I first discovered this slasher satire (recently released to DVD by Legend Films) during one of its many runs on cable in the early '80s. I recall liking it at the time, but I was a college kid with a fondness for beer, so I probably watched it through a hop and barley flavored filter. There's an obvious Airplane influence, though the laughs never flow as freely and the premise runs out of steam early on. The film's nostalgia appeal is probably its biggest selling point these days, and viewers watching it for the first time will probably wonder what all the fuss was about. Still, I'm glad I had a chance to reacquaint myself.
Since it was released in 1981, it's interesting to see how many of the sub-genre's cliches were already in place. The horror begins on Jaime Lee Curtis's birthday, as a randy young babysitter named Judy receives threatening phone calls from an asthmatic-sounding character who calls himself The Breather (voiced by Richard Belzer). Soon her boyfriend arrives and both of their fates are sealed when they decide to have sex (this IS a slasher film after all). The two are done in by the clever and deadly application of a paper clip and a garbage bag. Like all good slashers, The Breather has a trademarked look, though the green rubber gloves and galoshes just don't have the same impact as a goalie mask. We soon have a murder spree on our hands with the prom queen candidates being picked off one by one. Toby (Kristen Riter) is the obligatory virgin in frumpy attire with a large button that says simply "no," who finds herself the target of suspicion and has to clear her name. Suspects and red herrings are easy to spot, as are important plot elements like doors being left unlocked thanks to handy on-screen captions.
Oddly, there's almost no nudity, gore or profanity. One cast member is partially unclothed in the first sex scene, but bucking the tradition, it's a dude. To remedy this, there is a randomly inserted scene in which a learned man behind a desk explains that a film must have at least one instance of skin, violence or foul language to gain an R rating, so he gives the audience a hearty "f--k you." The film doesn't really work as a whole, but there are a handful of memorable bits like the sexually frustrated boy who says to his girlfriend "Judy, you're not responding to my maleness," the man who reassembles a piece of fried chicken with a rubber band, and the sign on the shop classroom wall that says "Let's Get Lathed."
Apparently not everyone was proud of the film as the producer's credit is given to that time honored pseudonym, Alan Smithee. Writer/director Mickey Rose co-wrote some of Woody Allen's earliest and funniest films including What's Up Tiger Lilly?, Take the Money and Run and Bananas. Production values are strong, better than some of the non-comedic slasher flicks of the period, though the vast majority of the cast have no other film credits. Most notable in the "whatever the hell happened to him" department is the actor who played Malvert, the brain damaged janitor. Billed as The Stick, this guy was double jointed to the point where his arms swung like tentacles when he walked. You really have to see it for yourself. IMDB lists him as appearing in a 1984 show called Out of Control, but he seems to have disappeared after that.