The tag line on the DVD case says, "Before there was Scream, there was Student Bodies!" After seeing the comedy horror film, I actually found it much more like Scary Movie than Scream. This 1981 film employs the scattershot "throw every joke at the screen and see what sticks" comedy style of the Airplane! and Naked Gun movies and was made at the height of the first slasher film craze of the early '80s. I found the film quite funny and dead on with its parody of the early '80s slasher films, but unfortunately, it goes downhill near the end and left me a bit disappointed. Still, it might be worth a look, both for slasher film fans and for fans of Scary Movie-type comedy.
The movie starts out terrifically. Ominous text on a black background informs us that "This motion picture is based on an actual incident. Last year, 26 horror films were released... None of them lost money." The film then cuts to a nearly perfect parody of the famous opening sequence of Halloween and similar films. A babysitter is alone in a house when a phone rings off the hook (literally). She hears heavy breathing on the other end and hangs up. She then opens a side door to check on a noise outside and forgets to lock the door behind her (the unlocked door is helpfully pointed out by a white arrow onscreen). Her boyfriend surprises her, and they head upstairs for a make-out session. The Breather breaks in and heads upstairs - and up and up (his stalker breathing changes to winded breathing from climbing seemingly 100 stairs). His weapon of choice: a paper clip.
The sequence above is funnier than I actually described it. Part of the problem of writing a review like this is that I don't want to spoil the jokes, and these scenes are much funnier when seen than when just described. Still, it gives you a sense of the style of the movie for its more successful first half.
After the killer offs the first couple, the film cuts to a graveside service for the two victims performed by the principal of Lamab High. We are introduced to the virginal heroine (Riter), who wears a big orange button with "NO!" on her bra, her dorky boyfriend, and the suspects: the shop teacher obsessed with making horse-head bookends, a Sherman tank of a sex-ed teacher, the sleazy principal, the insane guidance counselor, and the rail-thin stick of a janitor.
From here, the film follows an admittedly stupid but funny routine. The breather stalks couples about to make out. His murder weapons range from an eraser to an eggplant (don't ask how) to the aforementioned horse-head bookend. The film has a body-count meter after every kill and offers helpful text, such as "clue" with an arrow, at certain times. There is also an absurd but funny football game where Lamab High's players, who look to be about 12, take on a team the size of NFL players.
Unfortunately, while it stays funny for a good part of the film, it all falls apart at the end. I'm not sure if they were aiming to be more scary than funny, but things turn rather mean-spirited and ugly at the end and it just doesn't work. It left a bad taste in my mouth, especially after I had enjoyed and laughed out loud at the beginning moments of the movie.
In short, Student Bodies is not a good film overall and the ending is especially bad. Still, it might work as a late-night rental, and the first half is good for a chuckle.
Like other Legend Films DVDs I have reviewed, the disc is unfortunately bare bones. Only the trailer and chapter selections are included.
* Interesting trivia I found on IMDB: Richard Brando, the Breather, is actually Richard Belzer, of Law and Order fame!
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