08th Sep2014

‘Varsity Blood’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Debbie Rochon, Natalie Peyton, Blair Jackson, Elyse Bigler, Melody Herron, Jesse Ferraro, Kiarra Hogan, Chris Hlozek, Payton Wood, Fabian Watkins, Elle LaMont | Written and Directed by Jake Helgren

Varsity-Blood-cast

Quick question. This is 2014 right? You wouldn’t guess that from watching Varsity Blood!

It would seem that the trend for producing horror movies that harken back to the 80s and the golden age of the slasher, has officially become the “norm” for modern examples of the genre. Every month there seems to be another slasher movie that hits DVD and/or VOD which looks and feels like the self-referential post-Scream years never happened. But I’m not complaining, oh no! As a HUGE fan of slasher movies (even the likes of Iced and Terror at Tenkiller) I relish the opportunity to watch each and every new entry into the much-maligned genre.

Thankfully the quality of modern slashers has, in recent years, increased exponentially – with many successfully capturing just what made the genre great in the post-Friday the 13th early years. Films like The Sleeper, Camp Dread, Blood Widow and Bloody Homecoming… and Varsity Blood.

A throwback to slasher movies of the 80s – complete with 30-year old “teenagers” that make the stupidest decisions in the face of death – Varsity Blood sees a group of muscle-headed small town jocks and their bouncy cheerleader girlfriends head out to a remote farmhouse for a night of booze and bad behaviour following the big game (Oh, and did I mention it’s Halloween?). They soon find more than they’ve bargained for in the shape of their team mascot: an Indian warrior wielding a bow and arrow and a lethal fighting axe!

As per the usual slasher movie tropes, the majority of the cast are unlikable idiots who, besides making stupid decisions at every turn, deserve everything they get. Don’t get me wrong, there are some highlights in this group of thirty twenty-somethings, in particular Lexi Giovagnoli, who also appeared in Bloody Homecoming (which was also written by writer/director of THIS film, Jake Helgren) and who is fantastic as this films final girl Hannah. Given the movies “cliffhanger” ending I hope she’ll be back for a sequel. But, as with all slasher movies, the real star of this film is the killer…

Dressed in a black robe and creepy Native American face mask and head dress, there’s something so striking about the villain in Varsity Blood; in fact there are shades of Scalps, Shadow of the Hawk and the little-seen 1988 slasher Demon Warrior in the character and his weapons of choice. Speaking of the killers weapons – he (or she) certainly knows how to use them! The film features beheadings; split open skulls; arrow in eyeballs, in(between) breasts. It’s a veritable cornucopia of gore and splendidly horrific gore – the majority of which is practical effects, with what looks to be a hint of CGI to enhance the effect(s).

Two for two in my eyes, the team of Jake Helgren and Lexi Giovagnoli are really hitting the body parts out of the park when it comes to slasher movies – first with Bloody Homecoming, which echoed the likes of Prom Night and The Prowler, and then with this film, which is reminiscent of Friday the 13th and its ilk - it’s obvious Helgren is a fan of the genre and in actress Lexi Giovagnoli it looks like he’s found his horror muse. Plus what’s not to love about a film packed with gory set-pieces and a sly reference to Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” (the defacto literary template for the entire slasher genre)?

A crowd-pleasing slasher, Varsity Blood is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre. It was with me.

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