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Slasher Sundays: Slaughter High (1986)

Written by Culture, Film

Long before the reform of the slasher genre brought about by the self-parodying Wes Craven film Scream, there was a 1986 debut that satirized the stagnant and formulaic onslaught of stab-rich horrors called Slaughter High.

What’s massively different about Slaughter High is that it doesn’t take itself seriously and it is fully intended to be a dumb fun flick. However, it does so in a way that other slashers didn’t at the time, as rather than embracing the tropes and cliches with open arms and having over the top kills and gore, Slaughter High mocked the beats of other films. It even referenced Friday the 13th, indicating that, like the denizens of the Scream universe, our cast of merry-go-luck victims were aware of the formula themselves.

The origin story of the murderer is very typical – he was burned alive, leaving him scarred and deformed. He was also a victim of bullying, particularly a horrible April Fools Day prank which is what ultimately lead to his accident. Naturally, this gives him motive and a cast of screamers to cut up to celebrate the anniversary of his tragedy. It’s typical, but the filmmakers very clearly know this.

The film is self-aware but embraces the fun, stylistic and charming motif of 80s slasher.

That’s what’s so brilliant about Slaughter High – the film is self-aware but embraces the fun, stylistic and charming motif of 80s slasher. The practical effects are over the top and the kills are unrealistic to a point of hilarity. However, what truly stuck out above all else was the phenomenal score which is odd for a genre that is plagued by generic copycat music that tries too hard to emulate Friday the 13th and Halloween’s sinister compositions.

Unlike a lot of the films of the era, the cast of characters are also memorable with rich personality. Not many, if any at all, are likable, including the vindictive geek with a vengeance, despite him falling prey to a horrific practical joke that transformed him into a broken and beaten psychopath. However, that works in the film’s favour as they truly play on the stereotypes, making the demises of everyone involved satisfying and entertaining.

Slaughter High’s biggest pitfall, and perhaps it’s only major one, is that upon first viewing, it’s difficult to sus whether it’s intentionally satirical or so-bad-it’s-funny but, when the intentions become apparent, a comedy that tops the terrible Scary Movie attempts at doing the same crawls from the woodworks with a kitchen knife in hand and enough acid to fill a bathtub in tow.

If you want to get into slasher, Slaughter High isn’t the jumping on point, but if you’re a fan of slasher, Slaughter High is a must.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Last modified: 5th February 2020

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