DirectorMark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Release Date(s)1986 (October 31, 2017)
Studio(s)Vestron Pictures/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector's Series)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
Slaughter High was initially released in the midst of the slasher boom of the 1980s. Originally titled April Fools Day prior to discovering that another horror film was also being released with the same title, it was picked up by Vestron Pictures and given a limited theatrical run before later making a splash on home video. Fairly straightforward with nothing even remotely complicated about its plot, it tells of a group of teenagers who continuously pick on the school nerd, going too far on April Fools Day when they nearly kill him in a science lab explosion. Ten years later, they arrive at their class reunion greeted by sex, drugs, and most of all, murder, the latter evidently at the hands of someone who’s out for some overdue revenge.
Slaughter High, at least to me, has the feeling of a long, lost Friday the 13th sequel – that is if the sequels had gone in a different direction. They’re of similar quality but with quirky characters and music selections, especially the theme song which is guaranteed to get stuck in your brain once you hear it. And while the Harry Manfredini score sells the Friday-ness of it all, the kills themselves are on par with some of the best slasher movies from the era, principally the riding lawnmower and electrically-charged sex kills. It also helps to have Caroline Munro in the mix which, even though she’s clearly much older than the rest of the cast, is still a good actress (and a bit of eye candy as well). Slaughter High slants hard on the cheesy side of the things due to the performances and the dialogue, particularly when it comes out of the mouths of British actors trying to do American accents, but it’s still fun, and it doesn’t need to be much more than that.
Vestron Video’s new transfer of Slaughter High is quite a step up for a title that’s always been fairly murky over the years. While it still exhibits a general dimness that’s inherent in the original cinematography, it’s been taken from the film’s uncut interpositive element, which I’m shocked even exists. Grain levels are never as solid as they could be, but the enormous jump in detail and overall clarity make up for it. It’s still a tad soft, chiefly during the opening, many shots of which feature some diffusion, but texturing on objects, backgrounds, and skin is much more accurate. The color palette is decent without ever really popping, but some of the exterior scenes during the day have a bit more visual information. Black levels and overall brightness and contrast are also much improved. Although I expected some crush, just being able to follow any screen direction is a major plus to me. It’s also a stable presentation with only minor damage leftover, such as speckling. The audio, which comes as an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track, packs slightly more of a sonic punch, but being mono-sourced, it still has a vintage feel to it. Dialogue is clear and discernable for the most part while sound effects have very little bite to them, making certain things rather narrow. However, the score and the music selection does manage to carry a little bit more heat. Subtitles are also provided in English SDH for those might need them.
For the extras selection, Michael Felsher and Red Shirt Pictures have cooked up some real goodies, almost all of which are new. There’s an audio commentary with co-writers/co-directors George Dugdale and Peter Litten, moderated by Felsher; an audio interview with composer Harry Manfredini, also by Felsher and featuring isolated music and special effects selections; Going to Pieces, an interview with co-writer and co-director Mark Ezra; My Days at Doddsville, an interview with actress Caroline Munro; the alternate April Fools Day title sequence; an animated still gallery; the film’s theatrical trailer; and 2 radio spots. It’s worth noting that the original Lionsgate Lost Collection DVD release included a trivia track, which hasn’t been replicated here. Also not included are some exclusive extras from Arrow Video’s Region B DVD release from several years ago, including an introduction to the film by Mark Ezra; an audio commentary with Ezra, moderated by Justin Kerswell; another audio commentary with Caroline Munro, moderated by Callum Waddell and Allan Bryce; Jesters and Jolts, an interview with Ezra; Lamb to the Slaughter: the Scream Queen Career of Caroline Munro interview; an Easter egg, which is an outtake from the Munro interview; an insert booklet containing an essay on the film by author Troy Howarth, an interview with Harry Manfredini by Calum Waddell, and an interview with actress Josephine Scandi by Justin Kerswell; and a double-sided fold-out poster. However, none of this material is really missed as Felsher’s extras cover everything and more, and they’re really worth your time.
A repeatedly requested Blu-ray title from the Lionsgate catalogue, Slaughter High is a long-time favorite among genre enthusiasts, but sadly one that hasn’t had much of a home video presentation until now. Thanks to the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, all has been put right and with the uptick in A/V quality, as well as the terrific extras, this is one of the line’s finest offerings, and one every horror fan should be checking out.
- Tim Salmons