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Slaughter High – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Boutique labels and vintage horror have been a sense of fun in the guessing game or “take a request” fashion in the last five years or so. Whenever social media polls happen to gauge what people would like next, you see some interesting title you’d forgotten about come out of the woodwork. You’ll also see multitudes of the same people requesting the same titles over and over and over (Fright Night Part 2 being the most popular). Slaughter High has been one of those titles that has been requested ad nauseum for many years. Fear not, though, your wait is over. Lionsgate, through its Vectron Video Collector’s Series is finally bringing it out. So not only is it coming, its being done right too. You can pre-order now to have this popular slasher when it releases on Halloween 2017!

Film 

There’s horror in the halls . . . lynching in the lunchroom . . . murder in the metal shop. Welcome to Slaughter High — where the students are dying to get out! In high school, Marty was the kid all the students teased, taunted, and tortured mercilessly. One day, things went too far — one of their jokes backfired, disfiguring Marty for life. Now, five years later, Marty has arranged a special reunion for all his high school “friends.” The prom queen, the jock, the class clown, the rebel, and a few select others have been invited . . . and it’s going to be a gala of gore!

It’s the one where the killer wears the jester mask! Yeah, that’s how you had to describe the slashers back in the day sometimes.  Given similar premises and blueprints, that’s the main factor that set them apart. And for Slaughter High, that’s kinda how I went with this one. While the film came in 1986, it fits in line more with the first half of the decade’s slasher films where it was “just a mask” that separated it from the other contemporaries. We were about to get a bunch of supernatural killers in the wake of Freddy Krueger. We also got another film that took this one’s original tile that same year: April Fool’s Day. Hey, how’s that for something. Cinema always has two movies with incredibly similar plots every year (See: Volcano & Dante’s Peak), we could have had two April Fool’s Day slasher movies.

Slaughter High takes the “prank gone wrong” model for the slasher film, in which a bunch of high school or college kids will torment or embarrass a kid to insanity or death and then said kid or relative comes back many years later around that anniversary for revenge. But, I’ll have to say, of all of them, these kids may take the cake for being the biggest bunch of assholes of all of them to date. I mean, their first prank is one thing, but then they go and commit what is essentially a crime that disfigures a dude and then come back many years later and still have no remorse or care about it.

Caroline Murno, a Bond girl, Hammer Goddess, horror star and overall B-movie Queen headlines this one. And while I still think she’s great, she almost feels really out of place with this cast.  She seems a little bit too old to be with this bunch, especially in the high school scenes. I thought she was a teacher at the beginning of this and it took me til much more into the movie to realize she was supposed to be a student with them. Now, to her credit, Munro is also the best of the bunch here in the cast and is able to make this age gap not seem like a thing at all. She also elevates the whole thing and is great in her final chase scene.

Where does Slaughter High stand among the pack? Why do people dig it so much? I’d have to say its got its own kind of tone to it. The film features some great gore and dynamite kills, with a really mean and relentless attitude. But its also mixed with some humor. One of its oddities is the film’s score. Its half a knock off of the Friday the 13th score (Same composer) and half sounding like a trashy Troma film. And really, the score is what gives some scenes a more odd feel than they should have. There are some great set pieces and good creepy set design to go along with it. The killer’s look is a little much, but that still helps him stick out. Oh and yeah, this movie really goes there with its bizarre ending.

There is more than enough here for Slaughter High to stand out among the 1980’s slasher pack and get the recommend and an understandable popularity. It boasts Caroline Munro, terrific kills and gore effects and its own sorta tone. There are still many of them that aren’t on Blu-ray yet, but this one shouldn’t have taken such a long time to get here. Hopefully there are more awesome slasher films hiding over in the Lionsgate vault to hopefully come under the Vestron Video Collector’s Series label.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Slaughter High comes to Blu-ray with a debut that is pretty impressive. Now, I may be overboard because my only experience with this film is VHS and the DVD I had that was essentially ripped from a VHS. The image is inherently a little softer, but its nice to see this movie with really good clarity and detail. You can see through some of the fabric on people’s clothing (Skip’s shirt you can see his arm through before the sleeve gets to his undershirt). A lot of the grimy details on the school, like dirt, cracks and decay on the walls and flooring come through nicely. The special effects hold up well and proved a little more gruesome even. There are certain expectations for films like this, and this one caters to being very good. Though in a world with Vinegar Syndrome and Synapse Films you know things can always be better and elite, but this is just fine and more than we’ve ever had and could expect.

Depth:  Some solid, better than expected spacing and dimension work on this image. Movements are smooth and cinematic with no real motion blurring or jittering issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich. There’s a real good job hear of keeping detail intact in the darkness. No crushing was witnessed during the review for this.

Color Reproduction: This isn’t a rather colorful movie, with a lot of naturals, rustic with browns and such. But red shows through nice and the halls have some gorgeous emerald colored tiles when the lightning hits and you can see them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent look from start to finish of the film. Facial features are more apparent in close ups, but you do get a good sense of them in some medium shots too with dimples, dried blood, make-up and more.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a light layer of grain with some specs here and there that compliments the image, with a more vintage feel.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The mono track here on Slaughter High is fine and really gets the job done. For these lesser known 80’s slasher films, that’s all you really need to do the trick. The score, vocals and effects feel plenty loose and free from one another in a balanced blend. Music and the score get some good deeper moments. Effects can take a nice charge at times too. This has a lot of highs on it and some minimal issues with peaking which mainly occurs in the vocals.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Voices are loud and clear. There are some very sharp moments on S’s when they are said. Loud screams can hit peaks at points.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Co-Writers/Directors George Dugdale and Peter Litten
  • With Composer Harry Manfredini featuring Isolated Music and SFX Selections

Going To Pieces (HD, 18:29) – An interview with Co-Writer/Director Mark Ezra.  He unveils that the film was first conceived on coming up with a horror friendly title first (At the the time was “April Fools Day” and when it came out would also be Spring Break).  Ezra takes credit for writing all of the murders and gives a bit of a run through of getting the film off the ground, the cast, the production (Playing the killer during a sequence) and being involved in editing.

My Days at Doddsville (HD, 14:35) – An interview with Actress Caroline Munro. She briefly touches on her work with Hammer Horror before going into a film that’s “right for the time” and did remarkably well with a small budget. Munro goes over her character in the film, working on a film with three directors, her death scene, thoughts on the film and its legacy.

Alternate Title Sequence (HD, :41) – Titles the film “1 April Fool’s Day”

Still Gallery (HD, 6:55) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:43)

Radio Spots (HD, 1:50)

Summary 

Many will rejoice as Slaughter High is finally here in glorious Blu-ray for the first time.  For many, it seemed like one that was on the cusp of missing a format jump, but its been saved. The film looks better than it ever has and sounds pretty solid to boot. The extras a pretty good too, able to nab Caroline Munro back for an good lengthy interview on the film. Knowing how long it took to get to Blu-ray and the rarity the film has become (Yes, its been in value packs for years, but its a shitty VHS to DVD transfer), you probably want to pick it up even if you are on the fence about it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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