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All the makings of a fun 90 minutes. In my hands I held one of the (VERY) few 1980s slasher flicks that I hadn't seen, presented in an uncut version and featuring some work from the wonderfully goofy Roddy McDowall, the generally appealing Martin Mull, the lovely Jill Schoelen, and (in one of his very first roles) a pre-stardom Brad Pitt in a lead role. With a few slices of pizza and an iced-up glass of Pepsi, I was ready to have a little fun.
But hoo boy is this a bad flick. I mean bad even by slasher flick standards -- and Cutting Class barely even makes that cut! It showed up in 1989 ... when everybody knows that the slasher craze was well and truly DONE WITH by 1989! So not only is this a painfully dry and consistently sloppy little piece of genre nostalgia a late-arriving copycat, but it's also a straight-faced festival of ineptitude that's as generic as it is (yeah) unintentionally amusing.
Someone is stalking the students (and faculty) of some bland high school, and it's up to young lovers Dwight (Pitt) and Paula (Schoelen) to A) stay alive, and B) discover who's doing all the slashing. Tossed in (seemingly at random) are a befuddled principal (McDowall, wasted here, and I mean that in two different ways), a nasty disciplinarian, a nasty coach, a slutty bimbo, a pushy teacher, a chubby nerd ... stop me when this starts sounding familiar. Basically, Cutting Class feels like a non-comedy version of Student Bodies; it's so overtly conventional and flaccidly delivered that one is amazed the flick ever got made.
Apparently this unrated version has tossed some of the gore back in, which I suppose could be taken as a plus -- were it not for the fact that the kills are paltry and the FX are weak. Also, the screenplay is moronic and the direction (by only-timer Rospo Pallenberg) is almost stunningly bad. As far as the "whodunnit" aspect of the flick is concerned, well, it's pretty laughable. (It is, however, interesting to note that Cutting Class did the "trampoline skewer" long before Eli Roth did it in his Thanksgiving trailer -- but Roth's is so much cooler it's not even funny.)
So with no scares, a near-worthless script, and a production value that approaches high school levels, the only real reason to (re-)visit Cutting Class is for the cast. (It's amusing but not surprising to see Brad Pitt's giant head plastered all over the new DVD cover.) Those hoping for some background amusement from Mull and McDowall will be sorely disappointed, but if you're looking for a very early (and very, um, clumsy) performance by Brad Pitt, you'll probably earn a few chuckles.
Special mention is due to the adorable Jill Schoelen, an '80s-era scream queen who never really got the admiration she deserved. Cutting Class is far from her best (or worst) flick, but she adds a plucky charm to even the lamest of horror flicks. (Including this one.) For more of Ms. Schoelen's body (of work), check out The Stepfather, The Curse 2, The Phantom of the Opera (the Englund one), and Popcorn.
And a final note to the 30somethings who have vague-yet-amusing memories of Cutting Class and are planning to give the flick a second spin ... don't bother. Unless you're planning to get a little drunk and poke a little fun at Brad Pitt.
Lionsgate delivers the 1989 movie in a passable (yet predictably speckled) widescreen anamorphic (1.78:1) format. You'll notice some print-grunge in the brighter scenes, but if you're the sort who enjoys the '80s slasher flicks, then you're used to this sort of presentation. Audio is delivered in a flat Dolby Digital 2.0 track, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish.
A handful of LG trailers.
A D-grade slasher flick that has delusions of comedy and mystery, Cutting Class is of interest only to those who lust after Brad Pitt and would love to check out a performance the actor would probably rather forget. Even on a generous 'horror flick' scale, this one's a turkey.
P.S. The writer of this film went on to write for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.