Movie Review – Class of 1984(1982)

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I am writing this in haste, so I apologize if you are underwhelmed. After losing volumes of literary work to a hard drive crash, numerous technical difficulties, followed by weeks of crying while clicking the hammer of my replica Civil War pistol, which doesn’t fire, I am finally back online, expounding my opinions of film. I am doing so based on the assumption that you care what I think. While we’re at it, assume that I care what you think, too.

This movie opens with an apocryphal warning about teen violence: “Last year there were over 280,000 incidents of violence by students against their teachers and classmates in our High Schools.”

I don’t know what classified as ‘violence’ in the 80’s, but being familiar with the popular music of the era, I have a suspicion that the bulk of it was keyboard-based. The popularity of the Casiotone line of keyboard instruments for kids provided an inexpensive, highly portable tool that made it possible for battered children to bring their abusive domestic situations to school with them. Tortured souls, by the hundreds of thousands, defensively clustered together in what were once called ‘garage bands’(now called ‘gangs’), armed with weapons that spat out primitive consonant sounds to plant the seeds of the shockingly violent culture that begat The Crips, The Bloods and MS-13(also called the Miami Sound Machine).

Released in 1982, Class of 1984 created a startlingly accurate, dystopian picture of what the future would be like. A world where an entire generation of poor, inner city ethnic minorities(later known as Wayans Brothers)were pushed around by white, permed, 25 year-old teenagers in multi-pocketed leather pants. It was a time when the very whiff of hairspray, or the low, thumping beat of a Human League album, would send terrifying waves of paranoia through the ghettos. Public Enemy’s little known first single, entitled
White Boyz, said it best:

“Prisoner in my own house,
I feel safer in jail.
Cuz there ain’t no Timothy Van Patten pickin’ up on my trail.”
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Picture this: It’s your typical all-white, Canadian, inner city, war-torn hell hole. It’s run by arch-criminal, and former haircut model, Peter Stegman(Timothy Van Patten), who controls the campus’ drug and prostitution rackets. Enter a new teacher, Mr. Norris(not THE Mr. Norris), into this 10th circle of hades. Aside from looking like Prince Valiant, Mr. Norris is quite unprepared for the trials he’ll face at…shit, I forget what the school’s called.

I could look it up on imdb.com, I guess, but I’ve been boycotting it ever since my screenwriting credit got taken down. Those were hard times, I tell ya: the film production collapsed under a massive failure of management and budget underestimations(fucking computer animation!). It was a lot like the fall of communism , really. It was slow, inevitable, and Ronald Reagan took all the credit(even though he had little more than a peripheral involvement). Actually, I’ll probably just never bring it up again. That’s for the best. Let’s do that.
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Class of 1984 paints the morbid picture of youth gone irrevocably out of control, which is what youth does when you overlook the telltale signs of hardened criminal influences, such as

– teen boys wearing blush

– hair that doesn’t move, even in high winds

– well-accessorized outfits with an abnormally high zipper-to-buckle ratio

– extremely angular facial features that hover somewhere between normal-
looking and Scott-Caan-looking

– being caught, on more than two occasions, physically abusing veteran ‘Planet of the Apes’ actor Roddy McDowall.

No doubt, you’ve seen examples of this sort of abhorrent behavior in your own world travels, and know what to look for. These are all signs of an obvious moral downward trend that, if ignored, could end up spawning Class of Nuke’em High movies, just like this movie did, and possibly even encourage the casting of more Van Pattens in future productions. Sound impossible? Check the statistics – 1 out of every 12 failed actors tests positive for Van Patten DNA(have you even been tested?) Luckily, I live in Pittsburgh, where hilly terrain and ancient glacial formations once prevented the migration of Van Patten tribes further eastward.

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Peter Stegman, the movie’s villain, is a snotty rich kid, in his mid-to-late 20’s, who’s supposedly some kind of genius, although, the movie doesn’t exactly go out of its way to back that up. In fact, neither does the Van Patten who plays him. I suppose that taking the time to prepare for a role like this by brushing up on his enunciation, reading a book to sharpen his mind or, at the very least, just learning to mimic the facial expressions smart people make, might’ve helped a little. But that is more from the ‘method’ school of acting, rather than the ‘daddy had a t.v. show’ school, he belongs to. This kid has got it coming from the very beginning. We know this from the over-confident way he walks, where each proud step displays the kind of self-assurance usually reserved for the likes of a Rocky Balboa approaching the boxing ring, where a black fighter twice as good, and three times as big, is waiting. He’s a boy blessed with the natural certitude of a retard recognizing a balloon animal as a dog, though, it clearly has horns. Mostly, we know he’s gonna bite it in the end because someone HAS to.

