STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $14.98
RATING: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

The Pitch

Crappy music. Cheesy one-liners. A mysterious killer stalking the denizens of a high school. A basketball team in short shorts. Must be the 80s.

The Humans

Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Roddy McDowell, and Martin Mull.

"Gene Parmesan at your service."

The Nutshell

Brian Woods (Leitch) is fresh from the asylum and trying to reconnect with former best friend Dwight (Pitt). Five years ago, Brian cut the brakes on his father’s car but he’s all better now. Never mind that he’s kind of stalking Dwight’s girlfriend, Paula (Schoelen), because really who isn’t? Every male in a three-block radius seems to want a piece of Paula. When people start turning up dead, it isn’t long before the fingers point to Brian.

The Lowdown

The majority of people who pick up this film will do so for one simple reason: Brad Pitt. The rest are Martin Mull completists. What they’ll find upon viewing the film is a horror flick that fails to create any tension or scares. One where the majority of the jokes fall flat. There’s no real mystery to who the killer is. Logic comes and goes as it pleases. But that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable diversion.

Director Rospo Pallenberg fails at a few things. I couldn’t tell you the layout of the school or the day of the week, but he manages to succeed in the fine art of foreshadowing, where seemingly innocuous things are said only to come into play later. When a teacher mentions the reaction of sodium to water, you try to guess how the hero is going to use that particular bit of scientific magic to save the day. It’s simple stuff that helps draw viewers into the film, getting them to participate with what’s happening onscreen. In a cinematic landscape where filmmakers seem to concentrate more on high concepts, creature effects, and gore, it’s refreshing to see somebody stick with the basics. The kills are pedestrian and over in a flash, but clever enough to be satisfying. Giallo fans might get a kick out of the emphasis on the killer’s hands and a crucial clue turning up in a photocopy.

Brad was devastated to hear his hairdresser was all booked up.

The actors are easily the best part of the movie. Roddy McDowell’s Mr. Dante makes no bones about his desire for Paula. This could make one suspicious of Dante, but when he spots Paula before the basketball game, McDowell’s just so goofy and pathetic, it’s hard to feel threatened by him. Brad Pitt turns in some nice work, exploiting the few spots where acting can be done. After botching his chance at the basketball scholarship his dad really wants him to get, Dwight lets his guard down and reaches out to Paula. She shrugs him off and instantly his guard is up again. Or when Paula mentions not betraying friends and a wave of guilt passes over Dwight’s face. Pitt uses these moments to hint that there’s more going on with Dwight than it appears. Donovan Leitch is more bland than menacing. He spends most of the time standing in the background with a blank stare on his face. Once he’s able to let the crazy out, his performance picks up a bit, giving the climactic power tool duel a little more kick. The rest of the actors simply embody their stereotypes (the wacky science teacher, the slutty best friend, etc.) and that is all that can be asked of them.

Brian touches on the idea of he and Dwight being kindred spirits. If Dwight gives in and kills someone, he and Brian can be best friends again. It’s an interesting idea that a better film could have taken advantage of. Add in Dwight going through the challenges of being a teenager (as already hinted at) and you’ve got a movie with some dramatic potential. Instead, we get Everybody Wants to Bang Paula and Some People Die, which works in its own way.

Nicky Santoro: The Early Years

The Package

This disc is a barren place where special features’ seed could apparently find no purchase. There are trailers for Captivity, Night of the Living Dead 3D, Holla, Acts of Death, Gameback 1.0 and nothing else. The transfer shows off Avi Karpick’s surprisingly good cinematography well.

"That Gene Parmesan is amazing!"

7.1 out of 10