Blu-Ray Review- Student Bodies
Distributor: Olive Films
Street Date: August 25th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Michael Ritchie’s Student Bodies may indeed be the very first spoof film parodying the Horror genre. Released in 1981, the filmmakers take stabs at countless slasher movies from the period including Halloween, Friday the 13th, When a Stranger Calls, Carrie, and many more. Similar in style to the Zucker Brothers’ Airplane or Naked Gun series, the gags come in quick succession, with more hits than misses, and if you’re a fan of either the comedy or horror genre, you’re bound to catch yourself smirking at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
In the film, a killer known simply as “the breather” stalks the women of Lamab High School in increasingly hilarious fashion. Sporting green dish gloves and black galoshes and using everything from paper clips to eggplants and chalkboard erasers to kill his victims, the breather terrorizes the teenagers and faculty of the school until Toby Badger (Kristen Riter) decides she’s had enough. Part of the gag here is that nearly everyone in the film (teacher, custodian, and student alike) wears green dish gloves at one point or another, making the list of suspects never ending. There’s also a running on-screen body count, a self-aware killer who’s aware of his downfalls (squeaky galoshes, prone to masturbation), a mid-film MPAA notice, and a custodian with urinary tract problems.
Student Bodies is frequently hilarious, often downright stupid, and sometimes cringe-inducing cheesy. Though still not quite as memorable as other spoof films (see Airplane!, Top Secret, Spaceballs) in the genre, Student Bodies easily enjoyable and offers up more than a few laughs.
I was shocked that Student Bodies could ever look this good! Olive Films presents the film in beautiful high definition with natural film grain, an authentic color scheme, and plenty of detail and clarity. There are fairly frequent instances of minor debris or light scratches to the print, but none too distracting for the viewer. The level of detail in facial features, clothing, and objects is pretty spectacular for the time period and budget. Student Bodies looks great in HD!
The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track gets the job done, excelling in the areas of dialogue and score. It’s a front heavy presentation that sounds fairly tinny at times, but I highly doubt anyone was expecting a Dolby Atmos equivalent here. Everything comes through clean and clear, even if it’s not exactly the most audio experience.
Olive Films has not included any special features on this Blu-Ray release.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Olive Films features the utterly fantastic original theatrical poster for the cover art. Everything from the voluptuous blonde with the cheerleader megaphone shoved down her throat to the vintage school desks and the chalkboard title are just absolutely perfect. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. On the interior of the case you’ll find some hilarious disc art with some snapped lead pencils and the “sex kills” button, as well as the usual Olive Films insert card. I really dig the packaging design on this release!
Michael Ritchie’s Student Bodies is a spoof similar in style to Airplane! or the Naked Gun series, but is likely the first of its kind to poke fun at the slasher genre. The gags come in quick succession, with more hits than misses, and if you’re a fan of either the comedy or horror genre, you’re bound to catch yourself smirking at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. The Blu-Ray features a shockingly good video presentation and a respectable audio mix, but lacks in the area of special features. The packaging on this release is superb, with the memorable original theatrical poster in addition to some funny disc art to seal the deal. Student Bodies is frequently hilarious, often downright stupid, and sometimes cringe-inducing cheesy, and this Blu-Ray release from Olive Films comes recommended for a good share of laughs.
Blu-Ray Review- Final Exam
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: May 13th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 94 Minutes
“Some may pass the test…God help the rest.”
How could a filmmaker break away from the conventional slasher movies of the early 1980’s? If they took time to establish the characters, composed a simple yet unnerving score, and featured quality camera work, it might be possible. Jimmy Huston’s 1981 film Final Exam did exactly that, and while it’s not a superb Horror movie by any means, it’s certainly an underrated entry in the genre.
Following the rather typical opening involving the bloodless slashing of a couple parked lakeside for a midnight rendezvous, we proceed to Lanier College. It’s the end of the trimester, and students and staff are anxious to be through with final exams and eager to party, pack-up, and head home. We’re introduced to a stereotypical cast of characters: the jock “Wildman”, the macabre-obsessed nerd Radish, the naïve yet book-smart Courtney, the promiscuous Lisa, sleazy professors, and more.
Things start to look grim for our college friends when the knife-wielding killer from the nearby March college murders begins to pick them off, one by one. It doesn’t help that local police are hesitant to respond to distress calls after the Gamma Fraternity’s latest prank.
