Cutting Class (1989)

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A series of murders coincides with the return of a young high school student in this pretty underrated slasher film with comic overtones.

District attorney William Carson III is going on a hunting trip and gives his daughter Paula three simple rules: to do her homework, no boys at the house, and most important, no cutting class. Paula is a pretty popular and intelligent student who is dating basketball star Dwight Ingalls. This is also the first day that Brian Woods, a young man who killed his father five years ago, has been released from an institution and all he wants is to show everyone that he has changed.

During his hunting trip, William is shot with an arrow and is supposedly dead. Meanwhile, a series of murders begin to occur within the high school. An art teacher is killed when he’s thrown in a kiln. A high school couple suffer a deadly encounter under the bleachers during a basketball game. As the murders continue, there are many suspects who could be responsible. Could it be basketball star Dwight, who tends to get violent prone? Could it be Brian, the returning kid who has had history with murder? Could it be the janitor, who seems to have a likening to bloodshed? Could it even be principal Mr. Dante, who is somewhat perverted when it comes to Paula? Who is the killer?

In what would be his only film as a writer before becoming the creator of the great kids’ series Salute Your Shorts, Steve Slavkin’s screenplay does something quite interesting and meshes the slasher film subgenre of horror film with comic overtones as well as engage the audience themselves in a “whodunit” game of who is responsible for a series of murders. While from the beginning, one would bring a sense of predictability, the film ultimately adds some intricate twists and turns and also brings to mind a series of inventive deaths on a few occasions.

The film will be forever known for being an early film for one of Hollywood’s top actors today, Brad Pitt. Here, he plays Dwight, a star basketball player who dates our heroine Paula, played by Jill Schoelen. Paula is the innocent high school girl who abides by her father’s rules, with few exceptions. All Pitt’s Dwight wants to do is get time alone with her, a typical slasher motif. Donovan Leitch plays the returning Brian, who only wants acceptance and in a way, forgiveness for what had happened five years ago after he was institutionalized for the death of his father.

The main comic overtone involves Martin Mull’s character of William, Paula’s father. One would assume that after getting shot with an arrow by the film’s killer that he would be dead. However, as the audience sees the continuation of the murder spree within the high school, they get to see William actually still alive and struggling through the rest of the film trying to get home. There are some pumps of comic lines within the rest of the film.

Cutting Class may be perhaps known for its early performance by Brad Pitt, but the film is actually underrated with its use of comic overtones and twists and turns making this a true whodunit 80’s slasher gem?

WFG RATING: B

Gower Street Pictures present an April Films production. Director: Rospo Pallenberg. Producers: Donald R. Beck and Rudy Cohen. Writer: Steve Slavkin. Cinematography: Avi Karpick. Editing: Natan Zavahi and Bill Butler.

Cast: Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Brenda Lynn Klemme, Roddy McDowell, Martin Mull, Mark Barnet, Robert Glaudini, Eric Boles, Dirk Blocker, Nancy Fish.

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