31 Days of Horror: Film 27: Return to Horror High (1987)

It’s time for the 31 Days of Horror: 2014 Edition. For those of you who weren’t around for last year’s journey, the plan is to watch at least 31 horror movies I’ve never seen before and review them all. So sit back, strap in, and enjoy my journey down the rabbit hole.

I give the filmmakers behind Return to Horror High credit for trying. There is a clever premise at the core of the script by Bill Froehlich (who also directed), Mark Lisson, Dana Escalante, and Greg H. Sims. The meta take of a low-budget film crew making a slasher movie who find themselves being stalked and killed by a slasher killer sounds tired and stale now, but this film was actually a bit ahead of its time. It’s a pity Froehlich largely misses the mark tonally.

Plot setup: an independent film crew shoots a slasher flick in an abandoned high school that was the actual location of a mass slaughter years before. Before long, a killer is targeting the cast and crew.

And that’s your movie. Oh yeah, a young George Clooney plays one of the actors, but don’t get too attached to him.

Froehlich and his company have a few too many targets they are trying to hit and have the bad tendency to go for the easiest joke through tired film industry stereotypes: the sleazy producer (Alex Rocco) who can’t afford to pay the crew and insists on tons of nudity and gore; the pretentious director (Scott Jacoby) who wants to create a work of art; the put upon screenwriter (Richard Brestoff) who is unable to please the cast, producer, and director. All are played broadly, and while Rocco seems to be having fun, most of the “industry insider” comedy falls flat. Even the few jokes that do work get run into the ground. A running gag of the boom mic drooping into the film’s shots is funny the first couple of times it happens, but then is repeated to the point where it becomes annoying.

The actual horror elements are practically non-existent. While there is a fair amount of gore, the film never even approaches anything resembling a scare. Setting up the film as a mystery to be told in flashback to an ineffectual police force only adds a layer of confusion to the film that is unnecessary. While setting the plot up this way gives Froehlich the opportunity to have two “gotcha” moments at the end, neither twist is particularly satisfying.

There isn’t much else to be said about Return to Horror High. It’s nothing more than a sketchy premise masquerading as a completed film. It’s telling that the biggest laugh it got out of me is unintentional and one the filmmakers probably never saw coming (hint: it happens in the first ten seconds of this clip):

You can contact me at obsessivemovienerd@gmail.com and read all the extraneous crap that goes through my head by following me on Twitter.

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