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Student Bodies

Olive Films // R // August 25, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 20, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"I love locker rooms! I love girls' locker rooms! I love sweat! I love girls' sweat! Clean! Nice figure! Friends, friends, I like friends! Skin! Boobies! Boobs! Bellybuttons! Hickey! Hickey! I'm taking it out of my pants! I'm doing what my mommy told me not to do! Huuhhhhuuuuhhhuuuuuhoooooooooohhhhhhaaaahhh.....ahhhhhh......aaaahhhhhh....!"

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One of the first gags in this slasher spoof from the class of 1981 is a dog meowing, then farting, and...yeah, that's pretty much Student Bodies in a nutshell.

I mean, I get it. Paramount had shelled out next to nothing the previous summer for Airplane! and wound up with the fourth biggest hit of the year. Churned out in the middle of the Writers' Guild strike, Student Bodies flails around desperately to try and recycle the Z.A.Z. formula for the Friday the 13th crowd. It's just that Airplane! is a stone-cold classic that still cracks me up every time I see it, while Student Bodies...errr, isn't.

With a different body count flick roaring into theaters practically every week in 1980, Student Bodies had metric tons of material to riff on, and it sure does get the slasher formula right. The psychopath du jour is The Breather: never seen but always heard, with his relentless "hhuuuuhhh hhhhhnnnngggg hhuuuuuhhh" labored breathing backing a gaggle of P.O.V. shots. You gotcher opening scare with a horny babysitter who winds up getting penetrated, alright. There's a side trip to shop class, a bunch of T&A in the girls' locker room, the big scene at the football game, some skulking around in the boiler room, and, yeah, a climax (but not that kind) at the prom. The body count just keeps piling on -- complete with an on-screen counter, in case you lose track -- and...hmmm, at the scene of every last one of these grisly murders is sweet, virginal Toby (Kristen Riter). All of these dead teenagers were butchered in flagrante delicto, and Toby trots around with a big ol' "sex kills" sticker on her cardigan, so she's gotta be the murderer, right? Or maybe it's Patty Priswell (Sara Eckhardt), slaughtering the competition on her march to prom queen. Well, I guess it could be the creepy shop teacher (Joe Flood) with ready access to all sorts of whirring cutty-things and a hard-on for wooden horse head bookends. Then there's the principal (Joe Talarowski) who's always desperate for an excuse to duck out of sight, maybe. Who knows? Maybe that psychiatrist, Dr. Sigmund (Carl Jacobs), had his fill of reading about psychopathy and decided to get some first-hand experience instead. And then there's Malvert, the janitor -- all 14 chromosomes of him! -- who's too fucked up to not be a suspect. Well, anyway, you probably figured out that there's a whole whodunnit angle going on here.

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I'm a sucker for a good horror/comedy. Hell, I'm a sucker for an awful horror/comedy; you're talking to a guy who paid actual money for Wacko on Laserdisc and watched Saturday the 14th about 68,000 times on HBO growing up. Just...nothing about Student Bodies works. Some of the murders are pretty clever on paper, dementedly spanning everything from death-by-a-thousand-paper-clips to eggplant-fu, but pretty much all of it takes place off-camera. Very little blood gets sloshed around, and there's zero gore. You do get some girls prancing around in their panties, but there's no actual nudity. Well, no female nudity, anyway; there is an underlit wiener in the opening sequence if you feel like fiddling with the Brightness setting on your TV. I'd have figured that a slasher spoof would careen deliriously over-the-top with all sorts of gratuitous jiggling and cartoonish geysers of blood, but you could practically air Student Bodies in its entirety on network TV with hardly any cuts at all. (Like most people, I'm betting, I discovered Student Bodies on some UHF station growing up.) One of the few gags that manages to connect is a riff on this, pausing the movie to have a guy say "fuck" so Student Bodies could be rated R.

