Student Bodies Review
I compare the impression this film had on me to when I used to play football in a Sunday league team that had a perennial problem at left back. One day, a solid hard running geezer with a sinister peg from the Gods turned up and we thought our problems were over. Then after a marvellous victory we sat in the pub and started to shrink in ourselves as he began to regale us all with the most despicable stories about people who were not like him. The next game he broke his leg, and none of us sent a card. Watching Student Bodies being over-actively unfunny with race, gender, sexuality and the horror genre left me wishing a few broken limbs on the writer-director and, to be honest, I wouldn't send Mickey Rose a card either.
Marketed as the horror spoof before horror spoofs, Student Bodies is a scatter-gun parody of the late seventies glut of teenie horror. It aims for the hit rate of the Zuckers and Jim Abrahams on the Airplane films, but its aim is far from true and the lengths it goes to to find humour are rather desperate, if not despicable. Repeated gags that weren't funny the first time, racist, homophobic and plain bad jokes stink out the few genuine laughs, and the actors try to camp up the bad writing and dull situations whilst looking for inspiration. Above all, it forgets that the best parodies are those that are affectionate and learned of their subject, or those which outrageously rip the proverbial with no concern for propriety. Student Bodies doesn't know horror well enough to do the former and isn't funny enough to do the latter.
Beginning with the message that 26 horror films were made in the previous year, 1980, and none lost money, the film adopts a high moral stance at this terrible commercial tide. Then we are straight into a parody murder of the babysitter and horny boyfriend which exhausts the complete joke book for the rest of the film and sets hopes high that more laughs may turn up. The sequence with the killer choosing their murder weapon from a gun, a knife, some rope and a paper clip works but is lingered on too long and the POV shots of murderous feet stepping in bubblegum gets repeated ad nauseam. After five minutes, the film is effectively over as a comedy and the plot kicks in.
Couples are dying on campus and the prime suspect is uptight hottie, Kristan Riter. Death after death is orchestrated and none of the humour really hits the funny bone, and the low point is the death of a black couple, the female of which is killed with an eggplant. If you have never seen a 70's cop drama then you may not appreciate how foul and racist this is, but you will certainly witness staggeringly inept scenes that speak of pure desperation and start to question your own viewing choice as elaborate set-ups fail to have pay-offs and humour descends to the parading of grotesques. Now I am not saying that disability and awkwardness can't be funny, but if you choose to make fun of the ugly or different at least make the joke work. Here the jokes don't work, and the impression of a misanthropic, homophobic and racist film is all that is left.
It's often the sign of a stinker that actors went on to little success and were so horrified by what they have achieved that a film career ended soon after, and the acid test of Student Bodies is that most of the leading cast never made much from their screen careers afterwards. In fact, possibly the best thing in the film is the lead Kristan Riter who presumably saw what a beastly endeavour she had been involved in and went off into another walk of life because of the resultant shame. The cast try to mug their way out of the criminal lack of jokes, but if the film starts by saying that horror films are a cheap genre that can never miss, it disproves its own point by being unlikeable and a flop.
It wants to be National Lampoon's Animal House, it wants to be Airplane and it wants to be funny. It isn't. It thinks it can look down its nose at Halloween, at Black Christmas and even the far from impressive Friday the 13th. It can't. You might think it'll make you laugh, give you thrills or make you smile. It won't.
Legend give the film a single layer disc, and an anamorphic transfer with the sole extra of the film's trailer. The trailer includes the best jokes, the best moments and makes the film seem like a bang on parody, in fact it is the film condensed to its correct length of a couple of minutes. The trailer is in rougher shape than the feature itself and presented full screen.
If you don't take against the film like I did, then you will be very pleased with the transfer taken from a goodish print. This was a low budget movie so don't expect pristine quality as some parts of the relatively dark transfer are softer with poorer colour balance than others, but the overall transfer is solid with a natural amount of grain and minor moments of over warm flesh tones and bleached lighter colours in the exterior shots. The audio is a mono track which is largely good with a couple of moments of echoing and distortion in soundtrack and dialogue.
I hated the film but if you are particularly tolerant of bad jokes and prejudice you may be surprised how much the opening seems like both Scream and Scary Movie.