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September 12, 2010

Student Bodies

1981, Dir. by Mickey Rose (and/or Michael Ritchie).

The slasher genre was ripe for spoofing in 1981 (an opening title card points out that 26 horror movies were released the previous year, and none lost money), but I wonder if the operative word in that statement is ripe.  Student Bodies is relatively spot-on regarding films that had been released then, but it also takes its shots at the formula before the slasher movement really picked up steam.  At this point, Jason Voorhees had yet to put on a mask, Freddy Krueger was still a pleasant future dream, and Michael Myers didn't have a living sister.  Student Bodies may have been a bit too early to the party.

An independently produced spoof that was released during the 1981 writers strike (thus, director Michael Ritchie was not credited and writer Mickey Rose got the director credit), Student Bodies had a handle on the likes of the original Halloween and Friday the 13th films, as well as things like Prom Night and Terror Train.  But, to a first time viewer in 2010, the whole thing just feels a little off.

Student Bodies most definitely captures the slasher image of the era, opening with a dark house that reminds of Halloween and filling space with some of the mid-day kills that remind of films like Graduation Day.  We've got the football game, the parade, the big dance; all the places where we'd expect the characters to have a chance to slip away and get killed.  One of the film's best running gags involves the unlikely places where coeds decide to hook up, generally proceeded by one of them saying something unusual "makes them hot."  There's also a strange dreamlike chase scene late in the film that provides many laughs, though I can't place what it might have been spoofing directly.

I do feel the need to say that - as far as spoofs go - Student Bodies makes the Scary Movie series seem profound.  This was the era of the slasher, but spoofs like Airplane! and The Kentucky Fried Movie were also taking over screens - and it feels like Student Bodies could have gained from paying a little more attention to those films.  While the slasher aspects are spot-on, it's occasionally hard to see the satire because the filmmakers' approach to comedy just didn't strike a chord with me consistently. 

As a horror fan of the 2010s, it's hard to find the humor in Student Bodies.  What it's spoofing is exactly what I like about a silly slasher film of this era, and it doesn't seem to be a smart or witty enough as a spoof to really affect that.  It feels weird to sit here and defend the slasher subgenre, but I watch these films as spoofs already.   I can kind of see myself revisiting Student Bodies when I want to laugh at slasher conventions with friends - but it seems likely I'd have more fun laughing at them while watching an actual slasher that's full of the movement's trademark gore and nudity.  There's enough silliness inside them, and student bodies seems to go a little overboard trying to top that.

4 comments:

Morgan said...

The humor in Student Bodies is kind of flat. The only scene that really had me laughing was when the announcer was explaining what a film needs in order to receive an "R" rating.

The Mike said...

Ooh, that was a big laugh for me too. But you're right on, it misses a lot. I think the movie's a little too self-aware for its own good, too many winks at the camera and such.

Thomas Duke said...

I think the first half or so is really funny, but it loses steam at a certain point. There's the opening crawl "this movie is based on a true story. Last year 25 horror films were made, and none of them lost money". The cheerleaders wearing black, blowing their noses into their pom poms. The girl using the kleenex box to wipe her tears, etc. I think there's subtler, wittier stuff in there, but it's also drowned out by obvious reoccurring gags and pure silliness.

Keith said...

Only watch with friends. Most popular at slumber parties in the eighties, where screams of laughter and even tears have been reported worldwide. Must be seen in a group to take the thinking cap off and lighten up. Also, you need friends help in getting all the gags withing gags. Example. Movie opens on Halloween, an uneventful night. Then it shows Friday the 13th as an uneventful night, also. Finally, it's on Jamie Lee Curtis' birthday when all hell actually breaks loose. Many people don't get that. When the gloved hand opens the mail slot and the camera peeks through it, there are large windows above and below the slot, making the act ridiculous. It's almost like you have to be a New Yorker to keep up with all the gags. You need friends to explain some, like the nail being hammered into a wall was a tip of the hat to The Other, so I hear. Hold off on judgement until one is part of a group of friends watching in a living room or bedroom. Then cut loose.