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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Return To Horror High

Well, as you've probably noticed, I've been gone for about a month or so. My laptop crashed, was "fixed", then crashed again. I shipped it off to Dell, and am now back in business. Unfortunately, the memory, hard drive and motherboard were all replaced, so I no longer have any remnants of the movie I was originally going to watch and write about, a film called Pieces.

However, considering that most computer makers take 2 months or more to do repairs, I think it's safe to say that I'm a big fan of Dell and Alienware! Anyway, the movie this week is Return To Horror High, so let's get to it...and remember, there will be plenty of SPOILERS beyond this point. Man, I've missed saying that...

Okay, first off, the cast of this one is pretty have Alex Rocco, of The Godfather franchise; Maureen McCormack(Marcia Brady!) as a cute rookie cop; and some guy named George Clooney, who just might be a popular actor someday. Oh, and the child actor from the old sitcom Alice, all grown up. Heck, throw in Charo, and this could be an episode of Love Boat.

The movie begins with a wall of text: "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."

So, after that and the credits, we meet a weary detective asking a perky rookie cop(Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!) about a grisly crime scene. She admits to him that they don't yet know how many victims there actually were, as body parts were found in a pretty wide perimeter. Then she introduces the detective to the sole survivor, a screenwriter named Lyman. Oh, and the female cop is named Officer Tyler, and the lead detective is Birnbaum.

Lyman starts to tell them that a movie was being made, then we see an anonymous male cop walking the halls of the high school-turned-crime scene. He keeps hearing a noise, but nothing ever reveals itself as the source of the noise when he turns around to look. He finds himself in a darker section of the corridor, where a man with an extensive eye injury grabs him. They have a brief struggle, as the cop gets dragged into a classroom, only to reveal that it's all just a movie set.

Okay, so everything from this point onward is a flashback to the movie set? Or is this a different movie? Would've been nice if they had put a subtitle or something up on the screen, to give us some context.

Anyway, they have to film the scene again, because the guy in the injury makeup attacked the wrong guy. It turns out that he was supposed to jump out at Oliver, played by George Clooney, who plays the lead role in the movie-within-the-movie. By the way, Clooney looks like Chachi in this movie...he was seriously young when he did this one.

The other cop, as it turns out, is actually a cop, named Blake. He's there to make sure that the set is secure, and meets all safety standards. Heh. They set up to film the scene again, but Oliver gets an important call from his agent, so they take 5. Oh, and Lyman makes an appearance with some new script pages, as well as a first name now: Arthur.

Anyway, next we meet Alex Rocco's character, Harry. This film is so old, mobile phones are basic telephones, cord included, that are attached to briefcase units. Bizarre. Anyway, he plays Harry the producer, and spends most of his introductory scene schmoozing with a woman on his phone, while defacing a portrait of George Washington.

Then we see a special effects guy arguing with Josh the director over an exploding breast he created. How many characters are in this thing? The director doesn't like it, so he tears it off of the poor starlet wearing it, and flings the fake boob across the room, where it explodes. Hey, I guess she was booby-trapped!

Josh then discovers that Harry cancelled all of the crews' reservations at a nearby hotel, and that they're all going to be sleeping inside the school after filming each day. As he stomps away, the director gets more bad news: Oliver's agent has landed him a starring role in a television series, and he needs to be on the set the very next day. When the director threatens to sue him over his contract, Oliver smugly replies that he doubts that the small movie studio can afford to hire the lawyers needed for such a dispute.

After a brief, amusing scene with Harry doing a phone interview and ordering a lackey around, Oliver says his goodbyes and prepares to head to Hollywood. He walks upstairs to change back into his "regular" clothes, then sees some fog and weird lighting at the end of the hall. Being a dumbass in a slasher flick, he decides to check it out. Heck, he even calls out a greeting a few times, to give the killer time to locate him. Y'know, whenever I see Clooney in stuff like this(or that Killer Tomatoes movie he starred in), I'm amazed that he went on to fame and fortune. Really amazed. Bamboozled, even.

Anyway, Oliver asks the killer for directions to the exit, and the killer responds by apparently vanishing. This doesn't strike Oliver as strange at all, so he continues to investigate the fog and lights, which lead him to a door with a tiny window in it. He opens the door, and finds blood dripping from the ceiling. Then the door closes on him, and we see Oliver's face get pressed against the tiny window a few times, each time showing him bleeding from some sort of head wound.

