Blu-ray Review: Graduation Day

After the twin sensations of Halloween and Friday 13th, filmmakers realized that there was a market for slasher flicks. Teenagers couldn’t get enough of watching other teenagers being tracked down and murdered. There was a rather simple formula to these films: a major event, a bunch of unsuspecting teens and an unbalanced mysterious person with a weapon. The pints of blood converted into big bucks. This is what led to Prom Night, New Year’s Evil, My Bloody Valentine, April Fools Day, Slumber Party Massacre and other body count boffos. Graduation Day came out early in the wave of mutilation, became a box office hit and gained fine cult following over the decades thanks to VHS. Graduation Day finally graduates to 1080p on a Blu-ray-DVD combo.

Midvale High School is super proud of their track and field team. You can tell because they actually have fans in the stands that aren’t merely parents waiting to drive the kids home. There is a high price to pay for such exceptional athletic expectations. Laura Ramstead (Ruth Ann Llorens) drops dead after winning a major race. Was she pushed too hard by her teammates and overzealous coach (Rat Patrol‘s Christopher George)? Ensign Anne Ramstead (Patch Mackenzie) takes time off from the navy to collect her sister’s diploma and athletic honors. At the same time that Anne arrives, one of the track teams runners is chased down on a trail and stabbed to death. All the viewers knows is that the killer had switchblade, a sweatshirt, black leather gloves and a stopwatch. Is Anne getting revenge for her sister’s death. The killer’s face stays hidden as the murders are handle with POV shots. Director Herb Freed (Tomboy) does a fine job of using Dario Argento’s slasher perspective tricks.

What makes the movie click is how most of the classmates don’t seem to care that others are being slaughtered before the graduation ceremony. They are too busy partying. They break out the roller disco love with a band called Felony busting out the early ’80s beat. It’s a shame that roller disco was shunned by the masses instead of turned into an Olympic sport. A movie can only improve with age when there’s roller disco on the screen. Such is certainly the case with Graduation Day. The movie also has plenty of other elements clicking for it. Scream queen Linnea Quigley loses her top. The principal character has little faith in the kids. The filmmakers do a fine job keeping us guessing to the identity of the killer who keeps track of his victims by crossing out their faces on the team photo.

The teen slaughter genre is still alive and well thanks to kids embracing The Hunger Games. There’s still an audience that doesn’t mind seeing a few peers get culled from the yearbook. Graduation Day is a movie that deserves a reunion viewing as school gets back into session.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer cleans up the image, but maintains the gritty charm of the low budget slasher. The audio is mono. The disco roller party will be cranked on your speakers for maximum effect.

DVD that has all the features of the Blu-ray.

Audio Commentaries are provided by the producer and a group of film fans. Producer David Baughn breaks down so much about the film’s production. He explains what he had to do for distribution. The second track by The Hysteria Continues allows the film fanatics to geek out each other with tidbits about the film, cast and crew.

Acting Out in School (8:46) reunites us with Patch Mackenzie. She had issues with the director on how much of a red herring to slather on the character.

Surviving the Class of ’81 (12:22) features director Herb Freed memories of the production. He wasn’t thrilled at the audience response during an early screening.

Graduation Day Blues (11:34) lets producer David Baughn guide you through his career including working for Russ Meyer.

Cutting Class (7:20) is how editor Sandoff ended up working on the Halloween franchise.

The trailer (2:04) pushes the joy and fears of high school graduation.

Graduation Day is one of the classics from the original slasher era in America cinema. The Blu-ray will help it reach a new generation of high school students with the warning that they must pay attention when classmates are being picked off by a serial killer.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Graduation Day. Directed by: Herb Freed. Screenplay by: David Baughn, Herb Freed & Anne Marisse. Starring: Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, E. J. Peaker, E. Danny Murphy & Michael Pataki. Rated: R. Released: September 12, 2014.