directed by Douglas Grossman
starring Christopher Stryker, Jason Brill, Maureen Mooney
Sometimes a film is made before its time, and sometimes a film comes out too late. Douglas Grossman’s horror film Hell High (1989) manages the unlikely feat of coming out too late to ride the ’80s slasher boom and too early for 21st-century horror, where it fits better than with the film’s 1989 contemporaries. It got minimal traction on home video and basic cable despite being an easy edit to pad late-night blocks of MonsterVision and Up All Night.
Four high school outcasts, Dickens (Christopher Stryker), Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins), Queenie (Millie Prezioso), and Smiler (Jason Brill), decide to get revenge on their science teacher, Miss Storm (Maureen Mooney) with an elaborate prank. They start by following her home and spying on her in the shower. They then return that night and attack her house and pelt her with mud. The attack with the mud triggers Miss Storm’s PTSD from an incident in her childhood (shown in the film’s prelude), where she accidentally killed two teens on a motorcycle by throwing mud on the driver. Later, after Miss Storm’s friend helps clean her up and get her settled into bed with a tranquilizer, Dickens and Queenie return to further humiliate and sexually assault her. In her terrorized and addled state, Miss Storm escapes by leaping through the second story window to her death below. The loathsome foursome concoct a plan to frame the school’s star quarterback for Miss Storm’s death, and they send Jon-Jon out to steal the QB’s letterman jacket. Meanwhile, we discover that Miss Storm is not dead, but ready to exact a brutal revenge on her tormentors.
Even if Hell High had been able to release in the height of the slasher craze of the mid-1980s, it is doubtful that it would have made a major impact on the genre. For a slasher film, there are too few bodies, both of the dead and naked kind, and it just lacks the gusto that slasher fans appreciate. The film is quite entertaining on its own merits, and some fun can be had spotting reshoots as actress Maureen Mooney is obviously pregnant in a number of scenes. Ultimately Hell High feels too thoughtful for the blood and boobs crowd and too sleazy for a mainstream audience, but there is still plenty to like if you are not expecting a typical ’80s gore fest.