Harry is inspired to convince the real cop. Steven Blake, to take Oliver's role in the movie, as they chat in the bathroom. He even introduces the cop to Josh, and leads him to believe that he's an actor. Blake winds up peeing on himself, then meets his leading lady. He tells her that he's not an actor, prompting her to make a joke that he doesn't get. The scene ends with the killer bringing over a janitorial bucket, so he can clean up the blood left behind by Oliver's murder. Hey, here's a great idea for a drinking game: every time you see or hear that squeaky bucket in a scene, take a drink.

That leads us abruptly back to the present, as Lyman tells Officer Tyler that the school never felt safe to him. Even before the first murder, he could sense a presence lurking nearby as they filmed their movie. There's a growling sound then, which turns out to be Tyler noisily slurping down a drink. Detective Birnbaum and Lyman both give her a withering look, then the screenwriter resumes his tale, by talking about this strange squeaking noise he often heard in the abandoned school. Drink up, me hearties! Arrrrrr!

As Lyman gets more intense, Tyler claims that she spotted one of the dead bodies moving slightly. They check the pulse, only to find that the arm is severed. Then Tyler reveals that the body is female, but the arm was male, because they eventually just threw random parts with random bodies. Very professional, Marcia. You better not make any more mistakes like that, or I'm liable to throw a football at your nose.

Anyway, back in the past, the director is looking over possible ideas for murder weapons to use in the film. The janitor, a perverted old black guy, tells Steven that he plans to break into the porno business after the film wraps up. Classy.

That leads directly into a scene where Kastleman, an older gentleman, is trying to catch a fly. He was the principal of the school during the era of the massacre, and the leading lady asks him for some intimate details. He responds by telling the starlet that the events from the massacre keep replaying in his mind, then he creeps her out by pointing out areas in the classroom where bodies were laying and eyeballs were dangling. What a fun guy.

Kastleman finishes up by leading her to a supply closet, then telling her to imagine the most horrific thing possible before opening the door. When she opens it, there's a rotting severed head sitting on a shelf, grinning at her. Not real, it's just a movie prop, but it was set to "rot" on cue, when the door was opened. Oh well, she can't be blamed, since no one told her...\

The effects guy tells her that he spent hours preparing the head, but she just leaves the room. When he tries to get some sympathy from the retired principal, the old man tells him about the hours it took for students to be slaughtered. Boy, these guys are a load of fun, aren't they?

Anyway, this leads into a flashback within the flashback, showing what the students were like in happier times. A cheerleader named Sherry is being bothered by some tough kids, until her boyfriend shows up. The leader of the bullies bets the jock, Richard Farley, that he can't get a date with a new girl at the school. He takes the bet, then walks up and introduces himself to the girl, who is Sarah Walker. As fascinating at pocket lint, this scene is.

Richard offers Sarah a free pass to that day's football game, but she refuses, then heads into the locker room. He follows her, which leads to a lot of shrieks and partial nudity. When he asks her out again she refuses again, so he tells her that he will drag one of the half-naked girls out into the corridor if she refuses to go out with him that night. In a stunning twist, that boneheaded plan actually works.

Wait, wasn't there supposed to be a massacre in here at some point?

That night, he takes Sarah out into the middle of nowhere in his convertible. She asks Richard to take her home, but he refuses. When Sarah tries to open the car door, Richard attempts to rape her. Don't's another scene being filmed in the abandoned school. Sheesh. When they finish filming, the pretty actress storms off the set, telling the producer that she wants to quit, just like Oliver did.

As she continues to rant and rave about how slasher films humiliate and degrade women, Harry just decides to wander away to take a break himself. While he cools his jets, a young member of the film crew tells Harry that no one has been given a paycheck yet but Harry tries to buy some time to avoid paying him and the rest of the crew.. After Harry leaves, the killer grabs the anonymous crew member and drags him into a classroom to be killed.

As Lyman wanders down the hall next, Harry waits around the corner to ambush him. They argue once more about the script. Harry leaves. Exciting, huh? It almost looks like Lyman might be the next person to bite the bullet, but the scene just ends instead. Oh, and there's a quick gag involving Lyman just barely missing seeing a beheading.

