Directed by Mickey Rose
Running Time 86 minutes
It is not unusual to parody popular movies or genres and the horror film industry is no exception. While we’re very familiar with the Wayans Brothers Scary Movie films and Wes Craven’s Scream, nearly twenty years before there was a largely forgotten gem called Student Bodies. Student Bodies is a parody film released in 1981 poking fun at slasher movies particularly John Carpenter’s Halloween, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, while also making jabs at Prom Night and When a Stranger Calls though the latter is arguably not a slasher movie. Halloween, which made its debut in 1978 though hugely successful for an independent film wasn’t especially gory yet Friday the 13th which released in 1980 amped up the gore and violence. Because of their success at the box office these films pioneered what we call the “Golden Age” of the slasher film. It was these movies that brought us to the brutal and untimely deaths of many helpless, stoned, and horny teenagers. Student Bodies was among the first films to satirize the more ludicrous elements of the slasher film and as hilarious and fantastic as this movie is, it didn’t garner the attention that other horror spoofs have and has for the most part been unfortunately swept under the rug.
Student Bodies follows a Michael Myers-esc serial killer hilariously called “The Breather” as he preys on teenagers at a local high school. If you’ve seen Halloween, and we’re assuming you have then you don’t need me to explain why the obnoxiously loud and exaggerated heavy breathing stalker is funny. Michael Myers never speaks but the Breather, voiced by Jerry Belson and credited in the movie as “Richard Brando” can never stop talking. While the Breather stalks his victims in locker rooms, football games, and even funerals, timid and reserved Toby Badger is blamed for the murders because she is suspiciously always present at the time each death occurs. Because each person murdered was killed while in the act of breaking classic slasher film no no’s, in this case the horrible and inhumane crime of having premarital sex, Toby is suspected of punishing her classmates for being naughty. To clear her name, Toby goes on a mission to uncover the identity of the actual killer with the help of her friend, Hardy, the other suspects (pretty much everyone else in the film), and a tall, very thin, and very double-jointed janitor named “Malvert” who sometimes “pees red”.
Student Bodies begins in front of a house Halloween fans will recognize because it looks very similar to Tommy Doyle’s house where Laurie Strode babysits. Halloween films have all carried the same trait beginning with the first film in that each begins by displaying the date followed by the word “Halloween”. Student Bodies mimicked this by also displaying the word “Halloween” at the bottom of the screen. However, this movie will also tell you it’s Friday the 13th followed by “Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday”. The film then murders its first two victims, a babysitter and her boyfriend which is of course what happens to Laurie Strode’s friends Annie, Linda and Linda’s boyfriend, Bob in Halloween. Annie’s boyfriend was only spared because Michael Myers decided to kill Annie before she had a chance to meet up with him. Traditionally in a slasher movie the killer generally stalks their victims before violently murdering them with sharp objects because again, it’s a “slasher” film so naturally there should be some slashing involved. Michael Myers is quite fond of the kitchen knife while Voorhees prefers a machete but the Breather however, tends to choose more ridiculous “weapons” such as a paper clip, a chalkboard eraser, an eggplant, and my favorite, the horse-head bookends. These items of course aren’t sharp at all and would surely be difficult and awkward if not impossible to kill someone with. Regardless, the Breather manages to rack up a body count which is calculated throughout the film and shown on screen after each death.
Toby Badger’s character is what is known in the horror movie world as the “final girl”. The final girl is not difficult to pick out in late 70’s and 80’s slasher movie. She’ll be the responsible one, the bookworm or the one that worries about grades and schoolwork. She’ll be the only sober one in the group, jabs will be made at her virginity or her lack of a boyfriend or date to some event, and she will dress conservatively and probably works a lot. The reason the final girl is so easy to identify is because the movie wants you to know who the “good kid” is and they also want you to know that the good kid, though it will take a terrifying and traumatizing effort is usually awarded with survival though this is not always guaranteed. Rather or not they get killed off in the sequel like Alice Hardy in Friday the 13th part II is another matter. In Student Bodies, it is obvious that Toby Badger is the Laurie Strode of the film. Toby even dresses like Laurie with the long skirt and sweater but rocks a more mullet-ish version of Alice’s hairdo. However, Student Bodies purposely over exaggerated the part quite a bit by the way Toby tries to stop everyone from having sex even wearing it on her sweater in the form of a button that says “no”, and by the way they made her overly nosey and flaunt in her moral superiority. But speaking of sex…
Toby’s character isn’t the only thing that is exaggerated in Student Bodies. Because sex is usually at the center of slasher films it is no surprise that all the teens in Student Bodies aside from Toby want to get jiggy with it. While sex isn’t necessarily the reason Michael Myers stabbed all of Laurie Strode’s friends it is at the very core of a Friday the 13th movie. Jason’s mother blamed the teenage camp counselors for her sons drowning because she believed they were having sex instead of watching Jason therefore, all randy teenagers coming anywhere near Camp Crystal Lake are intolerable and must die. With that being said, all the teens that attempt to have sex in Student Bodies are immediately murdered. Friday the 13th is parodied further when the killers in Toby’s dream turn out to be Miss Mumsley and Principal Peters who she claims is her son and that she killed the boys without his knowledge in order to protect Peters because he had a habit of killing promiscuous teenage girls. The teenagers themselves tend get into the mood at peculiar moments like during a funeral, or they want to get down in weird places like the inside of a parade float made to look like a bull. The shop teacher even gets strangely aroused by his horsehead bookends. The film ended with Toby waking from a dream where it is revealed that all of the events of the movie never happened and that Toby was suffering from swine flu brought on by sexual repression. Despite all the attention paid to sex and certainly unlike the typical slasher film, Student Bodies is devoid of nudity and violence and only achieved an R rating because they allowed the words “fuck you” to be spoken simply so the film could get the R rating.
As mentioned earlier Student Bodies didn’t quite garner the attention that other horror spoofs have performing only moderately well at the box office and only reemerging a few years later on late night television programs such as USA Up All Night. The reason for this is because while Student Bodies was hilarious and nailed the slasher movie inside jokes, they were just that, slasher movie inside jokes. When Roger Ebert reviewed Scary Movie, he told his audience that Scary Movie was a film that only someone familiar with teen slasher movies would enjoy. Had he reviewed Student Bodies in 1981 he probably would have had something similar to say. However, Student Bodies is a movie that can be appreciated far better today because the golden age of slasher films is now over thirty years old and the majority of us grew up with these films and have seen them over and over again. Even if you’re not a fan of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees you’re still well aware of who they are. Student Bodies however, was released in the middle of a thriving genre that at the time was not fully concrete meaning Student Bodies simply put, was too early. One would think that Student Bodies should have performed better at the box office considering that it came out in the middle of the release of sequels to both Friday the 13th and Halloween but still, it appears the slasher movie jokes that these franchises created simply just weren’t funny yet. Nevertheless, the jokes that make up Student Bodies can easily be appreciated by slasher movie fans today especially those like me that absolutely love both the Halloween and the Friday the 13th movies. I mean what can I say, slasher movie spoofs get me hot!
Managing editor: The Moratorium