Student Bodies (1981)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2008-07-06 12:13

Written and Directed by: Mickey Rose
Starring: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby and Richard Brando

Reviewed by: Josh G.

“Where is that girl?”
“I hope she wasn’t murdered in our bed.”

Many have passed artwork for Student Bodies on their way through the theater, video stores, or sometimes, even libraries. At first glance, it appears to be another run-of-the-mill 80s slasher, with a megaphone being forced into a female student’s mouth. But if the wanderer had only looked closer, they’d have seen what it truly was. Student Bodies may have used the slasher formula like those before it, and many more after, however, there was one small difference about this entry. It was a comedy. Using stereotypes, jokes, dramatic acting and slapstick humor, a fresher, more tame version of the teenager scares was presented to those who despised the genre, and at the same time, those who cherished it. Released through Paramount on VHS, this was one beloved title that was believed to never make an appearance on DVD. Luckily, in 2008, Legend Films released it on a tidy disc, giving a whole new generation of movie-lovers a night filled with laughter and screams.

After a mystery figure known as “The Breather” makes an obscene phone call, babysitter Julie (Angela Bressler) meets up with boyfriend Charlie (Keith Singleton). The two prepare to make love in an upstairs bedroom when the killer attacks with a paper clip and garbage bag. The school of Lamab High holds a funeral for Julie and Charlie the next day. But funerals make Joe (John M. Armstrong) hot, and both he and Bertha (Anita Taylor) run off to have sex in a car. The killer is conveniently nearby, and kills them both with a wooden horse head and plastic bag. Wholesome good girl Toby (Kristen Riter), who thinks of sex as bad and dirty, finds herself at the scene of every murder, making her the prime suspect in the case. Principal Peters (Joe Talarowski), Miss Mumsley (Mimi Weddell), Mr Dumpkin (Joe Flood) and all of the other school staff members are growing suspicious of Toby, as well as her own classmates. With prom night coming up, Toby must find the killer in an attempt to clear her name. Will she succeed? Will she fail? Or will she also fall victim to the deranged sex-hating psychopath’s unique weapons of choice?

Aside from the mention of odd murder implements, Student Bodies sounds like a serious slasher flick. It is not. In fact, it’s not at all scary. Every scene has something comical to add, but whether or not it falls flat is the issue at hand. The feature starts off strong. We find out that, unlike Halloween or Friday the 13th, the movie is set on Jamie Lee Curtis’ Birthday, although the scream queen never makes an appearance in the film. Julie, the babysitter has funny sessions with the phone, where every time she picks it up, the killer breathes absurdly, a sound effect can be heard, or the speaking end spits up saliva. The acting is pure cheese and drawn out, pictured exactly like what someone from today who generalizes might think of it as. The dialogue is purposely silly, and fake scares imitated from previous horror movies show the present day audience that even in 1981, when the slasher genre was just getting started, the public could sense the repeated formula and stereotypes miles away.

Most jokes, even today, are effective, but some lose their steam and fail. Such as with the killer, who always breathes out heavily. He’s not hilarious, but the constant panting works. The Breather’s problem is his lame dialogue. He walks up the stairs of a house, and makes remarks about how tired he is after travelling so many steps. He steps on sugarless gum, talks in a childish voice, and ends up later on in the feature, actually speaking to the audience. He loses our funny bone quick. You never end up trying to guess the killer because it doesn’t really matter. There are so many red herrings, and you’re always aware that it’s a random comedy, so the killer’s motive is of no interest. The best moments of the film come from Toby’s interaction with the crazy staff members, such as the psychiatrist.

“And your mother? What did she tell you?”
“She also told me that sex was bad and dirty, but only with my father.
With everyone else she said it was great.”

This comedy is extremely quotable. Many great lines arise from it, as well as the infamous horse head bookends. The shop teacher is completely obsessed with cutting and sanding horse heads to eventually place your books beside. It’s so completely out there that you can’t help loving it. Plus, it’s used as a weapon. Oh, the weapons. Such variety; such creativity. The male students don’t receive highlighted deaths. They are almost all killed by being stuffed in plastic bags, with the exception of some falling on typing team trophies and suffocation by rubber gloves. The gals are where it’s at. Chalkboard erasers, eggplants, paper clips, and crowns all somehow find a way to off the lady of their choice. Blood is rarely in the film, and only really shines for half a second, when an unconscious victim leaps up from out of a plastic bag. Nudity is also scarce. Charlie comes close to exposing his backside, and he’s completely nude in one shot, full frontal. The shot, however, is so dark, you don’t see anything but an outline. The women also keep themselves clean. This brings up an important, though irrelevant part of Student Bodies. A man at a desk is speaking to the ratings board, explaining how the picture has no explicit sex, violence, or anything close to R-rating territory, but still, Student Bodies is rated R. He presents them with the kind words, “Fuck you!”

Toby is so innocent that you’re supposed to immediately side with her. You do, but at the same time, she’s irritatingly good. You wish to see her slip up, just once. The music is kind of similar in tone to the original Halloween’s, though the entire film is more Airplane!. The most surprising thing that I found in this flick (aside from Julie working for a mere seventy-five cents an hour) is that the final act is disturbingly creepy. The comedy is still there, but as Toby runs away from staff and dead students, a nightmarish atmosphere approaches, until the cruel ending. Still, you have the memories from before of jokes. There’s out-in-the-open ones, like when the principal says “even the dead love a parade”, or more subtle ones, where after a woman asks her husband, what makes people think the American public wants to watch stupid trash like horror movies, her husband slips in “You’re right dear, now hurry up or we’ll miss the Dukes of Hazzard.” I found that rather clever.

Legend Films, in association with Paramount, released this on a wonderful widescreen DVD with Student Bodies’ original artwork, slightly altered. The audio is clear, and the picture is sharper than it has ever been, and then some. The only supplement included is a trailer, which is nice to have, but it doesn’t seem like the film receives its justice with it. It’s not excellent, and only long awaited by the fraction that knew about it, but it’s still efficiently made. Killers that disguise their voices by speaking through rubber chickens don’t come around every week. With a body count of over a dozen (the movie helps count for us) it’s still a good slasher for those in need of a few bloodless kills. It makes me wonder. If something as fun as Student Bodies was in the Paramount vault for this long, what other treasures could be hidden as well? Remember, in horror films, “sex kills.” That’s a good thing, because our entertainment depends on it. “What’s that chickeny smell?” I don’t know, just Buy it!

comments powered by Disqus Ratings:
Average members rating (out of 10) : 6.66   
Votes : 3 since 2008-07-06 21:07