JANUARY 4, 2013
Maybe it just can't be done? National Lampoon's Class Reunion is the 4th or 5th slasher spoof I've seen (for the record, Scary Movie 1 counts, the sequels do not), and none of them are that great. Class Reunion is no exception; if anything it's the weakest - I tweeted early on that it started off better than Student Bodies, but that quickly proved to be incorrect. Bodies was no classic, but it least had a number of good laughs - this has almost zero.
In fact I only laughed out loud twice in the entire movie; once at a sight gag (their school has a Medieval Science Lab) and another at a line from Egon, the class' foreign exchange student from Transylvania (thus, he's a vampire). He's talking to a girl who says something that ends with "when I'm dead!" and he replies "...I'll come back." He's one of only two horror-centric characters; there's also a Regan-y type who speaks in demon voice and breathes fire when a gag calls for it, and their presence made me wish that the whole class was populated with assorted parodies of movie monsters/killers.
Because a big part of the problem is that the characters are trying too hard, mugging and overacting their hearts out to score laughs. Apart from a wink at the camera, the guy playing Egon is the only one underplaying the material, which makes him the funniest, and the Exorcist chick scored a few mild chuckles with similar delivery. The fact that everyone was pretty generic didn't cause much of a problem - if it was a straight slasher we'd still have the class president, the homecoming queen, the party guy asshole, etc. But those stereotypes in and of themselves aren't funny by default, where the idea that a vampire or demon goes to a school reunion trying to hook up with old flames or rub success in the faces of their former rivals IS.
In other words, the script is the true villain here, and for that we can blame... wait, John Hughes??? Yep, the master of 80s comedy was behind this chore, though I guess he has admitted his script sucks, and he must have done enough right to follow it up with another comedy for National Lampoon: Vacation, aka one of the greatest movies ever made. It's weird that all of these parody movies are written by folks with no experience in the genre - they'd probably work a lot better if penned by someone with a little more familiarity and maybe even a little love for the genre. Hughes seems to have seen Friday the 13th Part 2 and Terror Train, since the film's opening sequence copies both, but after that there isn't anything to suggest he knew much about slasher films at all, let alone the best way to go about making fun of them. The killer escapes from an institution and his doctor shows up to warn them, but if there's a Halloween Loomis joke in any of this material, it didn't register (I put his big scene below since I couldn't find a trailer - and this is actually one of the film's more amusing scenes).
In fact, most of it seems inspired more by 1940's "Old Dark House" movies, as the killer's presence is discovered pretty early on (after he kills a guy that looks like the Dean from Community, complete with ridiculous costume) and 5-6 of our main characters go off around the haunted castle-ish school, snooping around dark rooms and decrepit corridors. Plus (spoiler?) the killer turns out to be a primary character wearing a Mission Impossible style face mask (Michael Lerner plays this role), which is the sort of tomfoolery you'd see in those old movies. The body count is also low; Student Bodies had the good sense to rack up a pretty impressive death toll, but here I think it's less than five - even the damn killer survives.
And even that would be fine if it worked as a comedy, but it's so all over the place in that department that nothing really sticks. There are a couple of stoners to add stoner humor, a couple of the girls disrobe to get some nudity in there, Stephen Furst shows up to remind people about how much they loved Animal House, etc. Remove the slasher element and you're left with a rather aimless comedy about a reunion, populated with characters without any real arcs or even strong relationships with the other characters - there's a new reunion movie with Channing Tatum called 10 Years, and I learned more about its characters from the damn trailer than I did in this 85 minute feature.
In fact, the end sums it up perfectly. At the end of the movie, everyone who survived participates in a line dance, so whatever pair is in the center will wrap up their "story" in a few lines before moving off camera so the next pair can follow suit. It's a good idea, but I can't imagine anyone in the world who would care about, say, the Exorcist girl and the organizer (Miriam Flynn, best known as Cousin Eddie's wife) planning to become business partners. You take a movie like Airplane - through all the gags and nuttiness, there's still an actual story to latch onto - there's nothing of the sort here. It's just THERE, and not very funny while it is.
What say you?
P.S. That same year, the director also gave us Chuck Norris' action/horror hybrid Silent Rage, which is probably funnier.