In a grainy prologue, staff at a psychiatric hospital search frantically for a missing inmate. One doctor opens a closet door to discover a patient hiding inside - resulting in the medic receiving a gory stab to the groin. The deranged patient then puts on the doctor's clothes and walks away from the scene unnoticed...
Three years later, in St Trinian's College, we witness the bloody murder of pretty teacher Janet (Donna Hartman) working alone after school in her classroom. Could it be ... the same lunatic from the aforementioned asylum now has their sights set on the college?
One year later, and the start of the film's present tense, we meet cute brunette Julie (Forbes Riley), freshly starting at the college as replacement for the slain teacher. Her introductory chat with school principal, Father Janson (Dick Biel), fares well until he clues her in on the fate of her predecessor and the fact that the murder remains unsolved. Perhaps unwisely, Julie insists she's still okay with taking the position.
Julie throws herself into her role as teacher, trying desperately to inspire a class full of apathetic teenagers. Between them, these kids are the usual bunch of jocks, nerds and sluts: they want to party, play pranks, worry about teenage pregnancies etc.
After her first lesson, Julie runs in to trouble with Janson - her liberal views are at loggerheads with his puritanical stance. It looks like she has her work cut out for her in this highly Catholic school, especially with the likes of Perkins (director Richard W Haines) monitoring her in class, and just itching to grass on her for any transgressions from the curriculum.
There is, of course, a greater concern to contend with. Like, who's killing off all the dumb-fuck graduates in gory fashion? And why?
There's more to this 77-minute film, of course. Coming from auteur Richard W Haines - CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH - it alternates between pastiche and closely following the slasher conventions in alarmingly sincere fashion. It's also a pretty nifty whodunit (though you'll guess the killer's identity fairly early on), as viewers try to second guess what's going to happen next. The combination of strings and electronica make for a stirring, era-specific score too.
Lo-fi from the offset, this film was apparently made with meagre means and encountered more than its fair share of production problems. However, it succeeds in delivering the usual genre tropes in energetic, enjoyable fashion. It's also a lot more serious in tone than its (tagged on, in post-production) prologue suggests.
Well-shot and edited, with some surprisingly gory set-pieces to boot, SPLATTER UNIVERSITY rises above its clichés and cardboard cut-out characters to provide what feels like a heartfelt homage to the classic slasher films of the early 1980s. And yet, it was filmed in 1981...
A decent rock soundtrack helps, as do an unrelenting pace and a cast of chiselled young characters going through the SCREWBALLS motions in enjoyable fashion. In terms of actors making the greatest impression, those honours undoubtedly go to the excellent Biel and the dim-but-likeable Riley...
Number 4 in 88 Films' "Slasher Classics Collection", SPLATTER UNIVERSITY makes its worldwide blu-ray debut here.
It's presented uncut (the full "unrated" version) as an MPEG4-AVC file, in 1080p HD and 16x9 widescreen. Housed as an agreeably sized MPEG4-AVC file, this presentation will possibly horrify some who are used to pristine, pin-sharp HD propositions: the opening scene, in particular, is washed out, soft and murky. But things do improve.
Colours are strong, blacks behave themselves, noise is absent. Grain is mild but evident throughout - as it should be. But there's a softness to proceedings that some - the 88 naysayers, which do exist - are going to revel in.
Keep your expectations in check - this is licensed from Troma, and they don't "do" restoration - and you should know what to anticipate. If you're familiar with After Hours' fine saviours of 70s pornos, I would suggest it looks akin to them: perfectly filmic, watchable, good in fact - just not graced with the sheen that spoilt blu-ray enthusiasts are probably used to.
English mono audio is given the lossless treatment. It offers a largely clean mix, albeit the dialogue is at times a tad quiet - presumably because of the lo-fi manner in which it was recorded.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the film via 6 chapters.
Bonus material begins with an enjoyable commentary track from Haines. He possesses an easy, likeable manner as he speaks with candid honesty and remarkably good memory about shooting his mega low-budget flick.
Nary a second of dead air is present during this fluent, fluid chat track - the writer-producer-director-editor-distributor extraordinaire talking his through his 30 years in low-budget filmmaking (and explaining why he gave it all up), and credits himself with directing 7-and-a-half films: the half relates to CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, which he insists he didn't have creative control over. The film was originally lumbered with an X-rating stateside, we learn, and
Haines explains why the tone is uneven, reveals the obstacles his young cast and crew were up against when making a film on such a shoestring budget, and speaks fondly of his novice colleagues. FX artist Amodio Giordano also turns up to offer his anecdotes about the FX set-pieces - which he was allowed to direct himself - and his admiration for Haines as a filmmaker. He also reveals why he can't eat sausages since working on this film...
WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU is a 75-minute film by Haines from 2010, which has remained little-seen until now. Here it is as a whopping extra feature, presented in HD and benefiting from a clean 16x9 transfer. As you'd imagine from such a recent film, it scrubs up infinitely better than the main feature in terms of picture quality!
The film concerns a mysterious writer (Ian Tomaschik) who writes for a fanzine called Ghastly Horrors. He's hired to conduct a survey on what really frightens people. Taking to the streets, he stops three passers-by and offers each of them $100 if they'll share their greatest fears with him.
For yuppie Brett (Chris Davis), he still fears the idea of monsters hiding beneath his bed. Sexy Chloe (Sorika Horng) suffers from a recurring nightmare in which she's exposed publicly in her underwear. Lawyer Drew (Postell Pringle) has a bee in his bonnet about discrimination and fears that his background from the "hood" may impede his career prospects.
Shortly after sharing their phobias with the sinister interviewer, each protagonist begins experiencing hallucinatory events related to their innermost fears...
Stylish, colourful and cartoonish, WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU is cheap but proficient schlock with its fair share of practical gore, amiable performances and sexy near-nudity.
"Splatter Scholar" is an enjoyable 9-minute interview with "Teenage Wasteland" author Justin Kerswell. He explains more about the film's schizophrenic tone, before going on to discuss why the film works for him (even though it didn't when he first viewed it) and points out its similarities to gialli.
A 2-minute photo gallery offers a wealth of colour behind-the-scenes photos along with promotional artwork, all set to the agreeable tunes of a punk tune entitled - what else? - "Splatter University".
The film's original US trailer is presented in all its 104-second glory. We also get a most enjoyable 27-second US TV spot.
Finally, it's worth noting that this release comes in an attractive red blu-ray keepcase and offers double-sided reversible cover artwork.
SPLATTER UNIVERSITY is a good little film - a very low-budget one - from the early 80s. It's gory, takes time out to challenge Catholic ideals and provides a good whodunit angle to boot. It may not scrub up tremendously well presentation-wise, but I'd happily wager that this is the best you're ever likely to see the uncut version look. Great extras too.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|