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Old 01-11-2005, 03:32 AM
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Default Splatter University




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: January 10, 2005
Released by: Elite
Release date: 10/9/2004
MSRP: $19.99
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



By 1984, the slasher genre had reached a point of saturation and age where people were unsure of how to approach the genre. Was it time to start laughing at the conventions that everyone knew so well, or should the films still be approached seriously? Although the parody Student Bodies came out in 1981 exposing all the conventions, filmgoers were still not ready to part with the ever prominent genre. Student Bodies made 5 million dollars, and Halloween II, also 1981, made 26 million. In 1981, even after the conventions had been exposed, fans still wanted their slashers serious and unaware. By 1984 though, with the market slowly drying up (despite the continued success of the established franchises like Friday the 13th) filmmakers began to waveringly test the waters of self-mocking humor. Among the first was the early Troma effort, Splatter University. How does the combination of comedy and horror pan out in this one? Let’s slash our way through Elite’s disc and find out.

The Story

inline Image The film begins in a mental institution, where a couple of clueless workers break all the rules of safety and logic. When the nurse goes unattended with a bunch of crazies, and the guard goes to check a bump in the closet, you just know bad things will happen. The guard gets his, and the patient escapes in his clothes. Cue credits and grating synthesizer music. The movie then picks up a few years later at St. Trinians College, where a professor works diligently at marking. She hears a noise, goes to investigate, and returns with about a quart less blood. Yes, she too has fallen victim to this concealed slasher…who will be next?

inline Image Back at St. Trinians, this time during “The Next Semester…Yesterday” as the mocking title card reads, enters the replacement teacher, Ms. Julie Parker (Francine Forbes). She remains unaware of the incident until Father Janson (Dick Biel) informs her of superstition and the murder. Parker is scared, but there would be no story if she didn’t stick in there long enough for the climactic face-off with the killer during the final reel. So she hangs around teaching sociology to a bunch of nitwits without any respect for social issues, teachers, or anything but themselves. When asked by a friend to share a cheat sheet for a test, one of the students responds “I’m not giving it away. What do you think I am, a communist?” Everyone is so self-obsessed and careless that they go on as if nothing happened when female bodies start showing up everywhere.

inline Image Meanwhile, Ms. Parker gets in a relationship with Mr. Hammond (Ric Randig), unbeknownst that he may be a possible suspect in the murders. When one of Ms. Parker’s best students, Cathy (Kathy LaCommare) winds up dead along with her stillborn child, Parker decides it is time to get out of there before she is next. She speaks to Father Janson, but quickly finds out that the killer is closer to her than she imagined. She tries to escape, but as with all slashers, the final girl must save the last dance for the killer, where the two engage in a tango of blood, where only one person comes out alive.

inline Image Splatter University is surprisingly competent for a Troma film, although it is still no doubt hampered by a low budget. The writing, while many times stupid, is at times clever, and the film manages to push some of the slasher conventions to new limits. The way it sets up the Cathy character, with her long subplot about accidentally getting pregnant and considering abortion, is particularly effective. The Final Girl is usually characterized by her masculine attributes – her denial of sex, conservative dress, and androgynous facial features – and the way the film portrays Cathy, with her refusal to have sex after discovering her pregnancy, it makes her seem very much the Final Girl. Yet in a Psycho inspired twist, she is killed midway through the film rather unexpectedly. The homage to Psycho is completed by naming one of the priests Father (Anthony) Perkins. It manages to subvert convention and actually surprise.

inline Image Another strong facet of the writing is how the film uses slasher conventions to mock the church. Although Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil would do a better job of infusing the slasher genre with a religious slant, Splatter University still has some valid things to say. Its main point seems to be in the hypocrisy of the religious right, and how they speak out against sex and drugs, two slasher stalwarts, yet themselves indulge in them. One priest is renowned for having sex with his students late at night in class, while another secretly reads pornographic magazines. The elemental message of the slasher film is that no matter what kind of repressive measures society hands down, ultimately the beast in everyone will eventually come to surface. The repressed can only last so long before the paradigm collapses. So in combining the repressive tendency of the church with the sex and drugs punishment of the killer, the film manages to comment cleverly both on the church and the makings of the slasher genre itself.

