I recently took my kids to the local video store for the first time. It had been ages since I had last visited one, a perk and a downfall of working in "the business." Since it was right before Halloween, they had all of their classic horror films prominently displayed together up front.
As I perused this section, I wasn't shocked to find Slaughter High among their curated picks. This is a film that has been a fan favorite since its release in 1986 and has only grown in popularity as it reached cult classic territory. Unfortunately, this is also a film that had never been made available on Blu-ray.
Well, that oversight was corrected today.
Thanks to Lionsgate's Vestron Video Collector's Series, a number of classic horror and slasher films are getting a facelift on Blu-ray. This month, Slaughter High is showcased front and center with the most incredible release date, Halloween. So, after you're done trick-or-treating tonight and you make the annual trek to the video store to stock up on frights and scares, make sure you seek out this film that was re-mastered and restored on Blu-ray.
Given that I was only 12 when this film first came out, you might think that I was a bit too young to appreciate it back then, but I remember renting this film several times in my youth. I have always loved horror films and the classic slashers of the early to mid-1980s were my bread and butter.
Of course, I always seemed to get this one confused with April Fool's Day which came also debuted in 1986. You see, while Slaughter High supposedly takes place during a high school's five-year reunion (seriously? Who has a five-year reunion?), most of the plot and even the killer's fool ensemble is geared towards April Fool's Day.
Finally, this Blu-ray version has the answer in the form of a new featurette called "Going to Pieces" and an alternate title sequence. The original working title was "April Fool's Day and when Paramount slotted their April Fool's Day for release in the same year, the smaller Vestron Pictures balked and hence Slaughter High was born. Unfortunately, the film was already shot, so all of those April Fool's Day references would stay in the final film.
So, does the film hold up? The answer is yes... and no. All of the cheesiness of 1980s horror is only magnified by the lens of time, but it is still a fun slasher that is indicative of the time it was made. While I did notice many more plot holes with the latest viewing, the film still provided plenty of scares and creepy kill scenes that have become classics in their own right.
As a kid, I didn't care about things such as remorse and consequences, I only wanted to be scared out of my gourd. Back then, the film accomplished just that. Now, I found myself almost rooting for each person to be killed since none of them showed any remorse or care about the tragic accident that happened five years earlier.
What did hold up better than I could have anticipated was the twist at the end. I won't spoil it for you in case you have never seen it, but it was something that has been done numerous times since. In fact, the end sets up a perfect sequel and I guess that I'm surprised that nothing ever came of it, especially given that the mid-1980s were known as the heyday of horror sequels.
At the end of the day, the film is far from a masterpiece, but it is a fine example of a very specific horror trope that dominated the genre for the better part of a decade. And oh, did I mention the killer box art? During the height of the video store renaissance, industry types often said that box art was more important than the film itself, especially with horror. Case in point, when I worked at Hollywood Video in the early 1990s, the film Teach Me Tonight was a perrenial top-renter, thanks mostly to its provocative artwork.
In much the same way the artwork for Slaughter High jumped off the shelf and practically forced you to rent it. Did the film live up to the box art? Probably not, but it was a different time and the film's cult following has only built up that legend even more.
The best thing about these Vestron Video Collector's Series films is that Lionsgate is truly giving them the star treatment. The film is augmented by two new featurettes that help to shed light on this fan favorite an audio commentary with the filmmakers. The audio interview with Harry Manfredini was especially interesting as he also composed the music for Friday the 13th. He is a master in the field and it's always a pleasure to hear what goes into creating a memorable horror soundtrack.
Slaughter High carries a suggested retail price of $39.97 and is currently available just in time to spook you on Halloween night.