His gang is the typified gaggle of goons one expects from 80’s teen criminals. All sporting a punk-derived style, blank, vacuous expressions, a total disregard for human life, plus a tendency to deliver snarky lines followed by tongue-wagging. They are deviants, and they are AWESOME. Awesome in a way not even these actors can fuck up. When 14 year old ne’er-do-wells come seeking criminal employment, or late-teenage girl junkies want to hook for them, they conduct interviews just the way any well-established business would, and are extremely polite, patient, and professional. They tell them right away whether or not they are qualified for the position, which is a courtesy very few of the larger criminal corporations(I’m lookin’ at you U.S.P.S.)have the decency to bother providing.

Honestly, what is worse than waiting weeks, even months, just to find out you are STILL unemployed, unoccupied and unfuckable? I can’t get over how great this is. And if you have to toss a salad or two to get the job, they tell you right up front. You simply strip down to high heels and bush, right there, and they lead you to a creepy back room where a thin mattress set atop a creaky spring frame awaits you. I just can’t believe this sort of thing is outlawed, when it is so fair! What is with this new entrepreneur-hating economy!

And tongue-wagging(a.k.a. blowing the raspberry), by the way, is punk-classic to the core. Throughout this iffy music’s history, showing your tongue to any nearby camera was essential for conveying your society-bucking, rebellious intentions. It was an act of supreme individuality that absolutely everybody did, back then. I know it seems lame, but you had to be there. Which, I wasn’t.
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Like a lot of 80’s films…well, like ALL 80’s film, C-84 shows us that diplomacy and reason NEVER work. Don’t bother telling the principal, or calling the police, not when you’re dealing with punks. Punks have to be killed. End of story. Although, our hero doesn’t wise up to this age old axiom until the last act of the film, we see hints of his brutal vigilante style early on. How would I classify his particular form of ‘they pushed him too far’ vengeance? Well, it’s kind of a cross between 1950’s-style whitebread basketball, where you pass the ball 70-80 times a minute, and Junior High School shop class, where you saw off kids’ arms if they spill woodchips on the floor.

Now, was Mr. Norris actually pushed too far? Definitely. From the second he arrives at, uh, ‘____’ High School, Stegman and his cohorts are rude to him, they disrupt class, they make snarky remarks(followed with classic tongue-wagging), they shout ‘Not Here’ during roll call and they pound out entire Chopin impromptus, flawlessly, yet can’t remember what an amphibian is. Were they asking to be brutally cut down in the prime of their lives? No. They were begging to be. You simply DO NOT tempt a married man, who has to wear a Sears’ sport coat to work every single day of his life, into a blood feud. Such a man has already peeked into the abyss, and is ready to vent some spleen by booting a jar of Vlasic pickles up your ass, then breaking the glass.

Okay, so it starts out small like that, but the situation escalates when Mr. Norris finds them pushing drugs in the bathroom, but can’t prove it, which sets his blood aboil. After that, when a tripping student gets himself waxed pulling a numb-skullish stunt on a flagpole, something right out of a cautionary episode of ABC’s After School Playhouse starring Scott Baio and Maureen McCormick, the teacher appeals to the dead kid’s friend, Arthur, to testify against Stegman and his baddies for selling him the drugs . Unfortunately, Arthur(played by Michael Fox, now known as Michael J. Fox, a.k.a. the Canadian Quaker)is immediately slipped the shank in the cafeteria for being a rat. Let’s not forget Stegman’s beating himself up in the bathroom right in front of Mr. Norris and framing him for the assault(Yes, Fight Club did, in fact, rip this off. You can deny it all you want, I know you will, because you live in a dreamworld with gingerbread houses and pussy-flavored pancakes).
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On the very last night of many a student’s life, Stegman and his crew taunt Norris, relentlessly, while he is on his way to a High School band recital. Now, if you’re a grown man who has to spend his Friday nights doing things like watching Michael(J.)Fox playing the recorder, you have, most likely, already spent many hours plotting the savage murder of at least half a dozen people. Maybe you even have a couple under your belt, and have developed into an experienced killer with a matured, distinct Modus Operandi of your own. Even if you haven’t, just BEING an inner city music teacher makes you as ready to pop and gush as a frothy can of Milwaukee’s Best all over the tits of an Ohio State Cheerleader. Stegman gets right in his face and says “I AM THE FUTURE”. Okay, that’s hardly a death threat, but it is pretty gay.

Before Mr. Norris can actually be ‘pushed too far’, something has to be done to someone he loves. The act that, finally, pushes Mr. Norris just far enough to be ‘pushed too far’, is when they break into his home and spring some surprise sex on his pregnant wife. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t see this coming. He apparently has not seen even ONE Charles Bronson film, in his entire life. Can that really be called living? Not too long after that, Stegman’s senior class starts getting seriously reduced in headcount.

Maybe the title, Class of 1984, is supposed to be ironic, since he downright murders half the graduating class and assures that very few, in fact, will be left. The only students remaining after his bloody rampage are the ones that have never shot smack, teased their hair, hit their 30th birthday, or publicly admitted to having any blood connection to the cast of Eight is Enough. I SERIOUSLY recommend this film. It is just ridiculous enough, obtuse enough, and immature enough, for most adult audiences of today. It hammers home the still relevant message that all teenagers should, no MUST, be senselessly slaughtered. Furthermore, it shows us that if there is a future, that future is going to be good for the manufacturers of sleeveless shirts.

