Friday, August 15, 2008

80's Trash of the Week: Student Bodies

Before there was Scary Movie, there was Student Bodies- a bizarre 80's horror spoof that veers from the campy and ridiculous, to self-referential genre deconstruction. The cast has mostly disappeared; in production quality it's on par with teen dreck like Joysticks; hell, even the producer took the Alan Smithee route, but it still has its charms. With a villain called "The Breather" and an impossibly goofy janitor named Malvert, you just can't lose.
It's tongue is so firmly planted in its cheek that it actually reaches its ass cheeks, but as an early spoof of horror films it will get a few chuckles from fans of Halloween, Friday the 13th, Carrie, Black Christmas, and other staples of the "born in '70s, grew up in the '80s" generation. The title cards let you know what you're in for:
This film is based on a true incident.
There were 26 horror films made last year.
None of them lost money.
Well, I'm sure this one did. They do what they can with the zero budget and a plot written on cocktail napkins. The camera approaches a house at night, and the time stamps first read "Halloween," then "Friday the 13th," and finally "Jamie Lee Curtis's Birthday," and we see a girl alone, being hassled by a heavy breathing prank caller. About the only name you'd remember in the credits is a pseudonym- Richard Belzer plays "The Breather," the film's bumbling killer, as "Richard Brando."

Richard Belzer makes "Breather" a lot of fun.


Before "Homicide," Belzer was quite the funnyman- he really hams it up here as a sort of whiny Brooklynite with bad asthma, constantly kvetching to the audience as he stalks his prey. We see him trudge up the stairs, stepping in wads of gum, and finally he springs out on the girl and kills her with... a paper clip. That's the kind of gags we get here- it was sort of funny as an 11 year old in '82. When her boyfriend comes out of the shower, Breather kills him by trapping him in a trash bag. We see the Body Count tallied on the screen, and much of the humor is from little goofy comments with arrows, like "CLUES!!" when someone finds a bag of trash bags.


Breather in the girl's locker room

The infamous Malvert and his girlfriend


When the parents come home, they're more horrified at the mess than the bodies, so there's some dry humor mixed among the goofy gags. The best parts are the characters themselves- Breather is almost like Woody Allen in an iron lung, and when we get to the school we meet the creepy janitor known as Malvert-- a gangly, double-jointed freak known only as "The Stick" in the credits. He's visible in all his limb-flailing glory in this video at 1:17, dancing with his sex doll. The rest of the crew include a pervy Principal, a buzzcut shop teacher obsessed with horsehead bookends, and a severe English teacher who looks like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Zen and the art of wood shop

What plot there is revolves around two the virginal gal Toby (long before Scream, this movie had "Sex Kills" gags) and her friend Hardy trying to solve the murder. Of course, Toby gets blamed because she's always snooping around the crime scenes. She roams from suspect to suspect as the body count goes up, and the film pauses for fourth-wall-breaking asides, such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque narrator showing up to say:
Ladies and gentlemen, in order to achieve an "R" rating today, a motion picture must contain full frontal nudity, graphic violence, or an explicit reference to the sex act. Since this film has none of those, and since research has proven that R-rated films are by far the most popular with the moviegoing public, the producers of this motion picture have asked me to take this opportunity to say: Fuck you.
Malvert bring keys, AND cheese!

It has its moments, especially when "The Stick" shows up to perform some sort of creepy contortionist gag with his blow-up doll girlfriend, or peeing in the punchbowl. Abruptly near the end, the film changes tone from brash stupidity and tries for a few cheesy Wizard of Oz references- "it was all a dream!" and then goes after Carrie. It's nothing great, but as far as intentionally cheesy '80s flicks go, it's a classic. If you include it with other horror spoofs like Pandemonium with Tom Smothers, it rises to the top.
Beers Required to Enjoy: as many as possible
Could it be remade today? see Scary movie 6
Quotability Rating: low
Cheese Factor: extra sharp
High Points: Malvert!
Low Point: blind dude vs. wheelchair guy
Gratuitous Boobies: DENIED!
Her button reads "the answer is NO!" but Toby's boobs might have helped this film.

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