Christopher George - Coach George Michaels
Patch Mackenzie - Anna Ramstead
E. Danny Murphy - Kevin Badger
E.J. Peaker - Blondie
Michael Pataki - Principal Guglione
Richard Balin - Mr. Roberts
Billy Hufsey - Tony Fisk
Linnea Quigley - Dolores
Vanna White - Doris
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 96 Minutes
Score - 0.5 Howls Outta 4
Graduation Day - a time where scholars make that giant leap to a higher level of education, dressed in their caps and gowns in order to collect that piece of paper that will give people proof that they're not mentally challenged.
Sigh...I remember my High School graduation. Three and a half hours of nothing except for sitting bored as people you've barely known talk about stuff you're not gonna remember the day after in 90 degree weather. Yeah, that's fun. Well, I guess it wasn't all bad. At least there wasn't a killer somewhere trying to off certain members of the graduating class for some strange reason.
On second thought, I kind of wish there was a killer out there somewhere that day. That way if I ever encountered him or her, I could have led them to the location of my ex-girlfriend, who had slept with a guy I was cool with the day before the event. The less said about that, the better.
The same could be said about my reaction to the 1981 slasher film, GRADUATION DAY. Just like my actual graduation, GRADUATION DAY is dull, slow, and you just can't wait for it to be over so you can move on with your life.
Some gifted High School track star named Laura kicks the bucket after winning some track meet due to some blood clot. Her really competitive coach, George "Not the guy from Wham!" Michaels (Christopher George), is pretty much blamed for pushing her too hard and is fired from coaching. Around the same time, Laura's sister Anna (Patch Mackenzie - one of the coolest names I've ever seen an actress have) returns from serving in the Navy in order to pick up Laura's diploma during the upcoming Graduation Day ceremony.
Coincidentally [or maybe not], members of the track team that Laura was on begin to drop like flies right after Anna's arrival by a killer who likes wearing a fencing outfit, black gloves, and holding a stop-watch to calculate how long he can murder his victims [or something stupid like that]. Who is the killer? Is it Anna? Is it the really angry Coach Michaels? What about the uncaring Principal Guglione (Michael Pataki)? Or maybe it's Laura's "I'm too old for High School because I was leftback 15 times in a row" boyfriend, Kevin (E. Danny Murphy)? Or maybe it was that horrible band, Felony? I know they almost drove me to suicide!
I have three words for GRADUATION DAY:
WHAT THE F---!?
This has to be one of the most boring, stupidest, and goofiest slasher flicks I have ever seen in my life. That probably explains why I avoided this film for as long as possible. This is just a weird flick that lacks cohesiveness. Musical interludes? A killer who likes to fence? Really bad late-70s/early-80s fashion? This film probably has it all except for excitement, intelligence, and logic.
The story is pretty simple to describe:
Take the entire script from PROM NIGHT.
Subtract a prom setting, decent actors, a killer dressed like a cat burgular, suspense, tension, intelligence, and cool kills.
Add a graduation setting, annoying actors [plus Vanna White], nudity, a killer who likes to fence, a football with a blade attached to the end of it, and two musical numbers that just make the film worse than it actually is.
Slip in an ending that never wants to seem to end and you got GRADUATION DAY.
Anything else you need to know? Don't ask.
That's not to say that the screenplay is totally a waste. I mean, where else can you watch a bunch of "hot" girls flip over a really sleazy musical teacher who's wearing a blue suit and a bad toupee? Or every member in a single community owning the same pair of black gloves and a stopwatch to match? That sporting goods store is doing better business than Wal-Mart, lemme tell ya! Or how about the fact that no one is shown graduating in a film that's titled GRADUATION DAY? No diplomas. No throwing caps up in the air. No scene where a teenager was upset that their deadbeat parent didn't show up. Not cool, GRADUATION DAY. Not cool at all.
And then there's the scariest part of the film - Vanna White actually trying to act! Oh my God! Make it stop, Mommy! Make it stop!
So you see, it has something for everyone.
Those aren't the only things that bugged me. Those damn musical numbers were either cheesy as hell, or really mind-numbingly annoying. The opening theme is some disco song called "Everybody Wants To Be A Winner". If that's supposed to be this movie's equivalent to PROM NIGHT's "Prom Night (Everything Is Alright)", it fails on every level. Especially when it's being heard during a track meet. Doesn't really pump me up for the rest of the film. Then we had a folk song in the middle of the film that was probably the precursor to HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL or something. Whatever. And finally, the roller-skating sequence of "Gangster Rock" sung horribly by New Wave band Felony. Not only did the band look more feminine than Boy George in his Culture Club days, but they kept singing the same exact verse and chorus for EIGHT STRAIGHT MINUTES!! What makes it even worse is that a double murder happened during this sequence, which really destroyed the impact those two kills had. And then in a roller rink, some people roll around the band while others are actually WALKING! It was like the most ridiculous thing I have seen in a film in a very long time. "Gangster Rock" is the worst 80s song I have ever heard in my life.
