Student Bodies (1981)

My friend Patrick Murphy suggested this one, which was the first film to spoof slashers like Halloween, Friday the 13th and Prom Night. My favorite part of this silly movie is that every single time someone is killed, a helpful body count graphic appears on screen to inform you just how many people have been killed.

Director Mickey Rose collaborated with Woody Allen on the films What’s Up, Tiger Lily?; Take the Money and Run and Bananas. He also wrote the movie I Wonder Who’s Killing Her Now? He had uncredited directing help from Michael Ritchie, who also directed The IslandDownhill RacerThe CandidateSemi-ToughThe Bad News Bears, both Fletch films, The Golden Child and more.

A serial killer called The Breather (voiced by Richard Belzer!)  is watching and murdering the female students at Lamab High School. He loves to call people on the phone — the makers of Scream had to have watched this film — when he’s not getting upset and killing them after sex. The women are all killed with a ridiculous arsenal of weaponry, like bookends and paperclips, while the men are placed in trash bags.

I kind of love that this movie references the giallo tradition of a black covered killer, except here, The Breather wears dishwashing gloves. The film ends with reveal after reveal, with The Breather’s identity coming out, it all being a dream — like The Wizard of Oz — and the real killer being revealed, but then the ending of Carrie gets parodied.

I’m also a big fan of how this is shot. It looks like an honest to goodness horror film, no matter how silly things get. The music, the camera angles, the feel of the movie — it’s all legit. The story itself is what’s silly.

While Student Bodies contains no gore or violence, it does contain one moment of profanity in a really clever way. A man interrupts the film to explain that in order to get an R rating, movies “must contain full frontal nudity, graphic violence, or an explicit reference to the sex act.” For this movie to be a success, it needs that R rating, so the man says that “the producers have asked me to take this opportunity to say, ‘Fuck you’.” Then, the MPAA rating card appears. This scene is legit — it’s what really got the movie the rating it demanded.

My only downer here is that an eggplant was used to kill the black victim in this movie. In case you didn’t know, the term mulignan is a Sicilian word taken from the derived from the Italian melanzane, or eggplant, as a slur against the skin color of African-Americans. One hopes this was a coincidence, but I think not. I get that culture was different in 1981 and I hope that we all continue to grow, but it’s pretty jarring in 2019.

You can get Student Bodies from Olive Films.

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