Slaughter High (1986)

Directors: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra

Starring: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore

“They say he still roams the nuthouse, ever hopeful of a chance to escape, so he can take his evil revenge out on us all.”  (Skip, Slaughter High)

After Friday The 13th made the cheap slasher movie popular, a slew of imitators were quickly churned out over the following years. One notable example was Slaughter High, which was originally called April Fool’s Day but had a quick last-minute title change after it was noticed that Paramount had its own film called April Fool’s Day set for release that year. The moniker modification came so late, in fact, that the film’s title card still says “April Fool’s Day” with a hastily added “AKA Slaughter High” superimposed on the bottom! Turns out Slaughter High was a much better title anyway, because not only is it actually set in an abandoned high school, you can also do some tinkering with your video box and change the title to the far more appropriate Laughter High fairly easily.

Jamie Oliver's cookery class for forgetful people didn't go too smoothly

Slaughter High begins with a flashback in which the implausibly nerdy Marty (Simon Scuddamore) is coaxed into the girls’ locker room by the school hottie, Carol (Caroline Munro), for some apparent sexy times. What he doesn’t realise is that it’s April Fool’s Day and Carol and her friends are actually playing an elaborate practical joke on him. After an extremely embarrassing incident involving a surprising degree of male nudity and inappropriate touching, Marty flees to the emotional security of his beloved chemistry lab to continue his school project. Unfortunately, there he becomes the victim of another, harsher practical joke, one which sets the lab on fire and leaves Marty hideously scarred for life. 

Fast-forward five years and we catch up with Carol and the rest of the bully kids, now older, wiser and doing their own thing (though they all still look exactly the same – at the age of 37 when this was filmed, Caroline Munro wasn’t exactly a convincing high school student to begin with). They’ve all received an invitation to a school reunion and, eager to meet up with their friends again, they all head off to the school.

The medieval version of Michael Jackson's Thriller lacked a certain something

When they get there they find the school all locked up and fenced in, seemingly abandoned. They manage to find their way in there anyway and eventually find a room decorated with “welcome back” messages and food so, happy that there seems to be a party after all, they stick around. And that’s when they start getting killed off one by one. Could it be Marty, seeking revenge after all these years? Well, no shit.

Curiously, although Slaughter High was actually filmed in the UK with British actors – Caroline Munro was well-known for her roles in various Hammer horror films, for example – it masquerades as an American film, with all the actors putting on their best American accents. Perhaps they thought a slasher film set in the UK wouldn’t have worked, so everyone tries their best to convince the viewer the film’s set and made in America, even if the occasional shots of English countryside do make that difficult to believe.

The killer makes clever use of the screen wrap trick, as seen in Pac-Man.

Shallow as it sounds, given its target audience a film like Slaughter High lives or dies on two things – the quality of the kills and the amount of nudity on show. While the former is of a half-decent standard, anyone watching this film in hope of seeing decent helpings of the latter (you perverts) will be disappointed and perhaps a little disturbed, because both instances of nudity end in horrible disfigurement. Ever taken a bath in acid? Slaughter High shows why you shouldn’t. It doesn’t explain why you’d ever want to take a bath in an abandoned school in the first place, mind you.

The thing that will stick in your mind long after you’ve seen Slaughter High however – other than its biazarre, over-the-top ending, that is – is the soundtrack, created by the king of hilariously bad scores, Harry Manfredini. He’s the man responsible for the music in most of the early Friday The 13th films, and if you’ve ever enjoyed the cheesefest that is the Friday The 13th Part 3 disco theme, then you’ll be happy to hear that the Slaughter High score is even worse yet still somehow remains frustratingly catchy. You’ll find yourself singing it in your head then immediately getting angry with yourself for accepting such a shite piece of music into your mind (experience it for yourself in the trailer below). And when he’s not filling your brain with pishy music, Manfredini outright steals his own musical stings from Friday The 13th’s scare scenes and reuses them here. Were it not for the fact that the killer’s a nerd wearing a jester mask instead of a mongoloid wearing a hockey mask, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was another Friday The 13th film.

Caroline Munro isn't a very convincing teenager. Here she tells a "classmate" of her ongoing battle with the menopause

Slaughter High is a fun example of mid-80s slasher cheese. It sticks to all the typical horror rules, taking them to extreme levels at times (we know if you get naked you die in these films, but does it have to happen before they get their kit on?) and the acting’s ever-so-slightly bad enough to keep you smiling throughout. It’s no masterpiece but it passes the time well enough.

One tragic little afternote that may affect your enjoyment of the film as you watch it: Simon Scuddamore, the British actor who played the lead role of Marty, committed suicide at the age of 28 shortly after the film was released. This does make it a little harder to watch and makes the odd ending seem even more sinister when you consider the mental demons the real actor was suffering at the time.

WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
Slaughter High got a fancy special edition in the UK last year courtesy of the excellent Arrow Video. It’s fairly cheap, you can get it click here. Americans have to make do with the slightly less spectacular DVD here.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more, here’s a complete list of reviews on That Was A Bit Mental.

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