Then the rookie cop and the starlet decide to flirt some more. He shows her where his locker was, and she laughs when she sees a rough etching of a heart inside the locker. It seems goofy and charming to her, but he tells her that he never put the message in there. In fact, he claims that when he examined his old locker the previous day, the carved heart wasn't there. The starlet wonders out loud if maybe the film is cursed. After having to sit through all of these lame expository scenes, it better be cursed!

Up next, the killer corners a stagehand in the special effects/props area. Well, when I say "corner", I mean that the killer makes the lunkhead chase an object on a string like a common house cat. To complete the metaphor, he even leads the guy to a sandbox, where the killer then grabs him by the neck from underneath, and drags him into the sand. Meow!

Then another guy enters the very same room, somehow misses seeing the victim's feet kicking as he is pulled under the sand, and decides to stick his OWN face as close to the sand as possible. It's like watching an army of lobotomized chimps actually trying to get themselves killed.

Much to my surprise, this guy doesn't get killed in the same manner as the previous one. No, he just backs away, gets his feet caught in a snare, then gets shredded by a massive fan as he dangles upside down. His death scene transitions to the next scene, as Josh and Harry argue about the amount of blood being used in the film. The director tries to get Lyman and the rest of the crew to agree with him, but it backfires. Josh seemingly has a nervous breakdown and exits.

Great, another scene of exposition between Steve and the actress. He starts telling her about the time he lost his virginity, and the scene is thankfully brief. Up next: the janitor, who walks in on them. They see his mop and bucket looking bloody, and he nervously claims that he was cleaning up a set that was drenched in stage-blood. I guess that we're supposed to find him suspicious, but I honestly couldn't give a shit at this point. This movie needs to get rid of about a dozen characters, and find some kind of plot to focus on. Quick.

*sigh* Instead, we follow the loopy director into the restroom, which is filled with a hazy fog. Maybe Cheech and Chong paid a visit to the set. As Josh asks a member of the crew about the status of another person, about a dozen or so people walk out of one of the stalls. Again, a pretty funny sight gag. If they had spent a little time polishing up this turd of a script, this movie might've been a pretty sharp spoof of slashers. But left as is, it's way too talky so far.

Back in the present day, cops are seen carrying random body parts away to be identified. Birnbaum asks Lyman to explain how so many people could have been killed, without anyone noticing. Lyman explains that, in the world of low-budget movies, it's not uncommon for cast and crew to abruptly quit, as better opportunities come up. He even claims that the screams of victims could have been mistaken for rehearsals or scenes being filmed. Supposedly, even the ridiculous amount of blood wouldn't have raised any eyebrows.

And that's when Officer Tyler approaches them, covered in blood. When Birnbaum asks her about it, she starts to describe slipping in the halls, and she starts touching herself. Marcia, I love you. As it turns out, she also found a pair of hands, somewhere in a biology class, so we get another flashback. Hooray.

A class is falling into a catatonic state in a biology class, so the teacher demonstrates how strong the smell of formaldehyde is by putting an open jar of it next to the head of a student(played by Lyman, so I'm going to make the bold prediction that this scene is another movie scenario) named Donny Porter.

The teacher tells him off, but is interrupted by the arrival of a new student named Susan being played by the pretty starlet. She sits next to Porter...yup, it's a scene being filmed for the B-movie. The teacher insults "Porter" several more times, until the class ends. The teacher tries to come on to Susan, until a slutty-looking girl enters the class to speak with the teacher. The bimbo asks him why her grades are dropping, and he implies that it's because he no longer finds her attractive. Yeesh, what a putz this guy is. Susan scurries out when the other girl leaves.

Then the principal brings in Officer Blake, who questions him, then stops the scene to tell the director that the dialogue is inaccurate. Josh informs him that the scene will be filmed as is, to wrap that day's filming at a reasonable hour. He seems to be getting loonier by the second, so maybe we should keep an eye on him.

The biology teacher then introduces the class to the concept of dissecting frogs. He sees that the topic makes Donny nervous, so he decides to force him to do the first dissection. The first incision turns out to be too much for Porter to handle, so the teacher forces his hand down to cut the poor frog.

Later that night, the teacher hears someone enter his class. Assuming it to be Susan, he walks through the dark classroom, and sees a mystery figure. The killer raises a weapon, and knocks the science teacher out cold.

