Cutting Class 1988 Review
Cutting Class 1988
Directed by: Rospo Pallenberg
Starring: Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So you’ve all been told until you are blue in the face by me and others how Scream redefined the genre blah blah. Whilst Kevin Williamson’s script was sharp and clever, attempts at a comedic self-referential whodunit had been on the scene since the late eighties. The majority of them have been forgotten or simply weren’t good enough to grab the success of Wes Craven’s hit.
One of that number was Cutting Class, a film that is often overlooked by genre enthusiasts, because it’s always been easy to find on VHS and then DVD. It will have been seen perhaps more times than many due to the appearance of a young Brad Pitt, who at this point was still some way off his super star status.
An unseen nut job is killing students and teachers at a High School. The murders seem to have a connection with beautiful student Paula Carson, but as more bodies turn up, she realises that it could be someone closer to her than she expected…
Lushly financed and shot with a gorgeous cast of up and coming talent and a couple of veterans, Cutting Class was released at a time when the slasher genre was not much of a draw at all for audiences. Viewers had already seen everything that could be done with the simplistic plot structure and had ambled along to pastures new. This one offers nothing particuarly adventurous, but packs just about enough to please fans looking for a period piece of slashertastic action.
You can see what they were attempting with the story, which focuses heavily on the mystery of who it is that’s committing the killings. Could it be Brian Woods who has just been released from an asylum and looks the most likely? Maybe it’s the possessive and aggressive Dwight Ingalls, who in typical slasher fashion shows no redeeming moral features? Or perhaps it’s the creepy caretaker who hangs around muttering about being the ‘custodian of lives’? The screenwriter tries hard to throw as many red herrings in as possible, but the revelation still lacks punch. Between all this we have a teen romance between the three leads, which engulfs much of the runtime. We do get numerous killings, but they are rushed and gore free, so at times it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a horror film. I still liked the way they were conveyed, especially the gruesome demise of the art teacher and the twin murder during a basketball game. There are attempts at humour to stop the pace from dissolving, but the film rarely hits a crescendo as either a horror or comedy feature.
The picture quality is superb with a lot of bright colours and the performances are good enough all round. Brad Pitt had his moments, but was outshone by Donovan Leitch, who built audience sympathy with his portrayal of a misunderstood loner. Jill Schoelen was cute and naïve as the gorgeous goodie goodie heroine and although underused, the campy turn from Roddy McDowall was a nice addition. Like many of its eighties colleagues, Cutting Class is unbelievably cheesy and sometimes a tad too silly. Despite missing people, bodies turning up on a daily basis and a killer on the loose, the Police presence is non existent and the fate of William Carson III is beyond logical explanation.
Rospo Pallenburg had been a screenwriter prior to the shoot and somehow worked his way in to the director’s chair for this. His style is lacking invention and bland however, which is no doubt the reason behind his short career thereafter. In the case of Cutting Class, I can’t help but wonder what it would have looked like in the hands of a more creative filmmaker. People like Scott Spiegel or Skip Schoolnik would have jumped at the chance to utilise a budget and cast like this, and both were active around this time. Thankfully the momentum is kept afloat by the energetic performances and an overdose of OTT eighties fashions.
When I sit down to watch a slasher movie, I think of a checklist with the most important box being, ‘Am I having a good time’. Cutting Class is a fun time waster that you’ll easily forget, but enjoy while it lasts, which means that there’s a good time to be had. It even has a moral to its story that says, ‘stay at school’, which is ironic as it is flicks like these that I used to skip class to watch.
So, we have the cinematic equivalent of a McDonald’s Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin. You know that it is a calorie extravaganza, but when you are heavily hungover, nothing hits the spot quite the same. Cutting Class is not dark enough to be memorable, but thanks to a fantastic leading lady and an all round interesting cast, it’s worth dusting off to take a look at. We would see Ms Schoelen again in Popcorn, before she disappeared, which is a shame because she should have done much more
Final Girl: √√√√√
Posted on February 27, 2012, in Slasher, Superstars hiding a slasher movie on the small print of their CV... and tagged 1988, Brad Pitt, Cutting Class, Hot Chicas, Sorority Slasher, Whodunit?. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.