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http://www.amazon.com/Days-Yore-Arin-Lee-Kambitsis/dp/1935361147

After killing the marauding giant Oggmagog with a devious trick, a boy named Jack is brought before the dying King Arthur who sends him on a quest to Albion, land of the giants, to retrieve his sword Excalibur and save all of Britain.

 

 

Horror Movie Review: Santa Sangre(1989)

Santa Sangre, in a distressing display of unoriginal thinking, sets up its story as so many have before it. It opens with the same old insane-naked-man-stuck-up-in-an-artificial-tree-on-the-inside-of-a-Mexican-madhouse-with-a-flashback-to-his-childhood-in-which-he-attends-the-sad-New-Orleans-style-funeral-of-an-elephant-before-witnessing-his-hairy-morbidly-obese-rhinestone-cowboy-knife-throwing-circus-freak-father-slash-his-own-throat-after-cutting-off-his-mother’s-arms-in-a-fit-of-rage-after-she-tosses-a-jar-of-acid-on-his-balls-for-banging-the-tattooed-lady-making-her-death-referential-to-the-martyrdom-of-an-unofficial-armless-saint-that-she-worships-thusly-setting-the-stage-for-her-vengeful-spirit-to-return-from-the-grave-and-seize-control-of-his-arms-and-go-on-a-killing-spree type of deal. If you can keep awake while watching this tired, old premise unwind, YET AGAIN, for the fiftieth time, the film rewards you by moving into more unfamiliar territory.

So, after a flash-forward, or whatever you want to call it. Actually, since we are returning to the present from a flashback, can we really call it a flash-forward? Maybe we can. However, it doesn’t make logical sense to call it a flash-forward when all that’s really happened is the flashback has ended, thus returning us to the present, which is not the present, but 1989 Mexico, which kind of has the feel of 1981 Miami. At least, the hairdos do.

Anyway, after we return to the present, our boy Fenix(yes, his name is the Spanish word for Phoenix, not exactly subtle, as symbolism goes, this IS the country that gave us Menudo, remember)is all grown up and nuts because of what he saw as a child(we covered that right?). So, one night, during an inpatient trip to the movies, he and a bunch of Down’s Syndrome buds of his are intercepted at the ticket booth by a greasy, Mexican pimp, who gives them cocaine and gets them some sticky access with a three hundred pound prostitute. I know what you’re thinking: this is what happens to EVERYBODY when they go to Mexico. These guys don’t get out much, though. The next day, Fenix is filled with a renewed vigor, bouncing around the madhouse like an acrobat and, once again, wanting to drink of the magnificent font of experience that is life in a 2nd world country. Out the window of his cell he sees a vision of his mother calling him from the sidewalk below, and he climbs through the window down to the pavement to meet her. The two march off, side-by-side, down the mysterious fog-strewn street, and into destiny and/or the second act.

Now, this is something that really gets my goat. People have GOT to stop following their mother’s ghosts down foggy streets, symbolizing uncertain futures. Symbolism should be avoided in real life, take it from a guy who once accidentally sliced a crucifix into his cheek, while shaving, at the same time he was on the phone lying to a minister about fucking his daughter. However, should you ever venture down that foggy road, stop before you come to a crossroads or a rickety bridge extending over a raging stream, because now you’ve stepped into the territory of full-blown allegory, at the end of which you will find things like personal growth, and other such fruity crap, that you can definitely do without.

Anyway, as it turns out, Fenix’s mom isn’t dead, she’s very much alive, although her armlessness seems to have never gone away.

Now, ask yourself this: Would you rather be dead, or unable to wipe your ass in a country where people spend as much time on the toilet as they do sleeping?

So, mother and son put together a circus act, where he acts as her arms, although, unknown to the audience, she can take complete control over them whenever she wants, even against her son’s will. As it turns out, this is prime entertainment in Mexico, and they prove quite popular. Women are simply all over Fenix, and mother ain’t down widdat. She forces him to stab and mutilate them, which makes this red, viscid, plasmatic liquid squirt from their wounds, which, I believe, is supposed to be symbolic of blood. I may be reading into that, too much, though.

Santa Sangre is, supposedly, a very important film. It is highly lauded by critics, and film school dicks, across the world. It is a pretty good movie, however, it’s too eccentric and tongue-in-cheek to truly be scary. It was made by surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and should be watched carefully, for many a riddle is posited in both the story being told, and in the very scenery in which it is told. If you pay attention, you can spot the director’s mysterious sense of humor built into the very fabric of the tale, as well as the sets. It’s a tour-de-force of wit, sensuality and brutality that appeases both the intellect and the escapist. It’s not very scary, though. So, if your idea of a perfect movie is anything with the word Hellraiser in it, you should probably skip Santa Sangre and go back to listening to bands whose guitars are tuned down to A#.

