Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Horror High (a.k.a. Twisted Brain)

In keeping with the inadvertent 70s motif this week, here is another effort from that wonderful decade. This one isn’t quite on the level of House or Hitch-Hike, but it carries its own private charm in its classic tale of a wronged figure who gains his revenge on all those who scorned him. Sort of like a rape-revenge picture, except he wasn’t actually ever raped. Not on camera, at least.
The film follows the tragic exploits of Vernon (Pat Cardi), a hopeless high school biology nerd that is getting bullied by almost everyone in his life. Indeed, the first act of the film is so entertaining in large part because of how over the top all the bullying gets -- he’s really getting it from all sides here, from his English teacher to the gym teacher to the jocks, all the way to the damn janitor! Fortunately for him, he’s been working on a formula to cause physical changes in animals, and in a twist that was not at all clumsily foreshadowed by his class having to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in English, he’s soon forced to drink his formula himself, and transforms, I guess, into a vicious killer. I’m not honestly sure if he actually transforms beyond getting strong enough to manhandle everyone, as their efforts to save on makeup costs led them to just filming him in extreme shadow the whole time he’s in Hyde form, which leads to him looking largely the same, just running around all stiff and spastically like he’s the Crow.

But I digress. This is a proper revenge story, as all effort that went into the film went into the two important parts -- the abuse he suffers, and the subsequent brutality he later inflicts on his tormentors. I don’t really want to ruin the kill scenes, so I’m going to be somewhat vague here, but just by way of example I feel I must point out that my high school certainly didn’t have a giant man-sized vat of acid lying around probably due to incidents just like the one in this movie.

Which is not to say that it’s an outright great film at all, of course. The acting is pretty uniformly terrible, and there are some pretty big pacing issues that leave sections of the film fairly dull. It’s a good film overall, but flawed enough to never be considered an outright classic of the genre. Still, it’s a mostly enjoyable film, as over the top as you’d really want an effort like this to be, and with the lovely people at Code Red finally giving it a proper DVD treatment this week, there’s no better time than the present to check it out.

Rating: ***

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