Splatter University (1984)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2017-08-16 15:14
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Written and Directed by: Michael Cunningham, Richard Haines, John Elias Michalakis, and Mijan Peter Illich
Directed by: Richard Haines
Starring: Forbes Riley, Ric Randig, and Dick Biel


Reviewed by: Brett Gallman







“She's freaked out by what happened at the drive-in, and she won't go back."
"So, what are you going to do, find another drive-in?"
"No, I'm gonna find another girlfriend; I like that drive-in!"


You know, I can’t help but think that the 80s could have been much easier on kids in slashers if a school really called itself Splatter University. So many of these students enrolled with the hopes of higher learning (or maybe just getting high), but they got carved up by some maniac instead. Had one of these fine institutions just let them know that the “school colors are blood red,” maybe such unpleasantries could have been avoided. Of course, it would have been a lot more boring for the audiences that lined up on seemingly a weekly basis to see these kids get offed in gruesome fashion.

It takes a few minutes before we meet the class of Splatter University. In typical slasher fashion, we start at a mental institution at some unspecified time, where our psychopath makes an escape. Then we jump to three years later, where said maniac kills a professor at a local university; then we jump ahead yet again to the next semester (I was having flashbacks to the humorous opening of Student Bodies at this point). Here, what passes for main characters enter the scene: a bunch of typical (read: obnoxious) students, and a new teacher, Julie Parker, who will be teaching Sociology 101. Of course, she and her students are about to get a crash course in murder when the killings start back up again.

If you’ve ever enrolled at any other university where slashing was on the syllabus, then you’ve pretty much already seen Splatter University. It doesn’t really do much to separate itself and contains all of the pitfalls of innumerous slashers. I think I’ve run out of clever ways to describe these, but you know the drill--the acting is going to be bad and the production values pretty poor (the film sounds like it was recorded through a tin can, for one thing). Of course, that isn’t why you’re here, so rest assured that there’s a decent amount of bloodshed and even more silly and pointless antics from the cast. It’s a pretty large cast, too--in fact, I’m pretty sure we’re introduced to two entirely different groups of friends during the course of events. Each has its assortment of assholes, promiscuous women, and one "good" girl. There’s one guy named Wolf because he doesn’t shave and because (you guessed it) he goes around howling like a wolf. The movie could have used more outrageous and memorable characters like him. The film does manage to do some things with the fates of these characters that’s sort of surprising and helps to separate it a bit.

By “fate,” I refer to the way they’re dispatched. There’s not really a wide assortment of hack and slash to be found, as everyone is just cut up with a knife; still, the effects are grisly enough, and the students spill their guts both figuratively and literally. Expect buckets of blood to substitute for actual suspense because the film isn’t too concerned with atmosphere or real scares. There is kind of a fun sequence at a drive-in, where the film gets a little meta--there’s a horror movie playing as a real-life one is playing out, of course. Honestly, though, the film’s scariest scenes for me were in the classroom, where our heroine, Judy, has to face the horrors of uncooperative students and observations by her superiors. I’ve been there and done that, so I couldn’t blame her if she wanted to go psycho herself on them all.

There is a mystery to be solved here (other than why it took 4 writers to come up with this script)--just who is the mad man (or woman) flunking these students in fatal fashion? As a “whodunit” slasher, it throws out the expected clues and red herrings to throw you off the scent. The film does have the courtesy of not cheating for its ultimate reveal; it does require a huge leap in logic (but most slashers do), but it’s kind of cool and leads to at one neat visual. The climax also manages another twist that you really won’t see coming if you’re used to slashers; it doesn’t help the film to overcome its numerous flaws, but it’s probably something that will stick out, especially now that we’re so used to the “rules” that accompany these slashers. The end also comes swiftly because the film clocks in right under 80 minutes; this is a boon because it still manages to drag a little early when it makes the mistake of making us hang out with a bunch of idiots instead of just killing them off.

That’s what we came for, after all, and Splatter University does at least deliver that, eventually. Just don’t expect much more from it, which is probably the number one rule to live by with this class of slashers. Elite Entertainment brought this one home years ago and their disc still stands as the film’s lone DVD release. It’s got a very murky and soft anamorphic transfer, and the mono soundtrack is really tinny and hollow-sounding, so you’ll really have to turn it up to hear the film’s insipid dialogue, generic rock tunes, and a synth score that sounds like it was cobbled together from a few other slashers. You can also check out the film’s theatrical trailer as an extra feature. Like most Elite discs, it’s pretty out of print and will fetch far more coin than it’s worth on the secondary market, though 88 Films has released a Blu-ray for region-free aficionados. However, The class of Splatter University isn’t very distinguished and doesn’t give that much effort, so only the most devout slasher fans need apply.



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