Saturday, September 1, 2012

Return to Horror High (1987)

This film is not a sequel to another movie. I know the "Return" in the title seems to suggest that it is. What it refers to is the filmmaking process. For all of the "Based on true events" films that come out these days, it kind of seems like a pretty novel idea in 1987. Before the opening credits, words roll down the screen telling us that brutal murders took place at Crippen High School in 1982 and the killer was never caught. Years later, a film crew has returned to the very same high school to make a film about the very same murders. What the film crew is about to find out is that the killer is back on campus too. 

The killing starts immediately and the production coincides with the police investigation, which would obviously never happen. One incident and the whole thing would be shut down and turned into an official crime scene. But we don't watch these movies for truthiness (as Stephen Colbert would say) we want to see blood and gore, we want to be scared and have fun. This film doesn't have much of any of that. It has a lot of red paint that looks like real red paint, but the effects in general leave a lot to be desired. Oh yeah! And school's still in session too. This is the worst school district ever. 

The cast is interesting and could have helped elevate the film as a whole, but it doesn't. Alex Rocco, most recognizable as Moe Greene in The Godfather (1972) plays a film producer in Return to Horror High. He has quite a bit of screen time and his acting is good, providing some of the film's comic relief. But it's all so cheesy and not funny. Maureen McCormick or Marsha Brady from The Brady Bunch, plays a police officer on campus as part of the murder investigation. She's actually pretty good. She wears her uniform and hat in a way that parodies stereotypical female cops, she stands up straight with her chest out and talks tough- think Sgt. Callahan in the Police Academy films.  

The most famous cast member of Return to Horror High is George Clooney. This movie was made while he was on the television series The Facts of Life, but it was his first motion picture. He plays an actor who is playing a police officer in the movie that is being made. We see him on the set at the beginning. He walks off down a hall by himself and into a closet. This is where he meets his demise, just 10 minutes into the film. 

This movie is terrible and barely even watchable. It's almost worth sitting through for the last 15 minutes when all is revealed. It's not so much that the ending is a shocker, it's not. But the setting and some of the props used are so sufficiently creepy, it's as if the channel was changed on the television and someone put on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Then comes another twist and we don't care about anything anymore. Remember, I see these movies so you don't have to.

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