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Splatter University Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Splatter University Blu Ray Poster

Directed by Richard W. Haines
Written by Richard Haines, Michael Cunningham, John Elias Michalakis and Miljan Peter Ilch
1984, 78 minutes, Unrated
Released on January 29th, 2019

Starring:
Forbes Riley as Julie Parker (credited as Francine Forbes)
Ric Randig as Mark Hammond
Dick Biel as Father Janson
Kathy Lacommare as Cathy Hunter
Laura Gold as Cynthia
Ken Gerson as Tom Scavelli
Sal Lumetta as Wolf

Splatter University 01 Splatter University 02

Review:

Three years ago, a madman escaped from an asylum, slashing his way to freedom and continuing his bloody rampage at nearby St. Trinians College. Now, newly appointed faculty member Julie Parker is taking over the course for a teacher brutally murdered last semester. The school is run by priests and Julie displays a bit of growing pains on her first day, but vows to do her best to support the approved curriculum. Father Janson is tough but fair in his adherence to the rules and promises to help Julie whenever problems arise. The old priest is in a wheelchair but manages to get around fairly well and seems in firm control of the school. Soon, faculty and students alike begin disappearing, or worse, turning up butchered! Nobody calls the police, so Julie begins to investigate the murders herself.

One of the chief suspects is Julie’s new boyfriend Mark, a fellow teacher who was dating the slain professor last semester. Julie’s students have a lot going on too, with one of them dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Could one of the classmates be responsible for the killings? A priest teaching on campus could also be responsible for the crimes, as at least one of them has a few secrets of his own. I’m not sure why Julie opts to take this on rather than alerting the authorities, but she is pretty good at putting herself in danger. She remains determined to uncover the mystery and identify the person responsible for the murders and does a surprisingly good job. Let’s just hope her efforts don’t get her killed!

Director Richard W. Haines (Class of Nuke ‘Em High) courts the slasher subgenre for his debut feature Splatter University. By 1984 the formula was well established in terms of stalk and slash movies and Haines incorporates every familiar trope he can manage. An unseen killer makes his way around campus pursuing innocent women with a large knife. The university environment connects the women and it appears no one is safe. Uninspired students are more interested in hanging out and partying than actually learning. Our heroine pieces together the puzzle and must face the killer alone during a climactic fight that will leave one of them dead. It took four writers to concoct this formulaic tale and I am at a loss to figure out how or why.

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Infomercial queen Forbes Riley (Death Ring) stars as Julie Parker and gives the strongest performance in the film. She appears sincere in her efforts to figure out what is going on and fills the role of Final Girl nicely. She is instantly likeable as the teacher in over her head facing off against disinterested youth while navigating the conservative rules of the university. Kathy Lacommare is the one standout among the students as Cathy Hunter, the pregnant teen afraid of her choices. The two women share a nice moment together when Cathy approaches Julie for advice. The rest of the cast appears to be enjoying their first time in front of the camera.

Splatter University spills a lot of blood, but the kills are all fairly routine; single stabbings do the job, paired with the victim’s moaning as they fall to the ground. The bloody cutaways are enjoyable for their over-the-top volume, but given the level of special effects work appearing in slasher films by 1984, this is a lesser effort. The movie originally clocked in at a measly sixty-five minutes and it was deemed necessary to add more content to qualify as a feature length film. Rather than add more kills to his picture, Haines opted instead to introduce screwball comedy into the project. This was a dubious decision that undermines the serious tone of the picture, dragging the movie down for pointless throwaway scenarios that exist simply to pad the running time. The film is pretty forgettable except for a surprise twist ending that still holds up well today. Gorehounds are likely already familiar with this title and will want to pick up this new release, but casual horror fans may be satisfied with a rental.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture receives a 2K scan of the original 16mm negative. The results are pleasing: colors pop and long absent fine detail is given fresh life. There is some damage – scratches and the like – but this transfer is far superior to the one used for the old DVD. The picture received similar clean-up for its 2015 UK release from 88 Films, but this appears to be a fresh scan.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 faithfully reproduces the film’s original mono recording and it’s a bit thin. Dialogue is occasionally tinny and hollow, but this is more a problem of the source materials. Music cues are well-balanced with the sound effects and are never intrusive.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

The disc sports two audio commentaries, the first featuring director Haines, who provides some backstory on the production and then shares a history of independent cinema and talks about the difficulties of distribution. Intercut with his reflections are stories from star Forbes Riley, make-up effects artist Amodio Giordano and composer Christopher Burke. There are quite a few extended gaps of silence and the audio levels are uneven throughout, but the information relayed is worth checking out.

The second commentary features members of The Hysteria Continues podcast sharing their reactions to the film and providing lots of entertaining information throughout. The track moves at a decent pace and is a welcome addition to this release.

An audio interview with composer Christopher Burke (35 minutes) covers his career as a musician and his work on various films in the 1980s. Burke knows how to tell a story and is always ready with an amusing anecdote.

A still gallery plays as a slideshow (4 minutes) set to music from the feature and includes promotional images as well as shots from the New York premiere.

The theatrical trailer has been included along with a TV spot and a collection of radio ads.

An audio cue for the film’s theme song plays over a still of the poster art.

Pages from the original screenplay are included as a silent slideshow (7 minutes).

Completists will want to hold onto that 88 Films release for the inclusion of the director’s film What Really Frightens You (2009).

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Grades:

Movie: Twostars Splatter University Blu Ray Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threestars
Overall: Threestars

 

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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