Directed by Herb Freed [Other horror films: Haunts (1976), Beyond Evil (1980), Graduation Day (1981)]
When I first saw Graduation Day, I found it underwhelming, but quickly forgot about it. I can’t say that I’ll remember it much better with this revisit, but I can at least say that it’s somewhat watchable, though far from a good movie.
One thing I did particularly enjoy about this one is the sheer amount of potential suspects. There’s a lot of characters here, and while the answer to who’s behind the killings isn’t an overly creative one, at least they had potential to do more with it.
What’s mildly more impressive is the amount of performances that I actually liked. It’s not just Christopher George (Pieces, Mortuary, and City of the Living Dead) and Patch Mackenzie (who was kick-ass in her moderately short screen-time); we get some decent acting from E.J. Peaker, Michael Pataki (of Grave of the Vampire; also worth mentioning, one of his scenes just cracked me up), Denise Cheshire, all along with a semi-early appearance of Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons, Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Return of the Living Dead, and hundreds of others). It’s true that E. Danny Murphy’s performance falters at times, but even so, he was still at least okay.
Also, somewhat surprisingly, some of the sequences here were filmed in somewhat interesting ways. The first five minutes of the movie seem like some sports documentary, what with all of these impressive sporty things (pole vaulting, track-and-field type stuff) and concluding with a traumatic death during a run. There’s also a few other scenes, such as Cheshire’s character doing bar-hopping (I’m not remotely a sports guy – there’s these two elevated bars, and she’s jumping from one to the other in impressive fashion) or a juxtaposition toward the end of Mackenzie’s character running from danger to the opening death of her character’s sister. These are just small touches, but they do feel special, especially in comparison to the rest of this movie.
What isn’t impressive, and this is certainly problematic, are the kills. While there’s a decent body count, there are only three kills I’d personally label decent, and one is just barely counted, being a somewhat weak decapitation. There was a character stabbed through the throat with a fencing sword, though, that looked pretty decent, and another character who practices some pole vaulting and lands on some cleverly-placed spikes. None of the kills here are great, though, which is a damn shame, as the movie did have some things going in other departments.
Another problem is that the film, at an hour and 36 minutes, does occasionally feel padded. This might not have mattered had some of the kills been done better, or maybe less time was spent on red herrings (though I do personally love the cop who hides a joint in the barrel of his service weapon – quality guy), but as it stands, it just felt like it was dragging at times.
All-in-all, Graduation Day wasn’t a bad time. It wasn’t a great time, or even that good, but it was fine for a lower-budget Troma-released slasher. If you’re a slasher fan, I’d recommend giving it one viewing, but for most people, this isn’t something I’d really recommend them taking the time to see.
5 thoughts on “Graduation Day (1981)”