(dir: Herb Freed, 1981)
"The Midvale Track Team Will Soon Be Running For Their Lives!"
Laura, played very briefly by Ruth Ann Llorens (THE COMEBACK KID) is a talented high school track runner who meets her demise during a race, where she collapses and dies on the spot in front of her whole school (how embarrassing! Even more so due to the fact she won!) Fingers are immediately pointed towards Coach Michaels, played by the ever charming Christopher George (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXTERMINATOR) because he is a determined and often ruthless son of a gun! A couple of months pass and Laura's sister Anne, played by Patch Mackenzie (SERIAL, IT'S ALIVE 3) returns home from the Navy to honour her sister's graduation. Unfortunately, someone has put a spanner in the works... The track team are slowly getting picked off one by one by a mysterious killer wearing a fencing mask. Of course, the terror of a lunatic picking off most of the upcoming graduates means the celebrations must be put on hold right? Oh hell no! This is graduation! Bring on the keg!
Who exactly is behind the carnage? Could it be the pushy coach taking his revenge on those who question his teaching style? Could it be Anne wreaking a revenge fuelled massacre against the students? Maybe it's even the violent boyfriend of Anne, played by E. Danny Murphy (TOMBOY, FINAL MISSION) who has lost it because he has lost his high school sweetheart? Will the festivities continue, or will the killer have ruined every student's favourite moment? You'll have to watch to find out. The body count is high, there is terror among campus and the Principal sure is pissed off at this damn inconvenience, poor guy!
I'm just going to get this out of the way, I really don't like slasher movies as a whole. I enjoy horror films and I love giallo films so you'd think I would get a kick out of 70's and 80's slashers but I just don't. Graduation is one of the examples that just cements I dislike the genre. The film has it's moments but overall, it's just pretty damn boring and not even entertaining in an ironic way. Positives first. I really enjoyed the score. The track used in the opening montage is fantastically groovy. The score by Arthur Kempel (DOUBLE IMPACT, BEHIND ENEMY LINES) is used very effectively and there are some great moments of tension. Cinematography is also an enjoyable visual treat courtesy of Daniel Yarussi (TOMBOY, CALIFORNIA HEAT), especially the slow motion segments. Christopher George is always great, Patch Mackenzie has such presence and we are also treated to Linnea Quigley's wonderfully petite chest. Oh and there were maybe one or two genuinely nice deaths (I'm not going to be pole vaulting for a while). Aside from that, it's just a very generic slasher film. I can't really pick out too many because it's not awful, just extremely dull. Even the twists and turns can be seen a track field away.
Like I said, I can't rant on because it's not the worst slasher I have seen. I also can't complain about the treatment this film has received from Vinegar Syndrome. The film has received a 4k restoration and is presented in the OAR. I haven't seen the original Troma release but from what I can gather, the film is certainly a major upgrade. Aside from the high quality presentation, there is also an abundance of extra features. We get two commentary tracks, one with wirer and producer David Baughn (BEYOND EVIL) and the other with The Hysteria Continues team. You also get video interviews with Patch Mackenzie, Herb Freed (PARADISE LOST, BEYOND EVIL) and Jay Sadoff (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, PINK NARCISSUS). Finally, you also get the original theatrical trailer. I have only managed to watch the DVD portion of the combo pack but from scans I have seen of the blu-ray print... This is one hell of a clean up job. If you are a fan of this film or love slashers, this is an essential purchase. Did I mention it was region free?
You can buy the blu-ray and DVD combo directly from Vinegar Syndrome here as well as your favourite online retailers.