Long before there was Scream or Scary Movie, one splatter spoof stood alone: Student Bodies. A stinker in its time (1981), Student Bodies was so bad that one of its producers went under the name Allen Smithee, and its director, Mickey Rose, never made another feature film.
And when I say bad, I mean good. Just imagine a school day where your six periods range from Carrie 101 to advanced Airplane!, and then you get to go to prom with a dream date who tries to murder you with a paperclip. It's definitely worth buying the yearbook — or in this case, the DVD. A cult classic for many years thanks to its midnight runs on pay cable and VHS rental, Student Bodies is now accessible to all of us who sometimes like to ride the horror short bus.
It's reminiscent of When A Stranger Calls in the beginning, when a babysitter gets a mysterious, threatening phone call from "The Breather". Instead of heeding his warning, she goes to the fridge to raid and then to the parents' bedroom to entertain her boyfriend. Bad idea. The Breather, decked out in his dishwasher rubber gloves and sloppy galoshes, is inside the house. And he doesn't like to see teenagers enjoying themselves.
The middle is kind of like Prom Night, minus the Leslie Neilson disco nosedive. The Breather has now infiltrated Lamab High, using a multitude of weapons (ranging from a handy eggplant as a bludgeon, to a woodshop horsehead as a cleaver) to slop the slutting around once and for all. Of course, these are high school students, and those hormones continue to rage… except for one prim young lady who's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery as she keeps her virtue intact.
While the supporting cast isn't as well-rounded as they could be, and the gore could be more, Student Bodies still deserves its status as a pioneer in the spoof genre. It blends horror, mystery and comedy quite well. It's more humorous than anything, though. The Breather is hilarious (he's a much-maligned murderer, always stepping in used bubble gum, or having to resort to hiding in trash cans), and the faculty is flat-out funny. In one scene, The Breather phones up the mannish gym teacher. Speaking through a rubber chicken, he disguises his voice, then says, "Click..." She asks, "Did you hang up?" And he replies, "Nope, I just said click!" There are also some amusing pop-up trivia clues, and a totally random explanation for the film's R-rating. It's just silly like that.
The ending is pure Carrie, as it should be. (Unfortunately, the DVD does not have any additional release material, but it's highly recommended anyway — thank you, Legend Films, for finally getting so many old faves on disc. Don't miss The Possession of Joel Delaney, also out today. That 70s freakout did heads in the fridge long before the American Psycho was even a gleam in his daddy's eye!)
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson