Splatter University 1984 Review
Splatter University 1984
Directed by: Richard W Haines
Starring: Francine Forbes, Ric Randig, Dick Biel
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Colleges, High Schools, Fraternities and Sororities have been the most popular stalking grounds for maniacal madmen since the slasher cycle first became a leading cinema culture throughout the late seventies. Even backwoods cabins and campsites have rode shotgun to the amount of massacres that have taken place on campus. From early entries like To all a Good Night right up until the recent pizzazz of titles like Urban Legend or Murder University, there’s usually always been a campus slasher lurking somewhere in the pipeline. Despite being picked up by Troma – the titans of B movie badness – Splatter University was heavily panned upon release and never really found an audience. Even notorious hack and slash websites have agreed that Richard Haines’ yarn is one of the worst of the early eighties boom. I always approach criticised movies optimistically because there’s often the chance than a few bad reviews can be unfairly contagious like a dose of the flu, which preempts the judgement of some authors.
It begins in traditional fashion at the place where any movie maniac worth his salts emerges. Yep you guessed it – an insane asylum. It seems that one of the inmates has decided that he’s unhappy with the level of service at the institution and therefore he’s looking to take his business elsewhere. The unseen nut-job makes his break after stabbing an unfortunate orderly where the sun certainly doesn’t shine. He obviously favours the dress sense of the murdered worker, so he takes the liberty of borrowing his uniform – blood stained trousers and all.
Three years later, we transfer to St Trinians College, an educational establishment that is controlled by catholic priests. A teacher is busy after hours marking her students’ test submissions, when all of a sudden there’s a knock at the door. Before she has a chance to find out what the unseen visitor wants, he stabs her in the chest with a kitchen knife and she falls to the floor in a bloody heap. This of course means that there’s a vacancy at the university and so we’re introduced to Julie Parker (Francine Forbes), the lovable replacement for the recently departed lecturer. It seems that her arrival has inadvertently given the resident maniac all the motivation that he needs to go on a no holds barred slaughter-thon. Before long, students and teachers alike are dropping like flies to the camera shy menace as he stalks the corridors and local areas armed with an exceptionally large blade. Suspicious suspects abound, but can professor Parker solve the mystery of the campus murderer before she becomes just another statistic?
I’m not sure how many versions of this movie are available. The UK’s censored video was released under the alias of Campus Killings, but the US copy that I own states that it’s the complete unedited edition, which could mean that there is an MPAA edited print floating about somewhere? I’d be fairly surprised if that was the case because Splatter University certainly isn’t as gore-delicious as the hyperbole packaging would lead you to believe. A couple of splashes of corn syrup certainly don’t stand up to gore hound’s scrutiny when compared to the likes of Blood Rage or Pieces, so the movie is somewhat over hyped in that department. One thing that many critics have failed to mention is the charming lead performance from Francine Forbes, who ends up carrying the entire picture on her shoulders throughout the 79-minute running time. Despite amateurish direction from Richard Haines, she still unveils some magnificent potential that should have led to the chance of another stab at serious acting under a more accomplished filmmaker. Unfortunately that possibility never came and bottom of the barrel bombs like Death Ring and Splitz certainly didn’t help to nurture a talent that could have improved under the right scholarship.
The rest of the cast members were par for the course of movie obscurity, especially the wooden plank teenagers who for some strange reason acted like they were auditioning for a remake of Grease or The Wanderers. The point and shoot direction couldn’t have helped to build much confidence in the project and the fact that the few signs of potential were undermined by the clumsy handling of the script left the feature effectively unredeemable. Perhaps the only claim of originality to be found in Haines’ slasher is the brave attempt at a downbeat conclusion. Let’s just say that it’s not a twist that I was expecting to witness in a movie that had been so typical of the template thus far. You have to give a high five for the effort, but I felt it was a mean-spirited and unnecessary risk to have taken.
At one point in the runtime, one of the teens says, “Man that Parker bores me to tears…” Well the same can be said for Splatter University, which never lifts the pace above slow motion. With that said though, Francine Forbes made for a delightful scream queen and undoubtedly one that I would have paid to watch again in a similar role. So that pretty much sums up this un-troma-tising ride. Slow paced, shoddy but still strangely alluring; you’d have to be especially forgiving to give it a chance…
Final Girl: √√√