Take note all aspiring filmmakers reading Film Threat:
If you’re going to steal a key scene from a movie and pawn it off as your own, make sure you steal from an incredibly obscure film so no one will be the wiser. In possibly the only clever moment of “Cutting Class,” our very own inept gym teacher chews out main character Brad Pitt about improving in gym class and then takes to the trampoline. After a few minutes bouncing up and down he’s then impaled on the trampoline by a flag pole. The point? Hardly a coincidence, an identical moment was featured and lauded during Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” which many described as being a banner moment in the faux trailer, and really it’s done, first and to a better effect, here.
Interestingly enough, Pallenberg’s film also bears striking similarities to Craven’s “Scream,” further solidifying my utter distaste for the bloated “farce.” It’s basically a whodunit involving a small group of friends, a predictable surprise killer whose identity is kept a secret for most of the story until finally revealed in a clunky climactic finisher, there’s your virginal final girl who makes all the right moves, goofy murders, a father taken out of commission so he can’t rescue his daughter, a killer let loose in a school who may be one of the students, a shady boyfriend with his own problems, and an inept perverse principal (played by Roddy McDowell) who is given a gruesome death. But most of all, like “Scream,” in the end writer Slavkin just gets lazy and appoints the identity of the mystery killer to the person we really suspected all along.
“Cutting Class” is a film I’ve grown to enjoy over the years, and maybe that’s because there’s rarely a slasher that doesn’t win my heart. It’s a film that relies on the comedic styling of Martin Mull who attempts to survive an arrow attack in a conspicuously detached sub-plot, Slavkin manages to work the title into the dialogue in the first five minutes, characters scream dialogue like “I Am the Custodian of Your f*****g destiny!”, and there is of course the starring performance from a young Brad Pitt (whose mug is awkwardly splattered on this new edition DVD in an attempt to cash in). What’s not to love here, folks?
Paula has it all, she’s brainy, over achieving, her dad is an attorney, and her boyfriend is the local hunk of the school who can’t score a good grade to save his life. After her dad goes off to duck hunt, she’s left for the week at home alone, and her once best friend Brian has just been released from an institution. Soon, the body count begins to rise with the faculty turning up dead, and Paula is not sure who to trust. Should she ally herself with the c**k eyed uneasy Brian or the brooding domineering Dwight?
Pallenberg’s creaky slasher film is one that you’ll either love or hate, and while many will opt for the latter, it’s good campy fun with some of the dumbest scenes you can grab from a slasher of this decade. A woman is smashed to death with a copy machine, a couple is murdered under bleachers and later discovered tied together, and the list goes on. Curiously enough, the entire film plays more like an episode of “Degrassi” with all tension, atmosphere, and urgency nowhere to be found, which would account for it often feeling very unlike a typical entry of the sub-genre.
Slavkin then purports to draw a mystery that presumes it’s actually fooling us into a web of deceit and suspense when really the poorly edited murders set with the obvious give away at the opening really doesn’t leave us scratching our heads too often. We know who the killer is because Pallenberg makes it painfully obvious as Brian appears at the scene of every murder giving the shifty eyes and a “who me?” shrug. I was simply never stumped as to the developments.
But what helps Pallenberg’s slasher stand out is the creative methods in which he uses the school set piece, and he milks it for all it’s worth. Pitt’s character tries to kill the antagonist with sodium, the climactic face off is in shop class, and how many slashers will actually stand by two doors and force you to solve a math problem on a chalk board to choose a door to escape through? None. Suffice it to say, the answer is 2. And there are also the decent performances by Jill Schoelen, and Donovan Leitch as well as a truly horrid performance from Brad Pitt which… is the prerequisite.
To top it off, like every eighties sitcom, “Cutting Class” ends on a giggle and a freeze frame as Mull looks down at daughter Paula huffing, “Were you Cutting Class?!” There, friends, is a reason why the eighties should stay forgotten.
As made apparent over the years, “Cutting Class” is one of the nails in the coffin of the eighties slasher fad, and like that b*****b from the slightly overweight Asian hooker behind the Wendy’s, it’s that guilty pleasure you really won’t admit you’ve experienced.