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- The Monster Squad
Distributor: Olive Films
Street Date: February 19th 2013
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Color, 2.36:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 82 Minutes
As a child, my Father would hook up the old Betamax player to our small kitchen television, put it on a rolling cart, and set it just outside the front door for Trick or Treaters on Halloween night. The extension cord would strain so much that it came close to snapping around the door frame, but this was important to him. I wouldn’t call my Dad a big Horror fan, but he grew up on a specific set of Horror films that were very dear to him: the Universal Monster classics. Lugosi’s Dracula, Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man, Karloff’s monster, these were the films that spawned a genre and terrified the baby boomers for years to come. Though as an adult I grew very fond of the Hammer Horror series as well, the Universal Monsters will always hold a special place in my heart. When I “got too old” for Trick-or-treating, I took over for my Father and wheeled out the old Betamax cart, often becoming so entranced by the movies themselves that I would just hold the candy bowl with an outstretched arm for the kiddies to grab what they may.
In 1987, Shane Black and Fred Dekker wrote and directed a film that paid enormous homage to the Universal Classics from my childhood: The Monster Squad. Released to theaters as some sort of hybrid between Stand By Me and The Goonies, it failed to gain momentum at the box office. The good news is that the film quickly turned into a VHS favorite among Horror fans, and has gone on to become a minor cult classic.
In The Monster Squad, Sean and his friends are middle-school misfits who idolize the classic movie monsters, hold secret meetings in their tree fort, and bond over absent fathers and bullies. Sean’s Dad is a local Police Detective, and his younger sister Phoebe is desperate to be a part of the treehouse gang. Our story is set in motion when Sean finds a treasure among pre-teen creature fanatics: the personal diary of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. The boys reach out to a local elderly man (dubbed the “scary German guy”) who translates the diary for them. In it, Van Helsing warns of a powerful amulet that maintains a balance between good and evil, but becomes vulnerable every hundred years. The boys soon find out that Dracula himself has conjured up nearly every creature imaginable to help him find the amulet including Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Gill-man), The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. Our young heroes set off on their journey to find the amulet before the monsters can take over the world. If their successful, they can use the amulet and the diary to open a portal and cast the monsters back from whence they came.
More than twenty-five years later, the film remains an absolute treat. There’s swearing kids, monsters, battles between good and evil, and even The Wolf Man getting kicked in his junk. It’s the kind of movie that is purely 80’s, and would never get made today. It’s also an odd genre mix, too scary and inappropriate for the little kids, and perhaps a bit too goofy for extreme Horror fans (there is little to no blood in this film). A product of its time and place, The Monster Squad remains a fun and creative venture in the genre, with especially great writing from Shane Black. Revisiting it once again reminded me of being twelve years old, wheeling that Betamax cart out on Halloween night, and letting my imagination run wild.
Despite the reservations I had going into this release lacking any bonus material (see below), the High Definition transfer actually bests the previous version on the Lionsgate release, but it’s not perfect by any means. The picture is very clean with no noticeable artifacts or blemishes on the transfer itself. Colors are intact, bright, and authentic. Black levels are a bit on the dull side, but it’s barely noticeable to the naked eye. Detail in makeup, costumes, and sets are very clear for a film that stems from late 80’s film stock. Grain levels remain authentic to the film source material, and digital noise is at a minimum.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is disappointing. While dialogue comes through clear, background noise and effects are unbalanced and seem to waver in and out. It’s especially concerning because the previous Lionsgate edition included a 5.1 Surround mix, which is undoubtedly more pleasing to the ears. I couldn’t pinpoint whether or not there was a legitimate error in the audio encode, but it sure could have been handled better for this release.
Zero. Zip. Nada. Not a single feature is carried over from the Lionsgate Anniversary edition, likely because of licensing issues, which is understandable. But with that being said, honestly? Not even a theatrical trailer or vintage featurette? A new commentary recorded for the release? A booklet featuring an essay on the making of the film? Unfortunately this is per the norm for Olive Films, whose transfers and audio mixes are anywhere from satisfactory to fantastic, but fail to provide any substantial bonus material on their releases, if any at all. If you were lucky enough to snag a copy of the Lionsgate release, you will find a wealth of bonus material worth perusing. Unfortunately this Olive Films release is completely bare bones, even the menu screen is about as basic as it gets.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition features some beautiful cover art, far eclipsing the art utilized on the Lionsgate release. Besides the nice disc art, there is a small pamphlet with pictures of other Blu-Ray titles from Olive Films such as Cujo, The Boogens, and The Quiet Man.
Though I adore the film, this Blu-Ray release from Olive Films leaves much to be desired for fans of this 80’s classic. Sporting an authentic and clean video transfer and newly commissioned cover art was a great start, but unfortunately you have to weigh in a disappointing audio mix and lack of bonus material as well. If you already own the previous Lionsgate Anniversary edition from 2009, consider yourself lucky. It is now out of print and selling for unreasonable prices from third party sellers. If you just came for the movie itself, it holds up after nearly 25 years, looks great, and is currently on sale at Best Buy for nearly ten dollars.
Doctor Macabre M.D.