Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Horror High (1974)








DIRECTOR:
 Larry N. Stouffer


WRITER: Jake Fowler

CAST:

Pat Cardi
Austin Stoker
Rosie Holotik
John Niland
Joye Hash
Jeff Alexander
Mike McHenry
Nick Felix
Charles Mann

PLOT:

Vernon Potts is a nerdy high school student who has created a chemistry experiment where he has put together a formula that has the potential to turn his guinea pig Mr Mumps from a gentle pet into a bloodthirsty and monstrous creature. After Vernon is tormented by his fellow students and teachers. Vernon decides to drink the formula himself which turns him into a vicious killer who seeks his revenge on all those who wronged him.







Calling Horror High a slasher is a stretch. This is the seventies 'high school' horror movie that tackles the age-old story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. While the film quickly turns into a stalk and slash story that feels reminiscent of the slasher, this still feels very much like a sci-fi monster movie with early touches of the slasher movie. I think had this been produced back in the fifties, this would've fit right in with all those old cheesy b-grade monster movies.

We are introduced to our main character immediately. We get that this guy is a nerd and who some people would consider a loser due to his adoration of science and his big rimmed glasses. This movie doesn't do much in the way of character building. We are thrown right into the thick of things. I think we get all of five minutes of our nerd heading to school, talking to his guinea pig and him discussing the formula that he's created. There isn't even any scientific type explanation behind how he created the formula. It's just there and ready to drink.

This movie also doesn't take long in showing us all of the people who are tormenting and belittling our lead character. We are introduced to them one by one. We have the nasty teacher, the janitor, the jock who hates him because he's a nerd and the coach who sides with the jock. The teachers in this film are awful. I expect it from the jock, but every single parental figure is horrible in this movie. With each introduction, we know these people will contribute to the movies kill count.

I mentioned above that this movie doesn't do much in the way of character building. We don't get any backstory for our lead character or any of the villainous characters who are primarily lined up one by one for our nerd to kill off in gruesome fashion. This is eighty minutes of one bloody set-piece after another. We just don't care for anyone, and that includes our lead character. Had they tried to spend more time in giving us character development, we may have had more of a moral dilemma about who the real villain of the story was but there felt like no conflict.

The ending of this film is also a bit of a letdown. Due to not caring about any of the characters in the story, I think when the conclusion finally rolled around, I didn't care how the story played out. The film sort of just ends with no real chase and the reveal is pretty laughable. The story and plot are paper thin. Not once was I really invested at all. Even the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde themes could have been fleshed out more. It all amounts to not much at all.

Where this movie wins points for me is that it's quite brutal. When our nerdy high schooler drinks that formula and starts to kill off his tormentors, it doesn't shy away. The death scenes are pretty frenzied and ferocious. The gore and blood effects are all very fake looking. You can clearly tell that this was an extremely low budget piece of filmmaking, but I still had fun with the gore and violence in the film. It's probably the highlight of the entire movie for me.

The acting in the film is pretty weak. This isn't going to win any awards. This is all very over the top and cheesy. The one performance that plays well is Rosie Holotik. She plays the cool girl who is the only kind person to Vernon. She is always there for him even when dating the jock. I thought her performance was sympathetic. So Pat Cardi who plays Vernon is over the top all the way through. When he turns into the vicious killer, it's when he looks like he has the most fun.

Lastly, one thing that deserves mentioning is the terrible and very odd soundtrack choice. I've noticed that in a lot of seventies horror films that they have these funk and soulful rock type soundtracks and it always sounds sort of off when compared to the film. The content in these films doesn't really match these type of scores. If this were some sort of blaxploitation film like Shaft, these would be perfect. Funk doesn't build suspense and kills all tension.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A cat is shown dead.
- A man squashes a guinea pig.
- A body is found dissolving in sulphuric acid.
- A jock is repeatedly punched in the face.
- A man is repeatedly shot to death by police.
- Someone has their fingers sliced off with a guillotine.
- Someone is decapitated with a guillotine.
- A man has his face dissolved in sulphuric acid.
- Someone's chest is repeatedly stomped on.







Horror High was a pretty big disappointment. This is a movie that feels like one part fifties, sci-fi monster movie meets the early seventies slasher. A non-existent plot, a confusing choice in the soundtrack, no character development at all and over the top performances make this a pretty awful film. More than anything, it's all pretty dull. Go in for the cheap looking gore as this was the best part of Horror High. 


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