Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Horror High (1974)

When I read the blurb on the back of the DVD box, I thought "Huh, sounds like Jekyll and Hyde meets Heathers."  Then the film started and they were in class watching the film of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella.  So I guess they get points for not trying to hide the source of their inspiration.

So what we have here is your typical 'outcast high school student turns killer' flick, in the vein of Heathers and Massacre at Central High.  It occurs to me that while my generation and the one before it had these kind of films, I'm not aware of any in recent years.  I wonder if that is that simply because I haven't heard of them, or because greater public awareness of real life murder sprees at schools has made the concept toxic?

I found myself liking this movie, despite its flaws.  And it does have flaws: it's obviously pretty cheap, with limited budgets for effects.   The main character's transformation into his "Hyde" self consists mostly of groaning and writhing while facing away from the camera, and once transformed he is mostly kept off camera, or in heavy shadow.  We occasionally see his hands, which have hair on the backs, but little else.

Despite the cheapness, though, they drummed up a solid cast.  Nobody looks uncomfortable on camera, even when delivering the sometimes clumsy dialogue of the script.

The plot?  Well, it's "Jekyll and Hyde as a high school revenge flick".  Loner Vernon is put-upon by his teachers and classmates - with the sole exception of the prettiest girl in class, of course - and his only pleasure is the biology experiment he's conducting on a guinea pig he's named "Mr Mumps".  Vernon's trying to develop a serum to increase the user's strength.  So I guess he's either been reading too many comic books, or he's trying to develop anabolic steroids.  Through a series of contrivances, he ingests some of the serum himself, and well ... those people who've been mean to him won't have long to regret it.

Ultimately, I think the question of whether you should see this film (either under this title or the alternate one of Twisted Brain) comes down to this: does the basic premise turn your crank at all?  If it does, this is an enjoyably cheesy way to spend 90 minutes.  If not, there's nothing here that will overcome that.

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