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Movie Review: Summer Camp Nightmare(1987)

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Did you attend summer camp as a child? Well, if you did, then Summer Camp Nightmare will be a magical trip down memory lane. 

Now, you all must remember the popular, blond William Kat-ish guy who made sure to befriend, and defend, all of the geeks the other kids picked on. Thank god for that guy! What would adolescence be like without guys like him? Try to imagine, if you can, a world where jocks, and their familiars, pick on the smaller, sensitive kids; bullying them, humiliating them, maybe even driving them to homicidal rampages through school with a shotgun bought at a low Walmart price. Now, I know that kind of world is hard to imagine, but it really might be like that if the popular kids weren’t so nice. I’m serious.

And do you remember the camp directors? Those washed up actors from the golden age of television that always did the exact wrong thing? No matter what choices they were faced with, and what tell-tale signs the situation offered up to steer them in the right direction, they ALWAYS took the short-sighted detour over the metaphorical cliff. 

And do you remember what ALWAYS happened? The inevitable bloody teenage rebellion that ended in a primitive society being established, the strongest siezing control, and the swift partitioning off of all voices critical to them. Finally, everything culminating in a might-makes-right atmosphere where all disputes are settled by a violent display of force or a brutal trial by ordeal? 

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Undoubtedly, this all sounds very familiar to you, and is making you as wistful as it is me. But that’s just the kind of charming romp Summer Camp Nightmare has in store for you, you lucky dog.

We begin on the first day of camp, at the cattle call of prepubescent protagonists, where we get the first heavy-handed bits of exposition, pin-pointing precisely who every kid is, and of what use they will be in the future. The popular good kid, Chris Wade, is helpful and fair. Franklin Reilly, a spoiled rich kid and our future psycho, spouts some Nietzschean nonsense about being above society and conquering fear(a la Leopold and Loeb). John Mason and Stanley Runk(the punk)are our typefied denim-vested heavy metal bullies whose nostrils are still stinging from snorted model airplane glue. 

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Mr. Warren is the square, clueless camp director(played by Chuck Connors, a.k.a. The Rifleman). And, most importantly, our hapless geek, reluctant hero, and resident coward named, not kidding, Donald Poultry. Donald arrives at camp carrying a cache of gadgets that, unfortunately, only really come into play once to make Stanley Runk(the punk)show off his asshole chops for the audience when he gets annoyed at the shiny, noisy box the kid is carrying.

On the first day, Mr. Warren warns all the kids to stay off the old bridge, because it’s dangerous and also(gasp!)it leads to the nearby South Pine Girls Camp. Just how a man this dumb managed to live into his 60’s, much less, end up responsible for a hundred or so kids, is a credit to the benefits of coming from a well-connected family(the Kennedys? the Bushes?). Later on, Franklin comes to learn of an incident in which Mr. Warren lifts a boy in the air to catch a butterly and ends up scaring him. Franklin, in his zeal for justice, chocks this up to the director’s secret and illicit sexual attraction to boys. Irresponsible accusations, such as this, happened quite a bit in the 1980’s. My father is up for parole in 2017. Fingers crossed! And…sorry. 

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No camp experience is complete until kids are bussed in from another nearby camp. Even though it may seem to the viewer that the summer has still, pretty much, just begun, there’s been plenty of time to put together enough acts for an inter-camp talent show extravaganza, replete with professionally recorded midi-backing tracks with vocal accompaniment. I’m amazed at how these kids pulled off such a technological feat out in the middle of nowhere, considering that, at the time, the most portable recording console available was approximately the size of the International Space Station.

Now, racism was very much alive in Hollywood, in 1987. Shawn McLemore, as Hammond, seems to be in over his head as the sole black kid at camp. While everyone else just gets to be a child, McLemore must have been given the task of representing ALL black American youths. According to 80’s films, all black people were entertainers back then, and McLemore fit the bill. Hammond even gets to MC the talent show, and school all the campers in old-timey, beat-box hippity hop. 

 

 

Either Hammond, or Shawn, must have been late of a Connecticut boarding school, because his raps are slightly peppered with hints of a classical education. This is evidenced by rhymes such as…

“Friends, Romans, and countrymen too, there’s a little something I’ve got for you.”

and

“This group of guys have been working for a long time, I think you’re gonna find them, fine as wine.”

