Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Return to Horror High (1987)

Return to Horror High

Written & Directed by Bill Froehlich

Stephen Blake...Brendan Hughes
Callie...Lori Lethin
Josh...Scott Jacoby
Harry...Alex Rocco

"In 1982, a series of brutal murders rocked Crippen High School. The killer was never apprehended. Three months ago, Cosmic Pictures went to the town of Crippen to film the story of what actually happened--making the movie in the very halls of the now abandoned school. They were not alone."

Despite the title, this is not a sequel--it's like Leonard Part 6, only infinitely more watchable.  Five years after an unsolved killing spree at Crippen High, a film crew descends on the exact location of the crimes to film a dramatization of the events. The writer wants a psychological thriller, the director wants an art piece, and the producer wants a gory slasher film. The cast and crew, however, just want to make it out alive.

Some mysterious person is lurking the halls of the high school, slaughtering people between takes. It takes quite some time before anyone grows suspicious about the increasing number of missing persons, but movie making is like running a circus. The show must go on.

There's a playful self-awareness here, as this is simultaneously a horror movie and a satire of the making of horror movies. Actresses get on a soapbox about the sexual exploitation of women in genre films, only to be forced by the director to disrobe. There are questions raised about the social implications of portraying sex and violence onscreen, then a police woman gets noticeably aroused at the crime scene and caresses her breasts with blood.

This is a very meta movie, a low-rent post-modern take on a tired genre decades before Scream stormed the theaters. The entire film is a flashback recounted to the police by the sole survivor, and within that flashback exists scenes from the movie they're filming, which in a way act as flashbacks themselves. Actors are portraying actors who are portraying characters--sometimes multiple characters--based on fictional real people in a film within a film based on fictional true events...or something like that. It's sometimes difficult to tell which scenes are "real" and which scenes are just "scenes", and then when you toss in a sequence which appears to be real, but is actually a scene which is actually real--but it's not, it's a dream--well, that's enough to melt your brain.

There's a dark sense of humor here, which mostly works but occasionally reaches too far. The acting and special effects work are pretty decent, and the (first) ending is suitably twisted, but the murderer's grand reveal would be better off in an episode of Scooby Doo. The real highlight here, however, is the cast of familiar faces.

George Clooney has a very small part as an up-and-coming Hollywood heartthrob. Maureen McCormick--Marcia Freakin' Brady--plays the sexually deviant police officer. Scott Jacoby of Bad Ronald and The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is the ambitious screenwriter. Professional tough guy Alex Rocco plays the sleazy producer, always demanding more tits and blood--obviously my favorite character in the film. The list goes on.

An underrated horror film that was--who would've guessed?--ahead of its time. The wrap-up may piss off some people--it's rather illogical and is something of a "fuck you" to the audience, but it fits well with the meta nature of the rest of the film.

Well worth a watch. Jump on it while Netflix has it streaming.

Rated R
94 Minutes
United States

"What she really needs is the ol' six inches behind the barn."


  1. Great review. I've always been a fan of this movie. I also was one of those that thought it was a sequel the first time I saw it and spent years looking for the first one (this was before the web and Google could make a search like that easy).

  2. Hahaha, OMG. I remember watching this with my friends and cracking up. I too thought it was a sequel... very confusing. But a lot of fun!

  3. Sounds confusing but I'll watch it.

  4. So funny to see Clooney doing these types of movies, I mean know his this huge star! But once upon a time, he started out with cheesy films like Return to Horror High. He was pretty funny in Return of the Killer Tomatoes as well!

  5. William: I actually stayed away from this one for years when I would see it on the shelves of the local rental place because I hadn't seen the original. What a waste!

    Meredith: It seems that there were quite a few of us who were confused by the title. Glad I wasn't the only one. Yes, a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, especially when watching with a group of like-minded peers.

    Raculfright: It's actually only moderately confusing unless you overthink it. Then it starts to hurt. Let me know what you think!

    FC: Oh shit! I forgot Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes! I bet the filmmakers are kicking themselves now for killing him off so quickly in this movie.

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I really appreciate the comments!


  6. The trailer looks very good as an horror lover i'll check that out, thanks


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