Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Phil reflects on HORROR HIGH for 13, 2011

Hello again everybody! Here's a flashback article that I wrote for the Fangoria website not that long ago. I thought it would be fun to have it reposted here for your enjoyment. I love horror films, especially the ones from my childhood. I would sneak into theaters, watch them on cable after my folks were asleep. or rent them with my friends. I am very lucky to be a contributing writer for them, and get to share my love for the horror genre. Hope you have fun reading it!

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)
Science teacher Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney) is still haunted by the deaths of two teenagers that she accidently caused as a young girl. She crosses into insanity when four high-schoolers-deranged delinquent Dickens (portrayed brilliantly by Christopher Stryker), Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins), Queenie (Millie Prezioso), and Smiler (Jason Brill)-start harassing her and then attack her in her home. While the premise of the film sounds like your typical killathon, the end results are not.

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

To learn more about Fangoria and everything that's horror, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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