★★out of ★★★★★
The class of 81 is going out in style and they’re having the time of their life…
Once upon a time kids were promiscuous, provocative, and got polished off. A lot. The teen slasher really does seem like a thing of the past. They were often grizzly, a far cry from being politically-correct, low-brow, and dirty. That said, what they lacked in glint, glaze, and gloss they made up for in gruesome killings, killer soundtracks, hazy focus, and a bevy bewildered bettys. And, and, and…sometimes they featured actors like VANNA WHITE!
1981’s Graduation Day is that very film. Now be forewarned, we’re not talking high-art here, but there are a couple doobies sprinkled throughout this teen romp. The film’s premise isn’t half bad and almost (read: almost) believable. A track team on the cusp of greatness is beset by their star sprinter’s demise. In one of the best dreamy-pull-focus scenes I’ve laid eyes on in a while, the track meet culminates in the star runner barely crossing the finish line and then inexplicably she collapses. Dead. Gruff and grizzled track coach played by the super-awesome Christopher George (Pieces, City of the Living Dead, Grizzly) barks and howls at his team. Only to find his star runner is kinda dead. But that doesn’t stop his caterwauling, oh no. As any good coach would, he keeps on yelling. Did he cause her death? Is he the killer?
Meanwhile, the dead runner’s sister appears from a naval dispatch abroad to attend the funeral of her dead sister. She’s got issues with neurotic mom and drunk dad. She’s mysterious, maybe hiding military secrets, and she’s got a big ol’ chip on her shoulder. Is she the killer?
As the locals continue to look for the killer, the bodies start to pile up. A skeezy principal with a switchblade and behaviors that set the foundation for the #METOO movement. A fencing sword to the gut, a knife to the neck, and other teen chopping starts to occur. But wait, the only teens that are getting chopped are the teens ON THE TRACK TEAM! It’s got to be the principal. Is he the killer?
The teens, seemingly unaware that they’re being targeted — and specifically targeted as a result of their participation in the track team — continue on with their roller-boogie ways. After all it is Graduation Day! There’s doobies to get after, beer to be drunk, and vans to roll around in. But the killing just keeps on coming…until there’s only a couple remaining. The community grows frustrated with the killings and all eyes begin to focus on the hot-headed coach. The coach goes at it with the police, local reporters, the dead runner’s sister, and the remaining members of the track team. Maybe Christopher George is the killer?
Not so fast. The roller-boogie graduation party gets going, mayhem ensues, and the REAL killer reveals himself, in the creepiest way possible, to the dead runner’s sister. She, of course, is having none of it. She uses her newly acquired Navy combat skills to give the killer the what for. They run, they tussle, and there’s hand-to-hand combat! Is the killer the real killer? Does the killer get it? For answers to those questions you’ll have to truck it on over to Amazon and fire up your Prime Account.
Graduation Day is a fairly solid teen slasher. There’s lots of slashing. A fun who-dun-it. Some glassy-eyed teen chicanery. There’s also some (read: some) Vanna White. For what it’s worth there could have been a pinch less slashing and a pinch more Vanna White. I mean, who doesn’t need more Vanna White in their life?