When the professor wakes up, he is on top of one of the tables. The masked killer reveals a multitude of weapons, and settles on a long nail. He nails the man's hands to the table, rips open his sirt, then uses a chainsaw to rip the man's heart out of his chest, before stuffing it into the corpse's mouth.

It's all a story, being told to the actress by Steven. They both agree that someone on the set is trying to sabotage the film, so they decide to work together to find the demented killer. Great. We went from Psycho to "The Hardy Boys".

Harry is next heard calling someone in Hollywood from a bathroom stall. He's discussing all of the disappearances, as the actress is seen eavesdropping. Oh, and she's listed by 3 names on IMDB, in case you were wondering why I was simply calling her "the actress"...she's Callie, Sarah and Susan. So, yeah...The Actress.

Next, Steven sees a picture of hos old high school girlfriend on the principal's desk. The principal informs him that the girl also happens to be his own daughter, and she's currently in grad school. Then he gets nervous when Steven presses him for details, and walks away.

Back on set, Josh mocks an actor who has a fake tool stuck in his forehead, because the actor wanted to know what his "motivation" as a dead body was. Then Lyman talks to a crew member about wanting to revise the script. The other guy tells him it would "be like polishing a turd", and walks away.

The starlet hears Lyman say that he used to be a student at the school, and decides to add him to her list of suspects. She then shows Steven the notes that she's been writing, and he tells her that to be a good detective, you have to suspect everyone, even him. Then they kiss, and begin making love as 2 technicians weld a section of the set a few feet away from their spot. Kinky.

The happy couple fall asleep after the act(of course), until Steven is woken by the sound of the old janitor's squeaky mop bucket rolling nearby. He quietly leaves the room to investigate, and the actress wakes up soon after, wondering where he went. Then she hears the squeaky bucket. When she tiptoes to the door, Steven leaps toward her, nearly giving us both a heart attack. I realllllly hate cheap scares.

Steven searches for his gun, and orders her to shut and lock the door. When she decides to peek through the small window in the door, the masked killer suddenly appears. The young couple approach the locked door together, and Officer Butthead turns his back to the window, allowing the killer to break the window, and get an arm around Steven's neck. Then Steven slumps forward, possibly dead.

The killer breaks through the door finally, just as the actress breaks a window leading outside. He tries to snatch her back in, but she jumps before he can get a good grip on her. She runs to the parking lot, and finds a set of keys in the first car she checks out.

She gets the key in the ignition, and another killer emerges from the back seat. Then, to my dissmay, Josh yells "Cut!", which means that, yet again, what would have made a cool sequence for the "real" characters was wasted on the movie within the friggin' movie.

When Josh tells them to get ready for the next scene, the killer beheads the actress. Josh screams, and it turns out to be a dream. Steven and the actress decide to go for a stroll outside, then the actress sees a trail of blood leading down the hall, and Steven admits that it looks like a body was being dragged in that direction.

Following the trail, they kick open the restrrom door. Then Steven checks out each bathroom stall. Of course, since it's just a set, the doors go flying when he kicks them, which makes for another somewhat amusing sight gag.

In the third stall, they find more blood, as well as a clue left by the killer: a piece of jewelry that the actress recognizes as belonging to somebody named Freddie. Damned if I know who that is...the janitor, maybe? One of the prop guys? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Back again to the present...Lyman identifies Freddie as the first assistant director. Officer Sexy shows up again, still covered in blood and eating something. Oh, Marcia, something suddenly came up!

Back in flashback land, Steven and the actress investigate one of the classrooms, the one where the effects crew were creating all of the blood and murder props. Turning on a light reveals the severed heads of Harry and Josh. The blood is still wet, which implies that the bodies were put there not long ago.

Another blood trail leads to the sandbox, where Steven and the actress find a tunnel underneath the sand. That was one determined cat! As Steven raises his pistol and announces his intention to descend into the tunnel, the actress points out that the heroes in slasher flicks always decide to explore dark places without getting a flashlight. Heh.

They go together, with her holding a flashlight, and him with the gun. She ruins any chance to surprise the killer, by screaming when she sees a tiny spider.Dumb-da-dmb-dumb-DUMMMMB! Oh, and the flashlight goes out, prompting her to whack it a few times. It goes flying out of her hand, and she trips into Steven, making him drop the gun. Both items go sailing across the room, where they get swallowed up by the shadows. Dumbasses.

