Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 Days of '81 Horror: Graduation Day (Herb Freed)

In the opening scenes/credit sequence, which is almost Sam Peckinpah-ish in its ambitious editing techniques, a star athlete collapses from exhaustion in the midst of a track meet and dies. Cut to graduation week, the dead athelete’ sister Anne (Patch MacKenzie) returns to town from the military and one by one other seniors of the class are being picked off by an unseen assailant. Is the sister behind this? The driven coach (Christopher George) who can’t stomach disappointment? Or someone else?

An early cheapie production from Troama, which would account for some bad humor, Graduation Day is obviously meant to capitalize on the slasher phenomenon of the day (even centering around an annual event like Halloween) but with little to no care for manufacturing either suspenseful atmosphere, creative kills or characters that are not just undeveloped, but not even recognizable. Though oddly the editing is really experimental and mostly top notch. I’ve worked on low budget horror films (my uncle is a frequent director of Direct to Video genre fare), so I am very forgiving of the necessities of cutting corners, however, save for the actors I was familiar with prior to watching and the sister, not a single character made any impression, thus their deaths only resulted in me asking: is this a character we’ve seen before? With the opening montage being free of dialogue, there’s never any scene establishing characters or their relationship. Most of the time when we meet someone, it’s before they’re about to be killed off. It appears the film was structured around a given actor’s availability and not storytelling. To make matters worse, the film is overstuffed with characters like a pervy music teacher and befuddled principal that bare no impact on the story other than increasing the runtime to a painfully slow ninety minute mark. There’s not even a cool Michael Myers mask, as most of the murders are shot from the killer’ POV.

Thirty years later, Graduation Day’s main draw is seeing early performances from future 80’s scream queen Linnea Quigley (who in a sign of the frustrating nature of the film, plays a character I am not sure was either a member of the track squad and/or killed) and future letter-turner Vanna White. But of most interest to me, was another role for famed Enter the Ninja’s ninja desiring baddie, Christopher George, who continued his commitment to chewing scenery and taking names in 1981!


Mummbles said...

Thanks for the info, sounds like this one wasnt too hot. I just rewatched April Fool's Day the other day and was impressed somewhat with it. If you did not know the ending I think it would have been even more effective, sadly it was released 5 years after 1981.

Anonymous said...

these are good old movies... can i have the link on where can i download those mentioned movies above..?? thanks..

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