The third National Lampoon movie* to reach theaters — it was filmed after National Lampoon Goes To The Movies — this was written by John Hughes, who was pretty unhappy with the final product. He’d tell the Chicago Tribune, “They didn’t even want me around, and I was shocked when I saw the movie”. My screenplay had been completely butchered, and my name will nevertheless be on the credits forever.” That said, I think no one but me remembers this movie and Hughes ended up doing just fine.
The film failed at the box office and the Lampoon name would end up being hit and miss, with films like National Lampoon’s Animal House and National Lampoon’s Vacation being all time comedy classics and others like National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, National Lampoon’s Barely Legal and National Lampoon Presents Surf Party (amongst many, many others) became a series of dwindling returns, much like the magazine would be after most of its talent left.
If you’re hoping for the wit of the infamous National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody, know that P.J. O’Rourke and Doug Kenney had nothing to do with this film. No, instead this is the tenth reunion of the class of Lizzie Borden High School and they’re being haunted by Walter Baylor, a student who had a prank played on him, ala Terror Train and Slaughter High.
The film certainly has a great cast. I’m always pleased to see Gerrit Graham (Phantom of Paradise,TerrorVision) on my screen. Plus, there’s Michael Lerner (Barton Fink), Misty Rowe (Hee-Haw, SST Death Flight), Blackie Dammett (the father of Anthony Kiedis, who is awesome in Nine Deaths of the Ninja), Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine from the Vacation movies), Stephen Furst (Flounder from Animal House), Mews Small (who was in the original Broadway production of Grease) and Anne Ramsey (Mama Fratelli from The Goonies).
It also has an on-screen performance by Chuck Berry performing a medley of his songs (“It Wasn’t Me”, “My Dingaling”, and “Festival”) and a theme song by Gary U.S. Bonds.
In a world of slasher silliness — I’m looking at you, Wacko, Pandemonium, Student Bodies and Saturday the 14th — this one isn’t all that good. It does, however, posit something that no other slasher in my memory really has done before. It redeems its killer.
In the very same year of this film’s release, director Michael Miller would make another strange slasher hybrid, Silent Rage, which features Chuck Norris against an unstoppable killer. MIller would use most of the crew from this movie and Stephen Furst for that one, too.
*I’m not counting TV movie Disco Beaver from Outer Space in the list of National Lampoon films.