Monday, August 9, 2010

Pomp & Circumstance & Slaughter

Having just attended my 10 year high school reunion (they all got fat and I wore a nametag), it seemed fitting to review a film attempting to capture that senior spirit. Thusly do I give you:

Quick Plot: We open on an intense track meet at a high school bursting with more pride than Bayside High. An aggressively electronic score accompanies slow motion pole vaulting, hurdles, gymnastics, and crowd cheering.

Hell yeah 1981.
Tragedy strikes when a young sprinter crosses the finish line with a heart attack, dying in the arms of her short shorts wearing permed boyfriend and in front of a slightly embarrassed community. Flash forward a few months later when the late track star’s older sister goes all Nomi Malone on a hitchhiker pickup driver as she makes her way back home for the titular graduation day. 

Senioritis takes on new symptoms, however, when a few good teenagers turn up...missing.
To be more precise, about seven 17 year olds are brutally murdered but since their bodies are hidden (offscreen), not a single adult really seems to notice. Sure, a few parents call the world-hating principal, but for the most part, none of the thinner than proscuito characters seem the slightest bit worried about their missing friends. Eh. It’s hard to focus when you still haven’t found the right prom dress.
Between a few slightly creative kills (football throw with epee attached, pole vaulter landing on a mat of nails) and underdeveloped conflicts (overworked gymnast clashes with coach, sister fends off stepfather’s surliness, Linea Quigley’s breasts argue with gravity), Graduation Day slogs through the last week of school to culminate in the rather muddled climax. 

See, this is 1981. Making a mediocre slasher was about the equivalent of sending a text message today. All one really needed was a holiday, gallon of karo syrup and food coloring, and gaggle of mildly attractive young people willing to whine on camera for a month of shooting. Graduation Day has these things, plus a handful of songs (one charmingly called The Graduation Day Blues) and minor celebrity cred via a young Vanna White and scream queen Quigley. 
High Points
It’s a strict rule of cinema that any film is made 42% better by the inclusion of roller skates
Low Points
...though that power is slightly diminished when said roller skating is accompanied by a 7 minute musical sequence

Lessons Learned
When hosting a highly competitive track meet, it’s probably a good idea to keep some form of medical personnel on hand
If your position of police officer is leaving you feeling ineffective, you could try arresting the rude young teens you catch smoking dope on school grounds
Vanna White drinks the blood of virgins and newborn babies; how else to explain the fact that the woman hasn’t aged a day in 39 years?

Like the majority of 80s slashers set on a holiday/coming of age milestone event, Graduation Day is not a good movie. Badly acted, annoyingly scored, oddly plotted and fairly uninvolving. Naturally, all these downsides are negated by the fact that this film opens with a track montage and offers the token Linnea Quigley death/boobs. Fans of this era will delight in the collar popping teachers and oversized walkmans; kids today may find themselves wondering how Saw ever evolved from this. It has its charms, but those immune to the Golden Age of Slasherdom won’t find them. It’s a perfect party movie, providing you save your beer run for the 7 minute (SEVEN MINUTE!!!) musical break and fill up for the not so spectacular finale.


  1. I made my own soundtrack for the movie, taping it off a vhs tape onto a cassette. I don't know if I still have it though. My favorite scene is the opening montage, I guess, what with the hamfisted music video editing and the Survivor disco song.

  2. What a great set of screen caps. This movie looks so gross. I can't believe I haven't seen it, yet.


  3. Thomas: that's amazing! Anything is better than that 7-minute overly aggressive roller skating song! And yes, that first scene made me think I'd be watching Citizen Kane. It was that good.

    JM: Instant watch! Do it!

  4. "overly aggressive roller skating song"
    The band in question is called "Felony", and they are aggressive because they are DANGEROUS. In fact, parents are known to cover their ears when Felony explodes across the airwaves.

    "the first scene made me think I'd be watching Citizen Kane"

    For all of it's innovations, Kane has nothing like the amazing football sword from Graduation Day. I bet Orson was kicking himself in the theater watching this, cursing that he had been beaten to the punch.

  5. I love this movie. And I think the ending is totally spectaculer. Can you run in high heels on a track? Pfftttttttt.....

  6. I actually am not a big fan of Graduation Day even though I usually love cheap 80's Slasher films. While it does have its good moments and starts off strong with the track and field montage, it gets pretty boring from what I recall.

  7. Thomas: Of course they're dangerous! Otherwise they'd be known as Misdemeanor! And Orson Wells was known for a great deal of masochism. Poor guy poked his eye out after he saw, with great envy, the wonder that was Death Bed. poor guy.

    PoT: Most women cannot run in high heels, but I think it's part of basic training in the navy.

    Matt: The movie definitely blows its load in that amazing opening song. There are good moments (pole vaulting into nails comes to mind) but like Slaughter HIgh, it's fairly meh, made less meh by alcohol or the right mood for cheesiness.

  8. Nomi Malone.....teheheheehehehe A Showgirls reference is the one thing that makes me giggle uncontrollably. Good work.

    Oh and a prouscuitto simile! (Note I don't know how to spell proscuitto and never have and for some reason my computer at work does not have spell check on the internet but I'm not gonna cry about it) Long story short, I love prouscuitto.

    So in closing. This may be a bad movie but your review was flawless.

  9. Google is telling me the proper spelling is proscuitto. But now it's underlined in teethlike red. I don't know who to believe!

    I bet Nomi has an answer...