Several slasher movies defined 80s horror. This was the decade that saw Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play terrify audiences in the cineplexes. Plenty of B-movie slashers – including Terror Train, Prom Night, and My Bloody Valentine – also found life on video store shelves. And then there was the C-level offerings that aimed for cult status. Madman. Graduation Day. Slumber Party Massacre 2. Somewhere in the middle of the slasher’s prime, Slaughter High made its way to a handful of theaters before finding a bit of a following on VHS. Low budget, derivative, and often laughable, is Slaughter High a bad movie? Or is it so bad, it’s good?
Marty Rantzen may be a science whiz, but he’s the also the biggest loser at his school. On April Fool’s Day, the high school’s cool clique plays a prank on Marty that gets interrupted by the gym coach. Angry with their gym detention, the cool kids play one last prank that ends tragically. Horribly burned and traumatized, Marty disappears, believed to be hospitalized. Years later, the gang returns to their old high school for the big reunion. But something’s immediately wrong. No one else has arrived. The school is abandoned. And someone has assembled memorabilia belonging to each of the clique. When a mystery guest joins the party, the slaughter begins.
Slaughter High a Derivative Slasher That Mixes Intentional and Unintentional Laughs
Nearly everything about Slaughter High is comically inept. Perhaps the most mind-boggling factoid is that it took three people – Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, and George Dugdale – to write and direct this mid-80s slasher. This is derivative effort that incorporates any and every slasher trope from the era. First, there’s the laughably convoluted ‘tragic past’, or failed prank, that actually unfolds over two acts. And then there’s the ‘terrible place‘ – an obviously abandoned school. Why the characters would stick around for more than five minutes defies logic. Of course, Slaughter High litters its story with head-scratching decisions. After one character’s stomach explodes, another character decides that would be the best time to take a bath to clean off the blood. The score alternates between something out of a goofy teen sex romp and composer Harry Manfredini recycling his Friday the 13th score.
This is derivative effort that incorporates any and every slasher trope from the era.
In spite of these glaring problems, Slaughter High remains strangely watchable. Like any decent 80s slasher, the practical gore effects are cheap but still head and shoulders above any lazy contemporary CGI. The aforementioned stomach burst is actually impressively grisly. In fact, if this slasher gets anything right, the kills show off some morbid inventiveness. While it’s often intentionally goofy and unintentionally funny, Slaughter High also has a bit of a mean streak. That final scene makes little sense, but it’s also kind of unnerving for a movie that rarely feels serious.
Slaughter High Features a Cast of ‘High Schoolers’ On Their Third or Fourth Victory Lap
If it’s not immediately obviously, Slaughter High was a British production featuring mostly British actors intermittently doing bad American accents. The only familiar face here is British actress and Hammer Films veteran, Caroline Munro (Maniac, Don’t Open Till Christmas). Of course, Munro was at least 35 years old when filming started on Slaughter High. In fact, the entire cast looked like 30-year-olds playing high school students, putting Beverly Hills 90210 to shame. Not surprisingly, the performances ranges from wooden to vaguely passable. All the characters check off the expected slasher stereotypes.
In fact, the entire cast looked like 30-year-olds playing high school students, putting Beverly Hills 90210 to shame.
As for its villain, Slaughter High once again doubles down on tropes borrowing the tried and true ‘social outcast‘ narrative used in horror movies from Carrie to Evilspeak to Christine. The choice of a jester’s mask – clearly looking to cash in on April Fool’s timing – may look slightly creepy. Yet like the rest of the movie, it results in laugh-out-moments when jingling bells tell the audience the killer is coming. On a sad note, Simon Scuddamore, the actor playing Marty Rantzen, committed suicide shortly after production on the slasher. Slaughter High would be his only movie role and his death adds a dark legacy to what’s an otherwise goofy horror entry.
Slaughter High Defines ‘So Bad, It’s Good’ Kind of Horror Movie
If ever there was a horror movie deserving of the title, ‘So bad, it’s good’, it’s Slaughter High. This inept late 1980s slasher all but defines ‘guilty pleasure’. Miscasting and poor acting abound. Everything about the story is completely derivative. And the derivative nature doesn’t even account for some of the sheer illogical nonsense. Harry Manfredini pretty much phones in his work, recycling his Friday the 13th score. And the production values are bargain basement value. Nonetheless, like any decent 80s slasher, the kills and practical effects are impressive. Somehow Slaughter High also manages to make for a watchable effort even if you always know it’s a really, really bad movie.