Sunday, 30 July 2017

Return to Horror High (1987)





















No this isn't a sequel despite it really really really really sounding like one. Much to my disappointment I must add because this movies title sounds cool and very much in the same vein as classic horror comedy franchise The Return of the Living Dead. Well that's what I thought anyway, I thought, gee this sounds like a cool classic 80's horror gore fest, I wonder if there's a movie called 'Horror High' that came first. Little insight into the way I think there for you all, well actually my reviews kinda do that any way don't they...moving on!

The plot is a simple horror concept. Back in 1982 the small community of Crippen, South California was rocked by a series of grisly murders within the local high school. The killer was never caught. Years later a film company comes to Crippen high school to make a movie about the horrific incident. Unfortunately the same killer is still on the loose and starts his old habits yet again on the film crew. So as you can see this is a pretty generic horror movie concept.

But this movies plot is a bit different in a few ways. Firstly almost the entire plot is told in flashbacks from the narrative of a police investigation taking place after the incident. The bulk of these flashbacks come from the police interviewing the last survivor. At the same time there is a film-within-a-film (found footage) element from the film company as they film their horror movie. The plot jumps back and forth between these plot lines making you the viewer unsure if you're seeing a real murder or a murder for the film-within-a-film.



But all that aside, what is the movies big selling point now? Its stars a very young, curly haired George Clooney. Yes Clooney is in this movie...for around five minutes before being unceremoniously killed off by the unknown killer. Admittedly I wasn't entirely sure if this was a real kill or pretend for the film-within-a-film but that is made clear later on. By that I mean, when its a fake kill the sequence always ends panning away with us seeing the crew filming or the actor breaking his scene. If the kill is real that simply doesn't happen and its more eerie.

In that sense the movie does feel more like a series of set pieces or shorts because its all so fractured. The plot is really quite incredibly jumbled and you're never entirely sure what's real and what's not. Half the time everyone kinda comes across as play acting including the cops doing the investigation. One female officer leading the investigation seems to be constantly aroused and eating at the most inopportune times, its really quite odd. The film-within-a-film producer is played by the legendary Alex Rocco which does add much gravitas but at the same time he feels completely miscast. You get the impression he was simply cast for his movie star status because he does very little else except act frustrated and walk around.

The rest of the cast are completely hit and miss really, just faceless actors doing their bit that anyone could do. There isn't really anyone pulling everything together, giving the movie any real punch, it all feels so meh. The visuals throughout are really drab and mundane, they don't utilise the high school enough for maximum horror effect (not until they venture into the basement at least). The kills are rather boring, predictable, no sloppy 80's gore, nothing to engage you. The actual killer reveal is a typical Scooby Doo-esque turn that is so flippin' hokey, not entirely predictable but not exactly shocking or exciting either. To top that the killers mask is a blatant rip-off of various other classic iconic horror movie killers.



All in all it was hard to know what exactly this movie was suppose to be. It wasn't particularly scary, it wasn't particularly funny anywhere, its definitely not for kids but I wouldn't say it was for fully grown adults either. Fully grown adults wouldn't find this very engaging methinks. It felt more like an attempt at a smart horror comedy for teens and young adults, but it just fails miserably. The final twist in the tale makes no sense simply because you'd think the cops and paramedics would have sussed it right away (surely?!). That in turn then puts doubt on whether there was a killer in the school or was it all a hoax. I think the killer was there but the others simply missed it, I'm honestly not sure.

This could almost be an early forerunner to the Scream franchise, its similar in idea and tone but simply not as clever or witty. Its a shame because the movies poster and title both have that classic 80's vibe and promise. Alas it all looks cheap and tacky, its thoroughly convoluted and thoroughly dull.

4/10