June 25, 2008

DVD Review: Student Bodies

Nearly two decades before Scary Movie took horror films into Airplane! and Naked Gun territory, years before Scream changed the direction of horror films (down a path that led to a years of bad horror films, and whose affect is still being felt today), there was another film that took at at the developing cliches of the burgeoning slasher genre. This film was clearly taking aim at the slasher film, which was gaining in popularity following the success of films like Halloween, and Friday the 13th. The movie is none other than Student Bodies, whose DVD boasts: "The world's first comedy horror movie!" Of course, this is not exactly true, as it is pre-dated by the likes of Young Frankenstein and the Abbott and Costello Meet X films, but it is the first to directly spoof the genre.

The movie centers on a killer known as the Breather (portrayed by Richard Belzer, yes, that Richard Belzer; although he is credited here as Richard Brando), so identified by his trademark heavy breathing. This mysterious baddie uses a variety of methods to dispatch his victims, including paperclips and trash bags. All the while, his killing spree accompanied by his increasingly annoying breathing and incessant "witty" one-liners.

The killer chooses his victims based on teens having sex. We all know that if you are a teen and you have sex, you are going to die. Student Bodies guarantees that if you do the dead, you will end up dead because of it.

Our protagonist is Tobi (Karen Riter), a virginal high school student who suspects that there is more going on than meets the eye. She proceeds to investigate the killings, collecting clues and picking out suspects. Since she does not have sex, she is not going to get killed, right? And if you doubt her virtue, her clothes scream "NO SEX," if that isn't enough she has a pin on her bra that says "NO for the last time!" This is comedy, right?

Student Bodies knows its target, with many scenes directly referencing its targets before going into its motions. The scene opens on a house at night, the subtitle says "Halloween," the shot goes black and opens again on the house, but this time it says "Friday the 13th" before going black. The image comes back with a closer shot of the house and the subtitle "Jamie Lee Curtis' Birthday," and it is here that the fun starts. Well, this is where the fun would start if the movie actually was funny.

This movie is just not that funny when taken as a whole. The story just feels tired, there is very little life to it, and the characters are just sleepwalking through their roles. The primary offender is Kristen Riter, whose central hero is just boring. On top of that, The Breather is just annoying, seriously annoying with the unstoppable breathing. By the time the end arrives and all is revealed I did not care, not one bit.

Now, here is the weird thing, for as dull as the story is, for as poor as the acting is, for as annoying as the killer is, I still must say that you should see this movie, if only once. Why? Why would I recommend this seemingly awful movie? The answer is simple; there are a bunch of individual scenes that are just really funny.

Among the funny bits are a running on-screen body count, subtitles pointing out plot points, the rating scene, and some very funny one-liners. "I'd like to kill the kid with the gum." "No, I just said click." "Malvert pee red." Gold, I tell you, there's gold in that there script. The problem is that you have to put on your waders and do some work to get to it.

There is some real comedy genius working here, it is just unfocused. With a couple more passes, this probably could have been tightened into a cult classic rather than the potential cult classic/forgotten film that it has become over the years.

Audio/Video. The tech specs of the disk are adequate. The colors are a little washed out and the audio is a little hollow, but it does have a distinctive "80's" feel. The image is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and is free of any defects, and the audio does the job. Frankly, we are probably lucky it is as good as it is.

Extras. The lone extra is a trailer for the film.

Bottomline. Not a great film by any stretch. It isn't even all that memorable, as a whole. I wil guarantee that you will remember some of the bits and lines. You will likely remember them longer than you will the film. Still, this should be seen at least once.

Not Recommended (well, maybe just once).


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