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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Graduation Day (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray) - Slasher 101 Comes to Blu-ray, Will You Make the Grade?

Ah, 1981. Here we are again. This was a damn good year for horror, and though I hesitate to proclaim it the best year for horror in the history of film, I think it is a worthy contender. It was the height of the slasher boom. This is the year when all the major horror directors of the 1980's were churning out productions that would each be satisfying and perhaps even genre defining in some instances. Speaking of the slasher boom, Graduation Day came out in 1981 and 33 years late it is hitting Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. Take note slasher fans, fans of horror, fans of the horror comedy (though Graduation Day isn't an outright horror comedy).

Synopsis from Vinegar Syndrome:

After the death of a high school track star during a race, a mysterious, fencing-mask wearing killer begins murdering her friends and teachers. Who could the killer be? Her disgruntled coach? Her angry sister? Her violent boyfriend? As the bodies pile up, a twisted mystery unfolds, slowly revealing itself as it moves towards its bloody climax.

Let's get something straight. I have seen and enjoyed Graduation Day one time before this most recent viewing. When I was a kid I was smitten with the cover, but I wasn't allowed to pick it up. My father always found slasher films too sadistic and chose instead to focus my sights on monster movies (which in retrospect is completely fair). I was one year old when this movie was released, and when I first came across it at Long Valley Video I was probably eight years old. I didn't get a chance to enjoy it until I was thirty or so (maybe slightly there after even). It didn't really stand out to me on my first viewing save for the fact that it had some familiar faces and some rather enjoyable kills. I suppose that's what you can expect from a movie from 1981 that is playing and building on a budding style of movie that is really both in its infancy and about to hit a peak very quickly. Herb Freed does a few movies after Graduation Day, but I would say none but Beyond Evil really grabs the horror fan.

If I'm going to pick a Christopher George movie it will be Pieces. If I am going to pick a second one, it will be Fulci's City of the Living Dead. If I'm going to pick a third we can talk about Graduation Day. George's hamfisted, rugged cop persona lends himself to being extremely likable and yet laughable. He's not bumbling mind you. You don't love him because of the hi jinks or befuddled stare. You love Christopher George because he will take control of any situation that needs controlling. He is the guy you want on your side in a fight and the man to un-panic a situation quickly. I like the cut of his jib. It's so strange to watch him in his role as a coach. He's built to be a cop. For all the fanfare that seems to surround Vanna White being in this picture and of course Linnea Quigley, I think people fail to realize that they are watching a master like George control the story.

The music in this movie is pure late 70's, early 80's rock out with your cock out. Perhaps the best reason to watch Graduation Day is to enjoy the 80's; the clothing, hair styles, cars, kills. This movie is like a great big time capsule. It has all the tropes of a classic high school horror films with the trappings of a sports horror film and yet finely tuned punk sensibilities.  I've never felt so bad for a girl doing gymnastics, and for some reason, I never really thought of high school fencing as being all that dangerous. Hell you might even learn a dance move or two.

Features Include:

+ Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack
+ 4K Restoration from the Editor’s 35mm Answer Print + Video interview with Director Herb Freed
+ Video interview with Star Patch Mackenzie
+ Video interview with Producer David Baughn
+ Video interview with Editor Martin Sadoff
+ Commentary track with Producer David Baughn
+ Commentary track with The Hysteria Continues (link)
+ Original Theatrical Trailer

Of these features the most important is the Hysteria Continues commentary track. These fellas are the slasher experts who did the commentary track for Night Train to Terror from Vinegar Syndrome. They are funny, informative and they are exceptionally entertaining with a lighthearted banter that puts the movie in perspective while showing it the utmost respect. The movie looks great which, if you don't know this by now, is the hallmark of the Vinegar Syndrome process. They make their Blu-rays shine and save the grit for the double feature DVD's. It's also important to note that they were my favorite movie distributor for 2013 for a reason, their exquisite Blu-ray transfers and their tremendous selection of grindhouse flicks (and of course spank material featuring Jamie Gillis). 

For a movie to hit Blu-ray for the first time that comes from a class year of films so tremendous is a thing to research and react to. I mean we are talking about a movie that creatively kills it, helps to cement the standard formula for a subgenre and delivers on the promise of the cover or one sheet. I won't lie to you and tell you that Graduation Day is my favorite slasher film, but it deserves this treatment. I hope this release brings new life to the film for many viewers who have reveled in it for ages.

You can order Graduation Day from Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/graduation-day-bddvd-combo/

Now somebody bring Mutilator to Blu-ray and stop fucking around with announcements of false hope!

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