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I can’t say for sure if the director was a racist or not, but it’s obvious he was raised in mainland China, the dark jungles of South America, or Manhattan. – the three most likely places on earth where one can thrive without ever encountering actual black people. Possibly, all the man knew of them was based on the first season of Different Strokes, which isn’t a bad place to start, at least. I imagine Shawn’s first conversation with his unworldly director went something like…

“Shawn, real quick. I wanna talk to you about your character.”
“Oh, good. I have some ideas regarding his…”
“Yo! Absolutely, bro! Listen, Oregon law states that we can’t have more than one black teenager on the set. So, I need you to represent your ENTIRE race in this movie.”
“Pardon?”
“Just do what your people do best: Talk real loud, eat with your mouth open, walk around with your hand down your pants. You know, things that I know your people do. In fact, show no self-restraint, whatsoever. Act like you’re Helen Keller bleeding out her asshole.”
“Hmmm. Okay, so you’re saying that my character is sort of a counterpoint to learned social behaviors. The classical fool, basically.”
“No, you’re playing black. How many people in your family are in prison?”
“Well, my father is a criminal attorney.”
“Your dad’s a convict, huh? I think we can use that.”
“No one in my family’s in prison.”
“Sure, kid. Sure. Can you rap?”
“Um, I own a couple cassettes.”
“You have a couple albums out? Great! Well, I’m gonna send you over to the studio in 10 minutes. The Oberheim’s got a busted trigger pad, so we need someone who knows how to program a polyphonic step sequencer. The friggin’ engineers don’t have your kind of experience. Say, you don’t have diabetes, do you? All blacks have diabetes.”
“What?”
“Let me see you limp around, a bit.”

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The first act is The South Pines Sisters, a sort of Abba-ish sounding trio of near-comely girls who dare the boys of North Pines to come visit them. 

“We know that football is okay, but this we have to say, there’s other games to play.’

So, basically, they’re daring the boys to sneak out, traverse the truncated death bridge, and join them for unprotected, underage ugly-bumping. I’m just assuming a nurse at an all-girls camp doesn’t distribute condoms. Dental dams, maybe.

The following act is an acoustic number by…we don’t hear the name, nor do we care. Acoustic guitars don’t come back into style for a couple more years, when all the heavy metal power ballads start hitting the radio. So, if you’re in the mood for some Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, well…fuck you, just for that.

This, literally, sets the stage for the main act. The incredible Horn Dogs playing Beef Baloney.

She don’t like salami, 
she don’t want pastrami
She don’t want a chicken, 
she don’t want a roast
She just wants her double dose of my
Beef, beef, beef, beef baloney 

Beef Baloney is an anthem. It united an entire generation, gave them hope. But not Mr. Warren’s generation. He immediately calls a conclusion to the talent show after the Horn Dogs’ crotch-clutching, fist-pumping antics. He sends the girls packing, calls off the dance, and signs his own deathwarrant in doing so. Little does Mr. Warren know, any man who denies horny teens the right to congregate around a Toshiba boombox and do the 80’s white kid side-to-side shuffle-and-clap dance, is surely asking for a bloody, and merciless, comeuppance.

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The drama really escalates when Chris Wade is incarcerated for sneaking out of camp to go…you get one guess…give up…THE GIRLS CAMP! Franklin Reilly, snotty little asshole that he is, stages a Coup d’état in retaliation using a 45. caliber pistol he discovers. Mr. Warren is locked up and the wanton teen debauchery begins. Kids are dancing, drinking, pressing their lips together in a way reserved strictly for man and wife, and then only for the first couple months of their marriage. It is Sodom and Gomorrah and Poughkeepsie all rolled into one filthy mess!

Now, you may be wondering just when does the nightmare begin? It’s already begun. You are now 45 minutes older, and have yet to be frightened or entertained! 

However, if you do enjoy 80’s camp, and 80 camps, then you will probably at least get a partial Woodrow Wilson out of Summer Camp Nightmare. The movie really tries to make a statement about the dangers of nationalistic fervor, personal responsibility, the folly in trusting any teen prick who’s appeared on both Dallas AND 21 Jumpstreet, and finally, never EVER taking shit from Chuck Connors. 

Poorly directed, acted and conceived, Summer Camp Nightmare could be your cup of tea if you’re up for pure 80’s cheese, and it also could be a great drinking game. This is how it works: one chug every time it’s apparent the director was standing off to side yelling, “Blacker, Shawn! Blacker! Have you even seen Different Strokes?”.

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MOVIE REVIEW – MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH(1976)

The word Classic is liberally, and irresponsibly, tossed about these days. The truth is that the quality of a film is subjective, as is the labeling of one as a classic. Take the classic teen horror film Massacre at Central High, for example.

This is the second of several reviews of violent teenage rebellion flicks I hope to pen. I think I like reviewing them because they tend to address their themes with the utmost seriousness, as if the future of America completely hinged upon them reaching young people. This makes them easy to mock. Also, they were all mostly made in the 70’s and 80’s, decades that shared a common preference for overkill, rather than approaching anything with a delicate touch. Check out the now defunct band Wham, some time. The world was so fucking crazy back then, that no one even suspected the singer was gayer than a Shamrock Shake. I swear to god!

I’m too young to remember the 70’s. However, I’m not too young to remember it lingering well into 1983, lasting long enough to cackle with evil glee as the video arcade died right alongside it. To this day, ghastly images of the corduroy vests and butterfly collars I was made to wear still cast a dark shadow over the more pleasant memories of Return of the Jedi, the Atari 2600, and those wonderful, selfless, now deceased people who loved me, raised me, and sacrificed for me, that I don’t recall quite as well.

