Splatter University (1984)

SEPTEMBER 14, 2011


A good number of my Formspring questions are folks asking to identify a movie that they can’t recall the name of, because I tend to be pretty good at that sort of thing (also, I’ve seen a lot of movies. See: Horror Movie A Day). But the tables were turned not too long ago, as I needed help identifying a movie I only saw the last 5-10 minutes of at a party over a decade ago, as the fellow participants had either forgotten themselves and/or no longer kept in touch with me. But it didn’t take long for someone on Twitter to identify my vague memory as Splatter University.

In retrospect I probably should have “found” the movie sooner as it’s one of the ones that Randy name-checks in Scream 2, which gives it a small bit of cred. But as it was a bit late to the game with the slasher boom (1984; most were 1981 or 1982), it is often forgotten when folks discuss the slasher films highs and lows; even the pretty great slasher doc Going To Pieces skips over it (a poster is shown, however). However, now that I’ve seen it, I’m actually surprised it doesn’t get referenced more often, because it’s actually one of the most mean-spirited entries in the original slasher era.

Spoilers for a 27 year old movie ahead!

There’s a bit of a reason for it, as our killer is a priest who looks down on fornicators, but it’s really weird that not a single male student is killed throughout the course of the film. In fact, the only male victim at all is an orderly at the institute that our killer escapes from in the opening scene. Even when he’s in close proximity to potential male victims, he leaves them be, such as at the drive-in where he kills the girl but lets the guy (who went off to pee during the murder) sit and watch the movie, thinking that the girl is just pissed at him and not dead.

And not only that, but the bulk of them are decent people. The first student to get taken out is seemingly the only one in our heroine’s sociology class that actually does her homework, and the reason she is walking around by herself is because she wanted to work on her paper instead of drinking with her friends. And then, just to toss a little more cruelty her way, her friends walk the dumpster that her corpse is in and throw cans of ginger ale on her (unknowingly, of course). Basically, she went off to be more like Laurie Strode and got killed for her behavior.

But that’s nothing compared to the next one. Our seeming Final Girl is a nice young woman who IS indeed sexually active – in fact she’s pregnant. They take time to show her explaining to the teacher why she won’t be in class, let her have a couple heart to hearts with her gal friends, etc... and then she gets killed forty minutes in (the one at the drive-in). You don’t do that! And even THAT’S sort of tame when you consider that our heroine gets killed as well, without even taking the killer down with her. Jesus Christ, movie. Even Maniac let a girl get away.

I should note that the movie doesn’t FEEL sleazy or misogynistic like Maniac or some others with a heavy female casualty rate; if not for the rather cheap production value and occasional Happy Birthday To Me-esque hijinks committed by our core cast, I’d actually consider them to be really good shock twists. But the loose and sloppy approach to this sort of material leads me to believe that it wasn’t intentional, and that they probably just didn’t even notice that they forgot to kill any of the male characters, because they were too busy just having fun cashing in on a trend that was on its last leg.

It’s also a hilariously lazy production at times, with a record number of random “extras” who were possibly townsfolk who wandered onto the set without anyone bothering to tell them to move before they started shooting. I particularly liked when we watch a pretty long shot of some of the teens getting into a car, talking for a while, and then driving off – as the car exits the frame we see that a little kid has been standing on the other side of the car the other time, staring pretty much right at the camera. There are at least 3-4 other instances of “is that a crew member or did the extra forget to move?” throughout the film, keep an eye out! Also, the kills are all exactly the same; apart from one random forehead slicing (huh?), everyone just gets stabbed in the stomach.

Oh, and they botch the whodunit aspect (the trailer gives the killer’s identity away entirely, for what it’s worth), introducing a red herring very early on and then never showing him once again throughout the entire movie. They try to make it look like it’s our heroine’s new boyfriend, but since they’re trying you know it can’t be him, and there’s really only one other suspect (we know it’s an adult male from the prologue). So again, despite three writers (all male, I should note), it’s a pretty sloppy script.

There IS some character to it though. Most interesting is the random (read: wholly out of place) message on the blackboard concerning color film deterioration and “how it affects society”, which would just be wholly baffling unless you knew that director Richard Haines is something of an authority on the matter, having written a book on Technicolor films (the dye transfer Technicolor process does not fade over time as other films do – if you’ve ever gone to see a revival screening and the print looked pink, it’s because of fading). So I like that he threw that little background detail in for folks that were paying attention. I was also amused by the lazy kids in the class, one of whom asks if one of the recent deaths meant that they didn’t have to pass in their homework that day. The kids also have pretty good chemistry, though the fact that most of them had never been in a film before (and haven’t since) makes me wonder if the director didn’t just hire an actual group of friends.

Oh, and it’s only 78 minutes long, so even though the body count is rather low for a slasher around this time (only 7 I think?), the pacing doesn’t get too sluggish, though I was starting to get tired of seeing this damn hallway (where nothing much ever happens):

The disc’s only extras are two trailers, which again spoil the killer’s identity for those 2-3 people who weren’t able to figure it out on their own, as well as pretty much every kill. But it’s worth watching for the amazing tagline: “Enroll now in a theater near you and earn a higher degree in blood dripping terror!” That’s what I hate about modern trailers; there’s no hucksterism or corniness to them anymore. Everyone takes shit too seriously nowadays.

And at long last, I can sleep eas- oh wait, I still don’t know what that werewolf movie was! To Twitter!!!

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Brian -

    Check out Kindertrauma dot com as it is a site based mostly on people trying to remember old horror movies etc. Pretty fun site too.


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