It’s easy to see how a film like Final Exam could have been lost in the shuffle of 80’s slasher films, only to recently be rediscovered and appreciated by a new generation of fans. The plot isn’t all that original, the characters (at a glance) are stereotypical, and it features yet another faceless maniac with mysterious motives. The difference here is absolutely in the execution, and Final Exam captured my attention from start to finish. The cast puts quite a bit of effort into making their characters believable, and for a genre film, the script isn’t half bad. Also worth noting is the impressive camera angles and cinematography, which again, is against the norm for the genre and period. An extended tracking shot through a dorm hallway, blood spraying on painted canvases, and the first person perspective of an automated dishwashing machine are just a few of the unique filmmaking examples within.
Those looking for a gore-fest may be slightly disappointed, as the majority of the kills feature little to no blood. But the nostalgia factor is huge here: from the early 80’s cheek-high gym shorts on DeAnna Robbins to the elaborately coiffed hair on the men, just add a dose of Horror into the mix, and you have yourself a highly entertaining concoction for a rainy Saturday night.
Working from a brand High Definition print taken from the original camera negative (courtesy of Code Red), Scream Factory has unleashed Final Exam onto Blu-Ray with a respectable transfer. While I got a little worried during the opening credits, which features a lot of scratches and spots, things clean up pretty quickly after that. The college campus features lush green lawns, character clothing and interior sets are well detailed and defined, and fine object detail is surprisingly clear, considering the age and film stock utilized. There are a few quick moments of light print damage throughout, but for the most part, there is a nice balance to the overall image, and the entire feature is devoid of any intrusive digital noise reduction or edge enhancement. This is clearly the best Final Exam has ever looked on home video.
The DTS-HD audio herein sounds authentic to the time period and budget of a film like this, and frankly, I was surprised by the dynamic power of this mono track. The creepy score by Gary Scott will be stuck in your head for days after viewing, and it sounds great here. Dialogue comes through very clean and clear, with the peak “kill” musical ascension working well enough to make me jump more than a few times. Background noise is appropriately balanced, such as birds chirping on campus during the daytime scenes, or papers and pencils shuffling in class. This is another area of strength on this release.
Scream Factory and Code Red have teamed up to provide a few worthwhile bonus features here, in fact, it’s more than enough to satisfy the niche audience that a film like this attracts. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary: The included commentary features some fun insight into the making of the film from actors Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi, and Sherry Willis-Burch. Though they do seem to talk over each other quite a bit, it’s an engaging commentary and the featured cast seems to have a fun time reminiscing about their past efforts, as well as what they’ve been up to lately.
- Interviews: Featuring a static camera angle of the individual actors on a couch, these aren’t the usual polished and well-edited interviews we’ve come to expect from Scream Factory’s previous releases, but it’s less about the production and more about the fun content. We get recently filmed interviews from cast members Joel Rice (Radish), Cecile Bagdadi (Courtney), and Sherry Willis-Burch (Janet). The questions posed to the actors are presented as simple white type against a black backdrop, with the filmed responses thereafter. Joel Rice is especially fun to listen to here, with some fun memories to share from the making of the movie. It would have been fun to see if anyone could have tracked down DeAnna Robbins, as she seems to have disappeared from the acting world in the late 1980’s.
- Theatrical Trailer: Running about a minute and a half, this original trailer is in very rough shape, but it’s still fun to have it included on the release.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory comes with a stylish cover art design featuring the original theatrical poster for the film: the killer’s silhouette cast against the Lanier college campus backdrop on a full moon night. It definitely captures the mood of the film. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a synopsis for the film, the aforementioned special features listed, and a few technical specifications. On the inside you’ll find some nice disc art that mirrors the cover art, and a bloody background design. Well done!
What Final Exam lacks in originality, it makes up for with a fun script, eerie score, dedicated genre performances, and unique cinematography. The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory retains authentic film grain and accurate color reproduction, but features frequent light damage throughout. The good news is that for the Horror genre, those minor issues often just add to the nostalgia factor. The audio track delivers the dialogue and chills appropriately, and there are some fun special features included as well. I had a great time with Final Exam, and it’s the perfect 80’s slasher for a stormy spring night. Recommended.