Massacre at Central High stems from this dark period of cultural history. A time when the North American Soft Tick thrived nationwide in the downy manes of teenagers’ pubic hair, while perfectly good razors rotted on the shelves. The horror film Carrie, released the same year, is supposed to be a great flick for admiring the ample fur panties teenage girls wore back in that time. However, it’s been recently revealed that the famous “Carrie Bush” was faked, using trick photography, and was really just some stock footage of a herd of lice-ridden buffalo super-imposed over the film.

Quentin Tarantino treasures the 70’s, and constantly references it in his films. One must wonder if he’s also a big fan of the Carboniferous Era, when the world was covered with scorpions and giant cockroaches.

“You’re at the crossroads of your life, the crossroads of your life, a runner chasing dreams.”

This is just a lyric from the theme song of M.a.C.H. It’s typical of what one could find, back then, in the B movies, and I don’t mean the Bond movies. And it just so happens that the film’s main protagonist’s favorite recreational activity is jogging. What’s that, you say? You hope that clips of him running aren’t used, simultaneously, with the lyric? You hope?

This song was, most likely, penned by a down-on-his-luck alcoholic the director knew. No doubt, he hoped that the 50-60 bucks this gig would pay might help the guy get on his feet, and stop him sleeping on that crusty, brown-stained mattress lying bare out in that small wooded area on the edge of his property. Who the hell said he could do that, anyway? This is L.A., not Pymatuning State Park.

This little ditty plays over the opening credits. It also plays over the closing credits. Also, an instrumental version is intersperced throughout the film, as well. This is brilliant directing, done to help you relate to the film’s main character, because the aggression that builds up in you every time you hear it play is nearly identical to the killer’s own need to commit murder on a massive scale.

Of course, we’ve all seen movies where the plots are a bit insolvent, didn’t quite hold water. But the plot of this film isn’t just insolvent, it’s a whole new state of matter altogether. One that exists somewhere between solids and liquids that I call ‘Diarrhea-Lava’.

The teenagers of Central High live in this strange world where authority figures simply don’t exist. Violent crimes are being committed on school property, but you never see a principal, or a teacher, or even a useless guidance counselor. People are being murdered, maimed and crippled, not just at school, but in the surrounding town, and you never even hear a police siren, or see a police officer.

It’s possible this school is located in some seedy part of Beverly Hills or Malibu. A dangerous white, upper-class suburban ghetto where the long arm of the law dare not venture. The kind of concrete jungle where only a damn fool would be caught making eye contact with some gangbanger’s new Persol sunglasses, or scanning his herringbone lambswool sportcoat for a Bergdorf Goodman label. That shit’ll get you killed in the ‘hood. Word.

Our story takes place in a high school being terrorized by a gang of preppie bullies. Don’t be misled by their sensible clothing: these are thugs of the most uncoeth sort. Bruce, their leader, whose calm, warm voice reminds me of that Boy Scout leader in my old troupe that the other adults would never leave alone with the kids, doesn’t seem the kind of guy who’s usually able to maintain the respect of a crew of violent criminals. With his feather-backed hairdo and 100% cotton V-necked sweater, he’s not exactly an imposing figure. But then again, none of them are.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you meet a small group of teens with names like Bruce, Craig, Paul and Mark? Do you think violent degenerates? Probably not. I mean, these are the types of guys who, when they aren’t at rowing team practice, or out to sea on a sailboat named Run-a-ground Sue, are doing the Lindy Hop in full costume at one of those Great Gatsby parties the top 1% love to throw. Somehow, though, these guys have the entire school living in dread.

The movie comes out swinging in the very first scene, with Bruce and his clean cut, respectable goons roughing up Spoony(played by Robert Carradine, of Revenge of the Nerds fame)just for drawing a measly swastika on his locker in protest of the police state the school has become. Bruce and his jingoistic monsters immediately demand it be cleaned up. This just goes to demonstrate the inherent evils of socialism. You see, kids, when you live in a totalitarian state, under the thumb of some repressive junta, those terrifying symbols of war and genocide we all enjoy scrawling in public places will be made illegal in our schools. Don’t let that happen! Support capitalism! Go out, right now, and buy something you’ll never use. After that, go and throw away something you use constantly.

It is into this situation that our protagonist, David, a transfer student and old friend of Mark’s, stumbles in and heroically interrupts the gang as they are vilely besmirching Spoony’s rights. For some reason, the whole bullying episode just stops dead in its tracks. Mark isn’t even there to stick up for David. It’s kind of like the way your mother used to accidentally interrupt you when you were masturbating: she didn’t have to look, say, or do anything, the act just ended itself.

