Return to Horror High (1987)
By: Craig Villinger on May 21, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Simitar (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Bill Froehlich
Starring: Lori Lethin, Brendan Hughes, Alex Rocco, Scott Jacoby, Andy Romano, Richard Brestoff, Maureen McCormick, George Clooney
Screenplay: Bill Froehlich, Mark Lisson, Dana Escalante, Greg H. Sims
Music: Stacy Widelitz
Tagline: School spirt has never been this dead.
Country: USA
In 1982, Crippen High School was forced to close its doors after a series of brutal murders took place within its walls. Naturally, the crime was never solved, and the killer remained at large...

Some time later, a film crew moves in to the now derelict high school to shoot a sleazy low budget slasher pic based on the real-life Crippen High killings, and soon enough, cast and crew members start dying off. First, there is the young actor who gets lost on the way to the car park and ends up taking a knife in the back. Then another young actor is decapitated, and then…well, you get the idea. With the film set covered in fake blood and gore and actors and crew threatening to walk out left right and centre, nobody even notices these strange disappearances, except for our leading lady and her slightly dim-witted co-star, who promptly take pad and pen in hand on a quest to uncover the killers identity. Will they succeed? Will they die a horrible death? And is that Marcia Brady I see playing the sexually aroused police officer?

Now, if I were to say that Christopher McQuarrie's academy award-winning screenplay The Usual Suspects was influenced by this somewhat obscure eighties slasher pic, you would probably think I was crazy - right? Yes, you most certainly would, so I won't actually go that far - but you have to admit, there are a few similarities between the structures of both screenplays. Return to Horror High opens "after the fact" – we know almost everyone is dead, we know who the sole survivor is…in fact, we know pretty much everything - except for the killer's identity. The events of the film are then played out in flashback form, as our sole survivor recounts the circumstances that led to the discovery of seven mutilated bodies inside Crippen High School. Or was it eight mutilated bodies? None of the police on hand actually seems sure of the final tally. The similarities do not end there however. We also get a few red herrings thrown in to deceive us deliberately and an outrageous twist ending that absolutely no one could have seen coming! Was Keyser Soze responsible for the killings? No, of course he wasn't, and now that I think about it, this film probably doesn't have much in common with The Usual Suspects at all, so you should perhaps ignore this paragraph completely.

With so many slasher films competing for our DVD dollars these days, does Return to Horror High offer anything different to make itself stand out from the pack? Well, yes and no. The acting is rather ordinary, the murder scenes aren't particularly well staged, and the plot gets a little confusing at times, but even with all its faults, it still proves to be a rather pleasant time-waster. The "non-linear" style of story telling is somewhat unique for a slasher picture and managed to make things a little more interesting than usual, while the films odd assortment of characters certainly added strength to what potentially could have been some rather dull scenes. Alex Rocco is fantastic as the sleazy producer who is obsessed with cramming as much nudity and blood into his film as possible, while Maureen McCormick (Yes – Marcia Brady from TV's The Brady Bunch) hams it up as a police officer who appears to be sexually aroused by the gruesome goings on around her. We also get some gratuitous breast shots, cheesy dialogue, a few decent make-up effects, and an ending that is so absurd it has to be seen to be believed, so there is certainly enough on offer to keep your average eighties slasher enthusiast entertained for ninety four and a half minutes. I wouldn't say this is required viewing by any means , but those who do decide to pick it shouldn't be too disappointed.

By the way – anyone thinking of buying this disc simply because George Clooney has been given top billing on the cover might be in for a shock. Clooney sports a truly appalling hairstyle and is killed off at the thirteen minute mark of the film, although some ironic humor is provided when his character (a struggling actor) walks off the set suggesting he will be a huge star some day. "Yeah right" says a fellow actor, thinking he will be nothing more than a bit player. If only she knew…
Return to Horror High is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, and looks extremely impressive. Colours are strong and vibrant, and the print used for this transfer was thankfully free of any annoying film artefacts. Considering the age and budget of the movie, I doubt we will ever see it looking any better than this.
The only audio option given to us is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, which sounds a little flat at times, but is generally quite serviceable. No distortion or hissing was audible, and the dialogue was easy to understand at all times.
Extra Features
All we get here is a theatrical trailer. A little disappointing, but it's better than nothing I suppose. A Marcia Brady commentary track would have been a nice bonus however…
The Verdict
Originally released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, Return to Horror High is now available in Australia as a USA import from Simitar. With the current selection of horror DVD's in Australia looking less than impressive, it's great to see a local company giving us an alternative to the mainstream blockbusters that seem to be crowding our DVD shelves, so for that, I applaud them. Sure, this isn't the best example of what we could be seeing, but Return to Horror High did at least prove to be a moderately entertaining ninety-five minutes of cheesy nonsense. Besides – It's got Marcia Brady in it. What more do you need?
Movie Score
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