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Film Review: Horror High (1973)

SYNOPSIS:

After being forced to drink a special chemical he created in the science lab (that turned his gentle guinea pig that he used as a test subject into a violent little monster) high school nerd Vernon becomes a  homicidal monster himself and goes on a killing spree, taking out all the people that bullied him.

REVIEW:

I’ve always been a sucker for horror movies that involved some poor picked on soul getting revenge against the people that tormented him/her, so Horror High was right up my alley. I saw it back when I was in high school and thought that it rocked and after watching it again the other night I am glad to say that it holds up pretty well. Yeah, it is low budget as hell (it sounds like It was recorded in a locker room or something) and is more than a little cheesy but I can’t help but love it for some strange reason that I can’t quite put my finger on.

There is just something about it that makes me feel all warm and cozy inside and while some people may not be into it I think that it is nothing short of awesome for a number of reasons (I love the weird grainy look that it has to it and think that it just adds to its charm). It’s a weird little flick with some pretty bad acting and some extremely corny characters, but if you love funky 70’s horror films then you won’t be disappointed.

I liked the premise and even though it is basically somewhat of a 70’s take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Hell, the filmmakers acknowledge this as Vernon and his classmates are watching the film version of it in class during the opening scene) it works even if it isn’t incredibly original. Basically we have some poor dork that everyone is a total dick to (with the exception of his crush that happens to be dating the jock that enjoys picking on him more than anyone else) that is forced to ingest this serum he has been working on (in the school science lab no less) that transforms him from a mild mannered nerd that won’t stand up for himself into a homicidal maniac that enjoys killing the hell out of his tormentors.

It’s a pretty simple premise and yeah, it’s been done time and time again in some form but that’s okay because the results are pretty cool. It makes for a fun little movie in my opinion and I had a blast with it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that it will ever go down in history as one of the greatest horror movies ever made or anything but it is an entertaining little flick that you’ll most likely want to watch more than once.

I also dug the characters as well. Even though he isn’t the coolest kid on the block I liked the main character Vernon (Pat Cardi). You can’t help but feel sorry for him as he isn’t really a bad kid (at first anyway) and doesn’t deserve all of the shit that is heaped on him by his teachers, classmates, and even his school’s janitor (though I was on the janitor’s side after Vernon unintentionally caused the death of the poor guy’s beloved cat). I found myself rooting for him after he starts killing them off and to be honest, I think a lot of them deserved what happened to them at his hands (especially his English teacher, geez, what a bitch).

I liked the classmate that he has a crush on as well (who is the only person in the entire school that seems to be nice to him even though her boyfriend is a giant douche) and thought that their relationship was cute in a weird sort of way. Of course I really loved Lt. Bozeman (Austin Stoker), who is hot on Vernon’s trail after people start getting murdered. He isn’t the most competent guy in the world and looks more confused than anything every time he shows up but I liked him anyway and thought that he made a good foil for Vernon. While the acting is beyond questionable on behalf of the actors portraying their respective characters that’s okay as I think it actually made me like the characters even more as a result if that makes any sense.

I have to admit that I thought that some of the death scenes looked pretty decent considering that they filmmakers most likely didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on them. We get some pretty cool death scenes which involve Vernon stomping the complete and utter shit out of one person, fun with a paper cutter (that ends up with someone losing some body parts), and someone getting his head dunked into a barrel of acid. The “death via barrel of acid” was probably my favorite and looked pretty damn good for the most part. It is obvious that they had a pretty talented special effects person on set (especially when it came to this bit) and the results are quite awesome if you ask me.

I am a fan of Horror High and while it does have its shortcomings (such as the bad acting, the fact that some scenes were way too dark and the overall cheesiness of the film in general) I still think that it is a great little movie. It reminded me of The Toxic Avenger a little as it shares several similarities with it and I think that it is just an all around fun and kooky little movie in general. If you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s not going to change your life or anything like that but it will entertain the hell out of you for 90 minutes or so. Give it a shot, you won’t be let down.

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