Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 4: Return to Horror High

Day 4 of #10daysofjezoween brings us to Return to Horror High. A 1987 movie that I would see on basically every trip to the local video store. It had a skeleton wearing a cheerleading skirt on the cover, so it was pretty distinctive!

Anyway, basic premise: 5 years prior a series of horrible murders happened at the local high school. Now, in 1987 a film crew returns to make a movie about the subject and the same thing happens to the film crew. 

It starts in the Now with the police investigating the film crew murders, with regular flashbacks to the film crew and their antics. It switches back and forth to the present day investigation and will sometimes switch to the actual Movie being shot (that you are watching as an actual movie.)  So it's an interesting format of Now Police Investigation flash to the In Movie Movie, then In Movie Actor will break character and it will be Making a Movie mode. It's pretty neat because you have actors playing Actors, and then playing Actors Acting. Whew! It's confusing to explain but it works pretty well in movie.

During the Making a Movie parts we get a lot of interesting meta comments from the film crew about making a movie, audience expectations, and artistic integrity. There's some gore, both in the form of deliberate fake prop stuff and then the real actual killings. Some pretty unique kills and the idea of a slasher running around while a slasher is being made was a pretty unique subject matter in the late 80s. Of course, Scream 2 and Scream 3 took that subject and ran with it in its own interesting ways much later. The killer reveal was absolutely insane and hilarious and the actual ending was fresh and different (for the time period; it’d likely be seen as cliché and expected these days.)

This isn't the first "meta" level horror movie, I'm sure, but it's early enough that I'd consider it one of the fore fathers. Due to the format of a movie within a movie it’ manages to do so without seeming pandering, too self-aware, or camera winky. Does that mean it's perfect or amazing? No, not particularly. But it's pretty fun and interesting and short enough to make it worth your time. 

Neat facts: It stars Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) and George Clooney! This was his first movie role and very early in his acting career. He would of course go on to a steady gig on Roseanne, ER, and the rest is history.


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