Then we have the murders taking place in the exact same spot in the exact same trail in the woods. Apparently, everyone has to walk through this path to get home. Really? There are no other routes in this town? Everyone can buy matching black gloves and stop watches, but not have the time to build or use other route? And the killer seemed to know exactly where his/her victims would be! Not only can the person fence, but they're psychic too! The endless possibilities in these slasher flicks never stop amazing me.
And then we have the ending. Or should I say the THREE endings? This film doesn't want to end! We get the ending where the killer is revealed and supposedly bites it. Then a second ending arrives when the killer makes a miraculous return and bites it again. Then the final ending, which is your traditional "one last scare" ending that's supposed to make you jump, but only make you groan because you realize the film isn't over yet. I didn't want to see the running time extended another ten minutes. It's bad enough I had to suffer through the 80 minutes I watched before it.
Was there anything that I did like? Well Linnea Quigley bares her breasts. That's always a good time in horror. Plus, we get one of the coolest murder weapons in any film - the football with a blade attached. Toss that sucker and watch it pierce right through your victim! Now that's what I call a 1st Down! Fun times for all.
The direction by Herb Freed isn't all that great. The pacing is totally off and the film doesn't seem to flow as well as a film should. Plus there's no scares, or tension, or suspense, or anything mildly interesting to make this movie worth more than a watch. It was like watching a really sub-par slasher film with music videos added in between. It didn't make a whole lot sense.
The acting is just as bad for the most part. Christopher George, who's pretty cool in anything he's in, does good as the asshole coach. I really liked him here. Patch Mackenzie was okay as Anna. She was made to be the lead suspect while at the same time groomed as the "final girl". It was kind of hard to root for her since she was gone for like half the film once she was introduced. She also had this sub-plot with her family that didn't go anywhere. Plus for a woman in the Navy, she sure does not know how to defend herself. The character sucked, but at least Mackenzie did what she could with the role.
No one else really stood out. E. Danny Murphy played the angry and a little loopy boyfriend fine. Linnea Quigley showed her boobs and looked kind of cute in an early role. And Vanna White - let's just say she choose the right path when she snatched that letter turning job on Wheel of Fortune. Yeesh.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE HAVING THE NEED TO DROP OUT
- Some driver made light of two Navy women in San Diego, calling them "real lesbos". Coming from a man who drives wearing a "two-sizes-too-small" violet shirt and a lemon-colored scarf around his neck in the summer, I wouldn't question anyone's sexuality.
- The killer uses a stop watch to know when to kill, or something dumb like that. I heard of having time to kill, but that's just ridiculous.
- The killer marked his or her victims with an "X" using pink lipstick. How tacky. That color is all wrong! "Dick Suck Red" is a lot more attractive and appealing to the eye.
- You grab the diploma with your left hand and shake with your right. I follow that rule each and every day - most likely in front of a toilet and with no diploma in sight.
- The brunette chick in spandex is a pretty good gymnast. She can spin on my bar anytime she wants.
- Delores flashed the music teacher to pass the class and avoid not graduating. I guess I won't need to ask what she got in Sex Ed.
- Coach George Michaels, who's blamed for Laura's death, denies pushing her too hard in track - saying that he loved her. I agree. He does have the "Freedom" to be a "Father Figure" or a "Jesus To A Child". He's completely innocent. You just gotta have "Faith".
- The New Wave band, Felony, sang "Gangster Rock" for 8 minutes. What really was a felony was that the song was 8 minutes too long!
- Don't ever pole vault over a mat of spikes sticking out. It's not too sharp...
THE FINAL HOWL
GRADUATION DAY deserves to be leftback for boring me and wasting 96 minutes of my life. If you like early slasher flicks and haven't seen this one, I guess it's worth a look. If you like pointy footballs and Linnea Quigley's pointy nipples, I guess it's worth a look. If those things don't appeal to you, don't bother with this newest member of the WTF? Vault. You'll thank me later.
Hey Pat, I'd like to solve the puzzle:
"GRADUATION DAY CAN KISS MY ASS!"
What's my prize?? What's my prize?? A box of Rice-O-Roni, the San Francisco Treat? Figures...