18th Mar2013

Rewind: ‘Return to Horror High’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: George Clooney, Maureen McCormick, Vince Edwards, Brendan Hughes, Scott Jacoby, Lori Lethin, Alex Rocco | Written by Bill Froehlich, Mark Lisson | Directed by Bill Froehlich

In 1982 Crippen High School was the scene of a series of brutal murders and yet the killer was never caught. Now a low budget film crew that includes an ill-fated leading man (Clooney), the pretentious director (Jacoby), a lecherous producer (Rocco) and numerous disposable cast and crew have all returned to Crippen High to film the story of the ’82 murders. But when members of the production staff are stalked and slaughtered one by one it appears the killer has returned… Who will survive? And what will be left of their careers?

So, did anyone see the first film? Actually I’m joking, much like the movie itself. Yes, Return to Horror High is that strange beast – part traditional slasher movie, part comedy, part parody. The film could almost be seen as a B-movie template for the much later Scream, which, like this film, plays with the conventions of the slasher genre. Hell, even the killers look similar – both dress in black robes and white mask! There’s even a hint of The Usual Suspects to the film too. And before you ask, yes, you did read that right… The film even demands as much attention from the viewer as Nolan’s film due to it’s ridiculously convoluted plot.

Starring a number of familiar faces, including an incredibly young George Clooney in his first movie role, ex-Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick as, get this, a sex crazed police woman, and Alex Rocco as the salacious producer who demands more tits and blood in every scene, Return to Horror High is, frankly, ridiculously confusing. The movie starts post film-set massacre and the rest of the film is then told in flashback, but within this flashback we get scenes of the film within a film, dream sequences, dream sequences within the film and flashbacks within the flashback to the original crimes – following me so far? Good, because I had a hell of a time following this film. But that’s also what’s so much fun about the movie – you literally have no idea where it’s headed. Gore-fest one minute, slapstick comedy the next – it’s completely bonkers!

The kill-scenes are, for the most part, off screen and a little disappointing. That is until the gloriously over the top death of the biology teacher, who’s dissected like student would dissect a frog in his class. There’s also a nicely done death by airplane propeller brought on, of all things, by the victim himself! Return to Horror High both plays with, and conforms to, the classic 80s slasher conventions which, I’m guessing, made for a refreshing change back in 1987 when the film was released. Sadly Scream has since done this a lot better and Return to Horror High will always suffer from the comparison – yet the film is still a must-see for fans of 80s slashers and horror comedies alike.

*** 3/5

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