Random Film of the Week: Horror High

Horror High aka The Twisted Brain MPIt’s pretty cool to see a film you grew up watching a few times in the late 70’s and early 80’s pop up again thanks to it now being in the public domain and completely uncensored. That said, it’s too bad the low-budget cheapie known as The Twisted Brain on TV and Horror High when it was in theaters hasn’t been restored to a more fitting print. The version I have on one of the Mill Creek Entertainment box sets is in such ratty condition that it looks as if were clawed up by the transformed teenage monster out for revenge.

Still, even in that messed up print found on the DVD*, Larry N. Stouffer’s 1974 film still makes for some hilarious, bloody good fun. You’re not getting anything resembling a “best” genre film here at all. It’s just a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde variant meets I Was a Teenage Werewolf and that’s that.

 

Right from the start, you feel sorry for poor Vernon Potts (Pat Cardi), a teenage science whiz and target for teachers and bullies alike at his high school. Vernon has the luck of the Irish smacking him in the head here. His best friend is a Guinea pig, the girl he seems to be fond of (a super-cute Rosie Holotik) is dating a jock jerk and even his teachers and the school janitor give him grief. Of course, through the miracle of chemistry in the form of a formula he’s working on, Vernon finds himself able to change into a musclebound killing machine, but it’s not what he initially intended. His formula was only to be used on that guinea pig, but take one drunken janitor forcing the poor kid to drink that nasty non-beverage and you get a lean, mean killing machine.

At least until the stuff wears off. Vernon deals with the first nasty murder in science class fashion, using a vat of acid to dispose of a body. Let’s just say it’s not fully dissolved when the next class begins and soon enough there’s a detective on the scene. Played by Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13), he’s a cross between Shaft and any number of 70’s TV investigators. He zeroes in on Vernon almost immediately after questioning him and after every murder, he’s there with a skeptical eye and ear to Vernon’s increasingly oddball alibis. While there’s a small body count here, each of the murders is interestingly torturous and gruesome.

After the janitor meets his nasty end, a teacher meets her end via large-bladed paper cutter, a coach gets stomped to death with spiked sneakers. The funny thing is the film is more or less a case study in justifiable horror flick homicide, as all three people treated Vernon like dirt and one even tries to blackmail him into letting a failing student cheat on a big test or suffer the consequences of being endlessly bullied by his peers. The only letup to Vernon’s life of hell are his scenes with Holotik’s Robin character. The two actors balance each other out in that “nerd meets pretty girl” scenario and Holotik nails her sweetness to a T. She’d not too happy with her big beef-head boyfriend, but is stuck with him because he’d probably eat anyone who came close to her.

Unfortunately, Vernon’s overuse of his not ready for prime time formula puts him in the position where he can’t control his changes, so the finale is pretty much going where you expect it to. The film wraps up on a low note as the credits roll, but you’ve gotten a nice slice of horror from the period that didn’t strain your brain one bit. Oh, *I know about the more perfect DVD from Code Red, but this RFotW was a case where I had to work with what I had rather than seek out something more flawless. Such is life, right?

2 thoughts on “Random Film of the Week: Horror High

  1. Sounds like the kind of film I’d invite friends round to watch, with a lot of mind numbing beverages. I remember watching Tales From The Crypt late at night and loving it, despite its age. Kind of feel like watching now actually.

    Like

    • Oh, it’s definitely a “crowd” film, but I’d double it up with something like The Beast Within, Massacre at Central High or even a super oldie like I Was A Teenage Werewolf for added fun.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.