David walks away, down hallways that are eerily wanting of teen chatter. He tries to ask for directions to the student lounge, but students just ignore him and rush by, afraid to speak out of turn. Any newcomer is shunned. There is more intolerant fear of the ‘other’ in this school than at your typical Bill O’Reilly book signing. David does meet one willing person, however, a girl named Theresa, and there are immediate sparks. She doesn’t rub her nipples or anything THAT awesome, but it’s made rather clear to us, fairly soon, that if she were a lower primate feeling this way, she would be presenting David her engorged, red anus for him to mount.

Uh-oh, I just thought of something. Do you think she’s got a boyfriend? Someone with whom David is inconveniently acquainted? Who would that be? Think dammit, think!

When he arrives at the lounge he finds the gang there, this time accompanied by Mark, who officially introduces David to his friends. Mark assures David that they’ve got it made here, it won’t be like at their last school, when they were knocked around like a couple of foster kids. Here, they will be the pushers, not the pushed. This doesn’t sit well with David, though, who doesn’t only harbor a deep-rooted resentment towards all bullies, but is also batshit fucking crazy.

Mark tells David he just HAS to meet this special girl of his. David tries to tell his friend that he just met a nice girl, but gets interrupted. As it turns out, his girlfriend is Theresa. Theresa? Isn’t that…didn’t he…?

A bit later, Theresa is with her friends and one of them asks her about the new guy. She stumbles, a bit, while she answers, as if caught off guard by the question. If you’ve seen the Twilight movies, then you know that the dramatic pause is the preferred method of expressing doubt or fear for the bad actor. Theresa, just like her spiritual descendant from the Twilight series, Bella, is being portrayed by a very shitty actress.

Of course, even with such a bad actress playing his girlfriend, Mark will not pick up on these ham-fisted body signals. The boy is so enamored of Theresa that he sees only virtue in that which bears naught but the fruit of deceit. He’s also a total cheese-dick who can’t stand up for himself. Actually, neither of these reasons, although they do fit the character, are necessary to explain this away. It’s just a bad movie.

Next up, David tags along as the gang goes for a ride in their GM Shaggin Waggin’ around the countryside. He witnesses their first real act of bullying when they stumble upon a kid named Rodney, steal his shitty car, and crash it. David doesn’t stop them, though, and feels a bit ashamed. Then follows a series of scenes(literally, one after the other)in which David witnesses the gang bully Oscar, a fat guy(fat by 70’s standards, anyway)in the gym. Then they hassle Arthur, the librarian’s assistant, just because he’s smart. Like before, David doesn’t interfere, but still refuses to hide the concerned look on his face as he does nothing.

So, where’s this going? We have a protagonist, who is anti-bully, matriculating among a group of bullies, and the only thing keeping them from killing each other is a mutual friend who may not be very pro-protagonist after he finds the guy knotted up in his girlfriend’s 48 lbs of ‘Carrie Bush’. Think of Theresa’s bush as Titanic’s iceberg.

One morning, David offers Rodney a ride to school. Rodney is reluctant, at first, but gets in, anyway. While they are driving, David offers to fix Rodney’s car. Obviously, he just wants to make amends. Rodney, again, is a bit suspicious, and not just because David is fucking creepy. Well, no, that’s probably why.

Well, the gang gets wind of this and doesn’t like it. They are starting think that David isn’t going to fit in. They pull Mark away, one afternoon, to speak to him about it. Mark goes with them, stupidly leaving David and Theresa alone together to exchange steamy, suggestive dialogue.

THERESA
He really cares about you.

DAVID
He’s a friend.

THERESA
We’ve been together for a long time.

DAVID
Yeah, that’s great.

THERESA
We really get along.

DAVID
I can see that.

SCENE ENDS

I just hope that you can appreciate the grace with which the director of this film advances the plot. This is subtlety on a microscopic level. If you blink, you miss it! Admittedly, though, the director could have been a little more subtle in some parts. For instance, he could have spray painted THEY’RE GONNA BANG! on two giraffes being peppered with flaming arrows.

Now, if you are a girl like Theresa, who has no parents, who goes to a school that has no faculty, whatsoever, and who lives in a community without any centralized authority, it’s a safe bet that when your girlfriends aren’t around they are probably being raped. So, when Mark mentions that he heard her friends Mary and Jane were partying with Bruce, she gets out of his car and heads back to school.

Considering how long it must take to stomp across a high school campus wearing clogs heavier than sandbags, it’s amazing that when Theresa gets to the school Rape Room(I’m assuming that it must be the designated room for raping, because Mark never told her where to go, yet she walks directly there)the rapes haven’t progressed past the fully clothed, wrists flailing and head jerking from-side-to-side stage.

David shows up, breaks ups the rapes-in-progress, beats up Bruce and the others, and then takes off in his jeep after Theresa, who’s zipping away in her convertible VW Beetle. When he catches up with her, she’s angry with him for using violence to save the girls, rather than using the preferred 70’s method of mediation: inviting them back to your conversation pit for a rap session. The two head off to the beach together, where David tells her about how running is the only release he has for his anger.

He’s a runner. You forgot, huh. Don’t forget, again.

