Student Bodies (1981)

Year - 1981

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

There seems to be spoof films for everything these days. Sports films, action films, chick flicks, and dramas have been spoofed one time or another. Many fall flat on their faces, while a good few manage to still be funny to this day. David and Jerry Zucker, along with co-writer Jim Abrahams, are probably the most successful at the spoof flicks. The Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, and The Naked Gun films have been very profitable to the trio - and really funny too. Keenan Ivory Wayans and his clan have also done well in the spoof genre, with I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and the first two Scary Movie films (Zucker, Zucker, and Abrahams took over the franchise starting with Scary Movie 3). It takes a lot of creativity and imagination to take serious film moments and make them absolutely hilarious to its audience.

I’m sure many of you believe that Scary Movie was the first film to spoof horror films. But back in 1981, Paramount Studios released their own spoof film during the hey-day of the slasher film. That film is called Student Bodies and it pokes fun at really stupid characters who live in a world where a killer roams free and is actually admired for some reason.

On Halloween (which happens to also be Friday the 13th AND Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday), a young babysitter gets these obscene phone calls with just heavy breathing, to the point that the phone actually begins to drool. Her boyfriend shows up and takes a shower, while a mysterious breathing figure enters the home. After a choice of weapons, he picks a paper clip. He kills the babysitter with paper clips and garbage bags her boyfriend to death.

A funeral is held for the couple the next morning, with the school faculty a little happy about the murders and the appearance of The Breather. Toby (Kristen Ritter), the school virgin and prude, tells her best friend Hardy (Matthew Goldsby) that anyone who has sexual relations will be murdered. However which each murder, Toby becomes more a prime suspect. With so many other suspects among the faculty staff, can Toby regain her innocence and figure out who The Breather is?

Student Bodies is a funny film that pokes fun of every cliché in the slasher sub-genre. It literally points out things that get people killed in horror films with arrows (like leaving the door unlocked). The film actually gives you the suspects. And as people die, you literally see the body count number shown on your screen. While this stuff is great, I think the film tries a bit too hard to be funny.

The forced attempt can be visible every time that wood shop teacher is shown. His obsession with horseface bookends makes no sense. Why do I care if he puts his balls in between a set of those things? The whole shop sub-plot is pointless and tries to hard to peg this weirdo as the main suspect. Even his confrontation scene with the actual killer is bizarre and bland. I liked the Texas Chain Saw Massacre homage with the murder weapon used in the scene, but the aftermath makes no sense.

And the listing of the suspects to the audience - was that really necessary? I think the fact that these teachers are actually waiting for people to die and actually encouraging it by speaking to the killer himself and not doing anything about it makes them a bit fishy. I know most horror films are pretty dumb, but the audience isn’t. I don’t want my intelligence insulted, thanks.

And there’s the ending. From homages to the ending of The Wizard of Oz to even ripping off the Carrie hand-out-of-the-grave sequence, it made no sense whatsoever. Was this all a dream? Was this real? Did the writer/director know? It pretty much shows how badly the film runs out of the steam as it moves along. The film gets less and less funnier and that’s a bad sign for a parody.

However, some of the gags are really funny and had me cracking up. Like that dog who meows and then farts. It’s so juvenile that you can’t help but burst out in laughter. Actually, the whole opening sequence with the babysitter, the boyfriend, and The Breather is hilarious. I won’t go into detail about it, but from being paper clipped to death, taking showers to wash away herpes, to The Breather actually losing his breath as he walks up the endless steps that leads to the upstairs bedroom, it works really well. Hell, The Breather character himself is brilliant. From questioning his fashion-sense, to hating the kid who puts the gum on every stairway he uses, to disguising his voice on the phone with a rubber chicken, the villain of the film is really funny. He has to be the most ridiculous serial killer ever and Richard Brando’s voice is really well-done.

And then there’s Malvert, played by some guy calling himself The Stick. He’s this really lanky looking nerdish guy with these incredibly long arms and legs…something about this odd actor is appealing. Plus he gets the best lines and acts really well against a blow-up doll (I’m sure Ryan Gosling used this film as inspiration for his current film Lars and the Real Girl). I can’t really describe his performance. It’s just so bizarre that it’s actually funny. I like the guy and I wish the film had more of him.

Even the clichés are kind of funny. The virgin girl is annoying, but kind of hot, with her preaching of abstinence to guarantee survival. Her transformation like Sandy in Grease is ridiculous but she looked hot, so I’ll let it slide. Of course, all the black people died in ridiculous ways. Two died of garbage bag suffocation (they actually could NOT claw their way out of Glad bags…like come on!) and one died of an eggplant attack. I really don’t know how one dies from the sound of an eggplant against one’s hand but it happens here.

And of course, the whole sex=death thing is the most prominent angle here, as all the non-virgins die. While the cliché had to be used in order for the parody to work, I felt the film was trying to push a “don’t have sex or bad things will happen to you” angle. I mean geez, the whole “stay a virgin” thing was really in your face. Was this a parody or an “anti-sex propaganda” film? I think it tried TOO hard to let us know that intercourse is dangerous, even when we horror fans already know that.

Mickey Rose’s direction and writing is very bland and amateur. He just points and shoots. That’s pretty much it. Nothing visually stimulating. The storytelling doesn’t improve visually through his camera-work. Just a very blah directorial job. But you’re not watching this film for the direction, are you? The writing is okay, although more than a few jokes fall flat. The actors are pretty bad, but a lot of horror films I’ve seen have bad acting, so that’s to be expected. However, you can tell the film has a budget and the producers really tried hard with this movie. So while the film isn’t great, it’s far from horrible.

Student Bodies is more of a success than a failure. It does have funny scenarios and characters, as well as some memorable lines, but loses steam as it reaches the end. Scary Movie is still the best horror parody ever filmed, but if you have 90 minutes to spare, Student Bodies isn’t a bad use of that time. This will be a good film to watch with your friends with a few brewskis in your system. Just don’t put gum on the stairs. The Breather hates that.

1 comment:

  1. dude, i've been looking forever for this movie. i have some weird residual movie memory from childhood where high school students get killed with an eggplant. thAAAnks!


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