To further cement her status as the dumbest Final Girl in slasher history, the actress explores her surroundings by walking backwards into the shadows. Instead of finding the killer, she finds another body part, dangling in front of her by a rope. I hope it's her brain.

They find another exit, which leads them to a room full of skeletal corpses, all dressed up and sitting around the room on chairs. The old perverted janitor then walks in, claiming that he found the room as well, but that he wasn't the killer.

So what happens in the very next instant? Well, the janitor attacks Steven, because he really IS the killer after all. At this point, does anyone really care? He killed them, he didn't...let's just wrap this thing up, so we can go back to enjoying our lives again!

The janitor laughs like a loon during his brawl with Steven, and it swiftly deteriorates into a slap fight. Yeah, you heard me. A slap fight. Steven scratches at the janitor's face then, revealing that his face was merely a mask. The real killer was...Principal Kastleman?

Yup, apparently he blamed Steven for the death of his daughter, who left after high school, because Steven got her pregnant. The girl then gave herself an abortion, which killed her. The capper comes when he shows them her corpse, and announces that he will force Steven to "marry" her. None of this makes any kind of sense.

Steven responds by standing up and announcing that he's going to go home and watch a football game. He gets Kastleman to follow him to the door, where the principal asks, "Are you crazy???"

Steven waits until the principal is standing against a wall, then pins him down like a bug, by chucking a javelin through his abdomen. After Kastleman dies, Steven then rescues the actress of a thousand names(and none of them memorable...). They quickly leave, then Lyman is seen finishing up his story. Birnbaum tells him that they need him to show them to the basement, where the cops are prepared to burst in with guns blazing.

They get to the basement, and Lyman is seen rushing out of the building. He calls out that they're "all clear", and the corpses get off the ground, revealing that they were still filming the movie. They grab all of the apparently-fake body parts, then rush to their vehicles to get away.

Harry reveals that most of it was a stunt to get publicity for the film, and that the crazed principal's death will only gain more attention for them, when it finally gets released. Well, I guess that wraps up the film then, because...

Oh wait. There's more. The principal's not quite dead, and somehow manages to wake up with none of the cops noticing. He pulls the spear out of his body, then rushes at Birnbaum. The cops all fire at him, twice. When he finally dies, they discover the lack of evidence outside. Birnbaum then decides that the killer must have had a partner, and that he won't stop until the case is solved. Yikes.

The last scene sees Lyman sneaking back into the school. He sits at a desk, and reveals that the principal was his father. As he begins to type out his own script about the massacre, he sees a few drops of blood falling on his manuscript, and looks up at his father with a big grin on his face. After the end credits, there's an implication that there could be a sequel(there wasn't), followed by the sound of the squeaky bucket rolling around. THE END

Despite all my sarcasm, this one sort of grew on me, with all of the goofy charm. The effects were rather gory, and I think that the folks who were behind the Scream franchise probably saw this one, as they seem to borrow heavily from the concept. Like I said, if the plot had decided to put emphasis on either the horror or the comedy, it would have made the film more consistent. And maybe delete about 10 pages of dialogue anywhere in the script.

Well, despite all of the hassles with my laptop, I'm finally back in business. My next movie is Happy Hell Night, which I hope is a fun one. Oh, and does anyone recall a slasher flick that starred Linda Blair? I think it was set at a costume party, but I'm not sure what it was, or if it's available on Netflix. If someone could point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it...this one's been bugging me since I started doing this, because I never seem to be able to get my hands on it. I think the title was similar to next week's movie, but I'm not 100% sure.

Oops, almost forgot...I rate Return to Horror High about 3-and-a-quarter killer trees out of 5. It was above average, and I certainly enjoyed many of the kills and gags throughout.

And what did Return to Horror High teach me this week?

-I have a dangerous attraction to Marcia Brady....I should probably seek help for that.

-Emergency personnel lack any way at all of spotting the difference between an actual dead body, an actor in makeup, and a rubber prop. Details, details, details...

-If you don't plan to make a sequel to your horror film, DON'T END IT ON A COOL CLIFFHANGER, DUMBASSES!!! (seriously, that just pissed me off, when I discovered that there was no sequel. The father-son killers concept would have been sweet.)

See you next week! Happy holidays!