Well, Bruce and the others are now PRETTY sure that David isn’t ever going to fit in with the gang, so they head off to find him. Mark pleads his case, though, and says he’ll talk some sense in to him. But when Mark finds David frolicking in the foamy beach waves with his girlfriend, all nekkid widout clothes on, he returns to his friends and tells them that David just wouldn’t listen to him. The very next day the gang, without Mark, shows up at David’s garage where he’s fixing Rodney’s car. Bruce kicks the jack holding the car up and the entire frame drops on David’s legs. It’s revealed to us, later in the movie, that legs are necessary for running.

This brings up my biggest complaint about this film. There aren’t any huge 70’s cars! The entire time, I kept my eyes peeled in hopes of catching a glimpse of a ’72 Chrysler Tin Barge, or a ’74 Pontiac Lane Possessor, or perhaps even the 1970 Ford Rolling Monument, but none of these 4-wheeled Detroit mausoleums are to be seen. Dirty Harry, released just a couple years before this, had so many huge cars on set that all the amassed metal actually temporarily shifted the Earth’s magnetic polarity. Airplanes all over the world crashed and burned. It happened! Look it up!

Mark is waiting for Theresa outside the hospital in the next scene. He seems pretty bummed. Theresa gets in the car and tells him that David isn’t seeing anyone. Although, David has claimed he was alone when the accident occurred, Mark has his doubts that he’s telling the truth. Theresa reminds him that David’s his friend.

THERESA
He’s a good friend of yours Mark. The best. There was a
moment before the accident, we were on the beach, talking
and feeling close. We were skinny-dipping. I wanted to make
love, and I think he did, too. But he wouldn’t, because of you.

Just why Theresa’s speech doesn’t make Mark feel instantly better is never really explained.

A week later, David is back in school and walking with a pronounced, permanent limp. Almost, immediately, Mark’s gang starts dying. First goes Bruce, who falls to his death when the frame of his hang glider snaps. Then Craig, who dives into the school’s Olympic pool, only to find out the very last second that it’s been drained. After Paul’s stupid death, Mark finds himself utterly alone in a brand new school, and totally suspicious that maybe all of these sudden, successive accidents that occurred the minute David returned, weren’t so accidental, after all.

Meanwhile, things are changing for the better. What follows are a few scenes(literally, one after the other)of students enjoying their new freedom and equality. Spoony finds he can speak his mind without getting hassled. Arthur, the librarian’s assistant, discovers that he can be openly smart without getting clobbered. Oscar, or Lard Ass, finds himself succeeding in sports. These are all the exact same guys David witnessed being bullied and repressed at the beginning of the film. This probably sounds like a happy ending to you, and if you turned it off right now, it would be, but there’s still half an hour left in the movie.

But what could possibly go wrong? All the baddies are dead, all the goodies are alive. Things are perfect now, right? Wrong, dumbass! With the old leaders gone, there’s a power vacuum and SOMEONE’S GOT TO RUN THE SCHOOL. Somebody must grab the wheel or the school’s gonna be shaken to pieces by the loose, flailing power lines. All that power is just sitting there, waiting to be used, and who deserves it more than the people who were formerly crushed by it? Over the course of a few scenes(literally, one after the other)we witness as the once bullied, without anyone to put them in their place, start to abuse their influence. And they all are thinking the same thought: How do we get that gimped transfer student on our side?

Things turn on a dime at Central High, don’t they?

What follows over another series of scenes(literally, one after the other), is all of the once-downtrodden each approach David with a plan to take over the school. For example, the half-deaf librarian’s assistant is certain that with his brains, and David’s whatever, the two of them can reign supreme over Central High. At the end of the day, even Rodney has succumbed.

So, what do you think happens next? And YES, over the course of a few scenes, LITERALLY, one after the other, David starts ruthlessly taking out these second-string dictators.

What exactly is the director trying to tell us? I’ve seen this movie a couple of times, and all I can really come up with is that he’s trying to say that every human being on earth is exactly the same on the inside, no matter what their background, personality, or demonstrable history of behavior is. We are all just waiting for the Bruces of the world to bite it so WE can be in charge, and WE can wear the glorious V-necked sweater. And when we get there we are going to be just as nasty as our predecessor, and wield the scepter of the imperator just a ruthlessly.

What draws me to this film, and why I recommend it(besides the lovely pre-abdominal crunches, natural naked bodies of the actresses)is the incredible volume at which it metaphorically yells “PAY ATTENTION! THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT ABOUT HUMAN NATURE! ALTHOUGH I’M NOT SURE WHAT!”

I honestly don’t know what the point is the movie is trying to make. I think I have it, and then I lose it. I’m not sure that it’s the kind of thing one is supposed to be able to put into words. Like the elusive sound of one hand clapping(which, in reality, sounds just like a modestly endowed, uncircumsized dude spanking it), perhaps we are merely meant to ponder the question and allow it to take us wherever it may.

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