Melissa Sue Anderson goes to the posh Crawford Academy and has found her way into the ‘Top 10’, the clique of all cliques at school (even if it does feature Matt Craven amongst its number). All of a sudden, the ‘Top 10’ are being bumped off one by one by a mystery assailant. Meanwhile, Anderson (nearing her 18th birthday) is being treated by psychiatrist Glenn Ford over a tragic incident some time ago that has resulted in her getting the occasional blackout and very little memory of that past trauma.
Don’t get too discouraged by the mediocre rating I’m giving this Canadian horror flick from the early 80s. It’s a slasher film, and unless you’re talking about “Halloween”, there aren’t too many slasher films out there that I’d give a rating of above 2 ½ stars. In fact, most are absolutely pitiful. This one from journeyman director J. Lee Thompson is definitely not one of the turkeys, it’s just a film with good ideas and poor-to-middling execution for the most part. The film opens promisingly with a nice, brutal throat slashing in an interestingly long sequence full of false hope. It’s livelier than a lot of slasher movies I could name, but it does start a little too “Animal House” for my liking with all the beer drinking and...erm...Canadians. I was also alarmed to see a young Matt Craven in the cast because, if you changed his hair colour to light brown, and stuck him in a wheelchair, the dude would look alarmingly like yours truly, and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my own death on screen. However, there is no doubt that most slasher movies suck when people aren’t getting killed, and so whilst this film definitely needed more horror, it was at least watchable. Nice car stunt, for starters.
The characters aren’t especially well-developed but the actors have a bit more personality than most, in fact, it’s mostly well-acted. Even old pro Glenn Ford shows absolutely no signs of feeling the material was beneath him. Soap veteran Bregman is the standout, for purely sexist reasons. She’s hot, and appears to have found the fountain of youth (or an awesome plastic surgeon) after this because she looks largely the same today except whiter teeth and less prominent chipmunk cheeks.
It’s actually a really good-looking film, thanks to cinematographer Miklos Lente, who does a nice, crisp job. A cemetery scene also shows cool use of fog and shadow/light. I rather liked the lead character’s back-story, as it was certainly a different quirk for a main character in a horror flick (Kudos for naming the ‘final girl’ VIRGINia, by the way. Very classy). But after a while, the lack of emphasis on the horror side of things started to wear on me. I became a bit bored in the middle, to be honest, and the plot stopped being interesting.
Still, the film picks up a bit in the final 15-20 minutes. The deaths, when they come, are certainly inventive, including the infamous ‘death by kebab’ and a terrific ‘death by weightlifting equipment’ which was painful-looking and frankly a bit mean if you ask me. The only drawback to the final moments are how confusing it all plays out, and even when you feel like most of it is cleared up, the final twist just dumbfounded me, it’s stupid.
Overall, this isn’t anywhere near the bottom of the slasher barrel, but it’s a middling film with fine acting and good ideas but poor execution.