Director: Douglas Grossman
Stars: Maureen Mooney, Christopher Stryker, Christopher Cousins
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
By 1989 the golden age of slashers was mostly coming to an end, and would not come back in any real way until 1996 and the release of Scream. One of the last of the 80s slashers wasn’t really all that much a slasher; it feels more like the home invasion films that would become so popular in later years. But regardless of what sub-sub-genre the movie is in, is it worth a watch and more importantly, worth a get on this new Blu-ray from Arrow Video? Well, grab a spooky mask, stay clear of the swamp nearby, and let’s find out.
Hell High sort of starts off like the classic Class of 1984. No, things aren’t that dystopian here, but it does have a group of “bad kids” with a seemingly unquenchable hatred for their teacher, Miss Storm. Yes, that is one awesome name. Anyway, the kids go to Miss Storm’s isolated house near the “haunted swamp” where, 20 years ago, a couple died mysteriously. Wearing cheap Halloween masks, the students start to play pranks and terrorize the lonely teacher, with one of the boys going as far as to attempt to rape her. Little do they know that Miss Storm has some issues. She’s the reason for the legend of the swamp and with the kids scaring her so much, she snaps, goes into a psychotic state, and has only one thing on her mind: kill those damn kids.
With almost equal parts home invasion flick and revenge film, Hell High sets itself apart from the usual slasher fare. The action is nothing special, with the exception being the lead bad kid played by Christopher Stryker, who sadly passed away two years before this movie ever came out. Director and co-writer, Douglas Grossman never directed before or since and that is odd, as he does a good, or at least workmanlike, job here. The kills are lacking some of that slasher punch, but all in all it is a pretty decent thriller, even if the story has been done a lot since, most notably with Teaching Mrs. Tingle from a decade later.
On to the extras that Arrow Video has put on this new Blu-ray release. First and foremost there is an audio commentary with director/producer/co-writer Douglas Grossman and cinematographer Steven Fierberg. Then there is an older, “archival” audio commentary track with Douglas Grossman by himself. Then probably the best commentary track and introduction by legendary genre film critic Joe Bob Briggs. There are new interviews with director Grossman, another with cinematographer Steven Fierberg, one with actor Christopher Cousins, still another with actress Maureen Mooney, and one last new interview with composers Rich Macar and Christopher Hyams-Hart. Not enough interview action for you? Well then, there are also archival interviews with director Douglas Grossman and co-writer Leo Evans. Then there is a featurette called Back to Schools: The Locations of Hell High and is a tour of the original Hell High filming sites with author/filmmaker Michael Gingold. Deleted scenes, an Alternate Opening credits sequence, and a collection of trailers and TV spots bring this impressive list of extras and goodies to an end.
Hell High isn’t all that slasher-y, so fans of that be aware, but it is still a well-made thriller/horror/home invasion/revenge flick. It’s is also a mostly hidden horror but one well worth remembering and returning to from time to time. Horror collectors who like to have everything good does in the genre could do a lot worse than getting this one, especially with all the work on the restoration and extras that Arrow Video has done for it. So consider it a moderate recommendation.