By 1989, the slasher film genre was declared officially dead. The idea of a deranged maniac going on a killing spree had been done to death, and fans and critics alike were bored. However, it was at this point that a little slasher film was released that, unfortunately, fell through the cracks. HELL HIGH, directed and co-written by Douglas Grossman, is one of the more original examples of the subgenre: it follows the specific criteria, but at the same time adds some new ingredients to the mix.
|Theatrical Move Poster (1989)|
First, there is no "final girl"left at the end of the movie, but rather a final guy. Second, there is Jon-Jon, who is one of the best male screamers in horror history. Another noteworthy twist is that instead of an adult stalking teenagers, it is the teenagers who stalk and attack the adult, who only later turns the tables on her juvenile assailants. The film also touches on hot-button subjects as lesbianism to teenage peer pressure.
While it's common for big-name actors to get their start by being cast in horror films, HELL HIGH had the distinct honor of stalling some of its participants' careers. It was the only film that Grossman ever directed, and neither Prezioso nor Brill ever acted in another film. However, both Mooney and Cousins escaped the curse and had successful careers as soap opera stars. Mooney played Ann Jeffers on GUIDING LIGHT and Stacy Coles on ALL MY CHILDREN, while Cousins portrayed Cain Rogan on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and had recurring roles on LIPSTICK JUNGLE, BREAKING BAD, and the new FX show TERRIERS. Unfortunately, Stryker, who could have been the film's breakout star, died of AIDS on September 22, 1987 at the age of 27.
Also titled RAGING FURY and filmed as WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TONIGHT? in 1986, the film wasn't released until May 12, 1989, which proved to be a fatal delay, and it was banished into genre-film obscurity. However, the fine folks at Media Blasters resurrected the film on DVD back in 2004, with commentary by drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs and Grossman himself. The DVD also boasts an introduction by Briggs, an interview with co-writer Leo Evans and Grossman, theatrical trailers and TV spots.
After years of being suspended, HELL HIGH can now be rediscovered by a new generation of slasher fans for its originality and gruesome death scenes. Twenty-two years after the film's original release, it still speaks to the disenchanted youth of today. Like Dickens says in the film, "There's nothing after high school. There is only more stink." Words to live by.
HELL HIGH is currently available on DVD only. To purchase a copy, visit http://www.amazon.com/ref=gno_logo
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