Even though Airplane!'s sense of humor was frequently a swing-and-a-miss, its Gatling gun approach to comedy more than made up for it. If you don't like this joke, maybe the next one in 8 seconds will score a laugh instead. Student Bodies takes a stab at something similar but fundamentally has no concept of what "comic timing" is, exactly. Pretty much every sequence drags on for-fucking-ever. The movie masochistically loves hammering a joke into the ground over and over and over and over and over, from the Breather's feels-like-45-minute march up an endless staircase all the way to Mr. Dumpkin saying "horse head bookend" for the 27,000th time. Its schlocky sense of humor tries to milk laughs from dreck like Toby saying "I wouldn't hurt a fly", and then -- oh no! -- she swats a fly. Outrageous! A guy at the football game buys a hot dog, and when the vendor asks if he wants mustard, that poor bastard gets mustard splatted all over his face!!!!!!!1111!!!!!! There's a "boing!" sound effect when someone says something about an erection. There are exchanges like this one between Toby and her dweeby not-her-boyfriend: "I've never been to a shrink before! What do I say?" "Tell him anything he wants to hear. Just don't let him give you a lobotomy like they did to Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo's Nest. That'd really mess you up!" Is that an attempt at a joke? I sincerely don't understand. I just...I can't. No. Sorry.

Although most of Student Bodies' cast is forgettable -- hardly any of 'em had stood in front of a camera before or since -- there is one exception. If you've suffered through the movie before, you already know who I mean. Yup, Patrick Boone Varnell, credited here as The Stick:

"I said his keys, not his cheese!"

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This gangly, octuple-jointed, garbage-eating, bladder-infected-punch-bowl-whizzing, blow-up-doll dating monstrosity steals every single scene he's in...and, okay, he can keep 'em. The running body count and R-rated cutaway aside, Malvert really is the only memorable thing about Student Bodies. Okay, and I'm a Dr Pepper fanatic, so seeing that logo in pretty much every last shot had me smiling too. ...and, sure, the gonzo climax, complete with something close enough to zombies, is kinda fun too. The final, final scare, as many times as I'd seen it before, sincerely made me jump out of my seat. Dammit, now I feel like I'm back-pedaling. I guess I should scream Rent It and move on before I accidentally make it sound as if I like Student Bodies a little.

This is Student Bodies' second time making the rounds on Blu-ray, following Legend Films' double feature with Jekyll & Hyde Together Again from back in 2011. I don't have that disc handy to do a direct comparison, but comparing Olive Films' release to some of the screenshots floating around online, it looks like they've both been minted from the same master. The framing is identical, and even some of the wear and tear is a dead-on match. Compare and contrast! Compare and contrast! Back and to the left! Back and to the...sorry, got carried away there.

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Even if this isn't a shiny, new transfer, Student Bodies still looks pretty slick in high-def. Its AVC encode is packing a pretty colossal bitrate, giving it all the headroom it needs to expertly render all that film grain. This is a sharp and surprisingly nicely detailed presentation, without too much in the way of damage or speckling. No excessive noise reduction or other assorted digital headaches ever creep in either. Colors do look kind of undersaturated in a few scenes, grain spikes heavily in a handful of shots, and the quality unavoidably takes a hit during all those body count opticals. Overall, though, I'm pretty impressed.

Don't get too hung up on how lousy the opening stretch of Student Bodies sounds. Those first few minutes are thin, shrill, occasionally marred by some kind of metallic echo, and are even dragged down by a couple of dropouts. Presented in 24-bit and two-channel mono, this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack recovers pretty quickly, though. The meat of the flick is warmer and cleaner, never sounding great, exactly, but...well, better, anyway. That bizarre echo does return in Coda Numero One-oh in Student Bodies' final moments, leaving Toby sounding like something outta Phantom of the Paradise, but it's not unlistenable or anything.

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There are no other audio options.

Whole lotta nothin'.

The Final Word
Something something Student Bodies yadda yadda failing grade. Rent It.
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