films (Principal Himbry, Randy in the van, CiCi in the frat-house), there's no denying the impactful resurgence SCREAM had on the teenage slasher film. It all but infused new blood into a moribund subgenre, poking fun with sly winks and layered pastiche. Question is, can the new trilogy have the same impact on future of the subgenre?

#1. CARRIE (1976) - Brian De Palma

SETTING:

Ewen High School - Chamberlain, Maine: A mousy teenager is tormented by her mother and classmates until she finally explodes with the fiery telekinetic vengeance.

WEAPON OF CHOICE:

Telekinesis

BEST DEATH SCENE:

The finale, where Carrie exacts a poetic bout of revenge by lighting her high-school gymnasium ablaze.

BOTTOM LINE:

CARRIE is high-school hell personified. The opening scene alone so deftly sets up a sympathetic character, that when her ultimate recompense is served in the final reel, we wholeheartedly care. It's because we've known girls like Carrie, we can relate. Props to De Palma for understanding the Stephen King's novel and casting it appropriately. Both Sissy Spacek and the truly frightening Piper Laurie were nominated for Academy Awards. Rightfully so.

RECOMMENDED MOVIE NEWS

MORE FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB

Featured Youtube Videos

Views and Counting

Mistress Of The Week

More