inline Image Yet, despite the occasional bursts of cleverness, the film is ultimately marred down by Troma’s trademark self-mocking. The parts that are played seriously work well, but as soon as the film tries to give the wink or the nudge, it flounders. Initially, the inmates of the institution appear quite creepy, muttering to themselves and banging on dolls. Yet, the whole mood is disrupted when one picks his nose and eats it (Splatter First Grade?) and while another pokes himself in the eye. The childish humor is painfully unfunny, and the aforementioned title cards are just as groan inducing. Half the actors take it serious, while the other half joke around, creating a very uncomfortable aura. The film never really commits to one side, straddling both comedy and horror, and ultimately succeeds at being little of either.

inline Image The ending is also a let down, as some key sequences have been neglected, leaving the story somewhat unanswered and the payoffs unpaid. The kills, while at times pretty gory, end up boringly repetitive, with the killer slashing the torso in a straight line almost every single murder. For a company that can think up a love story about a guy who falls in toxic, you’d think they could devise a few interesting kills. The fact that every victim is a woman, and that none of the characters seem to care, also gives this film an uncomfortable misogynistic slant. There is even a scene where, not so subtly, a woman literally becomes a piece of garbage. Even still, the film isn’t a complete bust – the writing is at times clever, and Francine Forbes gives a respectable performance – it kind of just languishes in mediocrity. Slasher fans will come out feeling indifferent, while those expecting the trademark Troma humor will come out likewise. It’s short running time, 79 minutes, makes it easy to take, but The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is 71, so watch that instead, and use the extra eight minutes at your discretion.

Image Quality

Being a Troma film, Splatter University bares the company’s distinctive look: it looks like shit. The film is overwhelmingly grainy, the only film with a constant snow in New Jersey. Not only is this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer ridden in grain, but it is also full of blemishes and other print imperfections. There is significant black out that happens throughout the film on the right side of the frame, and scratch lines are nearly as prevalent. The color balance is nearly as bad, as a few scenes suddenly acquire an orange tint for seconds at a time. This is most noticeable at the 1:01:45 mark. The film quite often also looks blurry, which can at time be a distraction. In short, this is like every other Troma film: atrocious to look at, but it still has its audience.

Sound

It’s mono, it’s Troma.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Given that this is an Elite disc, there are no elaborate DVD tours of Troma studios included. Instead, all we get are a couple of decent trailers.

Final Thoughts

Made at a time when the slasher genre was unsure of what direction it would take, Splatter University wavers uncomfortably between seriousness and comedy, and ends up moderately entertaining at best. The video and audio are pretty poor, but no different than most of the stuff to come out of Troma. Extras are thin, so unless you gotta have all things Troma or slasher, pass on this for something better.

Rating

Movie - C
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C
Supplements - D

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running Time - 1 hour 29 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono
Supplements
  • Theatrical trailers

Other Pictures

 

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Can't argue with a confident man.
 

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Old 01-11-2005, 05:20 PM
Thanks for the review. I guess you picked up on a few things I was doing
regarding subject matter. I also agree that I should've decided which direction to go in...straight horror or self-mocking. I probably didn't know
myself since I was only 24 when I made it. The grain was due to the fact
that it was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm. Many
indies went this route at the time. (i.e. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Maniac" etc.). The cost savings were enormous in the early eighties. I shot "SU" for $25,000.

One thing I should correct...

This wasn't a Troma movie. They just released it and had nothing to do with the actual production. I gave Lloyd an upfront credit as a courtesy when
they agreed to pick it up for distribution. That contract expired and I'm marketing the picture through my own company now, New Wave Film Distribution, Inc. Troma had nothing to do with the Elite release.

I followed with "Space Avenger" in Technicolor, "Run for Cover" in 3-D, "Unsavory Characters" a film noir and my recent picture "Soft Money" which is a heist film. After "Splatter", I shot all my films in 35mm and tried to have good cinematography and production value.
 
 
Old 01-12-2005, 03:12 AM
Moderator
My mistake Richard, thanks for taking me up on it. I just saw the Kaufman credit at the start and just assumed that he had some creative input in the project. I have a question for you though, how do you feel about the slasher genre as a whole? Like was this made in hopes of cashing in on a hot genre, or perhaps to try and kill the genre as Mel Brooks had tried to do with BLAZING SADDLES, or do you have a genuine affinity for it?
__________________
Can't argue with a confident man.
 
 
Old 01-12-2005, 02:19 PM
I guess I was going for a little bit of both. I didn't like the slasher genre in general although I liked specific films like "Halloween" and "Texas Chainsaw Masscre". The trouble with most slasher films was scant characterization. I tried to give some characterization to my lead actress which succeeded up to a point. Of course the students were stereotypes and I failed to establish sympathy with them. A number were crew people doing double duty as actors and it shows.

I enjoyed gore in movies at the time
providing it was used to enhance the suspense and horror, not just tossed in as exploitation 'spectacle'. Obviously, I didn't follow my own genre preferences since it was my first picture and the experience of trying to produce a movie
with extremelly limited funds was overwhelming. At least I storyboarded the film and had that to fall back on when the cast and crew got exhausted and due to the twelve hour days of principal photography. I guess that's why I have a few interesting angles and compositions. The special effects were by one teenager and another guy not much older than that. I suppose it's somewhat of a miracle we were able to pull this production off at all.

I will admit my primary motive was to prove I could make a commercial movie that showed a profit. Afterwards I could add some of the thematic elements that interested me in future productions like my 'life imitates art' concept utilized in "Space Avenger" and "Unsavory Characters". I tried to add a few
themes in "Splatter U" which you picked up on but there's only so much you can do on a two week shedule.

 
 
Old 02-04-2005, 10:51 AM
Some questions about SPLATTER U
I've always been a fan of SPLATTER UNIVERSITY - I remember reading about it in Fangoria and seeing the poster for it in local movie theatres in the '80s. So here are my questions:

The Elite DVD lists their version of the film as 78mins. and Rated R - the old VHS Vestron Video copy I have is 79mins. and is the Unrated Version. Is it a mis-print on Elite's part or is it truly the edited version?

Even though most of the acting in the film is laughable, I always thought star Francine Forbes gave a very good performance considering the genre and budget, and it's nice to see that she went on to a few other acting assignments. This question is obviously for Richard Haines - how did you cast Francine and have you ever had contact with her after the film?

Also for Richard - when and where was the film made, as there are always conflicting reports. Some say New York City while others say New Jersey, sometime in 1983. Plus, why are there a lot of photographs supposedly from SPLATTER UNIVERSITY used to promote the film when the sequences weren't even in the film? Both pictures on the back of the DVD box are not in the film, and the second pic is of Denise Texeira (that hair!) - who is not attacked at a typewriter (she gets it opening her closet). Also I recall seeing a pic of a cheerleader being stabbed on a stairwell. Were these just used to promote the film, or were they just deleted?

Nevertheless, I've always enjoyed SPLATTER UNIVERSITY for what it is and I think you should make a Part 2!
 
 
Old 07-11-2005, 06:21 PM
HamiltonHigh,

I wasn't going to do any more posting on movie websites due to the
number of hecklers I've encountered. Of course, no one who
posted in this thread is among them. In any event, a friend
mentioned that you asked some questions about the film so I'll
answer them.
The Elite DVD is the uncut version. I think the film is a little over
78 minutes so sometimes they round it off to 79 minutes. I supplied
them with an uncut 16mm liquid gate low contrast print of the film
off the camera negative so it's as good as you can get given the
format it was shot in. Only the 35mm release prints were cut. The
16mm negative and 35mm blow up CRI were never cut.
Francine auditioned in my cattle call and she seemed to have
the most energy of those who tried out for the role. She also did
double duty as a production manager for part of the shoot and helped
in other areas too. I haven't had any contact with her since the film
although an actor named Dan Gregory who played a role in "Unsavory
Characters" said he worked on her stage productions years later.
The movie (which was originally titled "Splatter") was filmed in 1982.
The interior of the school was Mercy college and the exterior Pace
University, both in Westchester. The apartment complex was in Rockland County and the restaurant in Yorktown. We shot in the real Bellvue for
the opening. The drive in was the Hollowbrook in Peekskill which has since
been demolished. The movie played there in 1984. All these locations were
in New York. The stills were staged images done for publicity and not based on any scenes in the movie.
I just finished the mix and am preparing the commentary for my latest
movie, "Soft Money", a heist movie and political satire which will be released soon in theaters and on DVD so you can check that out if the subject matter interests you. My next feature will be in the horror genre.
 
 

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