A high school track team becomes the targets of a serial killer in this cult 80s slasher flick.
In the last track meet before graduation at Midvale High, Laura Ramstead had won the 100-meter dash, but dies of a heart attack right after the race. Laura’s death prompts her older sister Anne, a Naval officer, to return home to attend the graduation on her behalf. Anne blames the track coach, Coach Michaels, for pushing Laura too hard during training, which could have attributed to her death. That soon becomes the least of the issues.
A mysterious person decked out in fencing attire begins to pick off members of the track team one by one. As the bodies start disappearing, concerned parents call on the high school principal. When a local detective gets involved, he gets help from the school security guard. However, who is the mysterious killer targeting the track team? Is it the coach, who was fired for what had happened to Laura? Is it Anne, who is perhaps looking for revenge for her sister? Is it Kevin, Laura’s boyfriend who had planned to marry her after graduation? Or is it someone completely different?
In the early 1980s, the slasher genre was on a major high. With films such as Friday the 13th Part 2 and The Burning leading the way, and the idea of holiday horror films (Halloween, Black Christmas), what better way to mesh the “event horror” and slasher with this film co-written and directed by Herb Freed. It is an underrated film that keeps one guessing and has some pretty good kill scenes, even if some of the effects look a bit laughable.
One can think the mysterious killer, which comes in conjunction with the arrival of Laura’s sister Anne, played by Patch McKenzie, may have the Navy officer being a possible suspect. There’s also the tough coach who pushed Laura and is tough with the team. Played by the late Christopher George, this would be one of his last films, along with the action film Enter the Ninja and another slasher film, Pieces. Then there’s Kevin, Laura’s boyfriend, played by a debuting E. Danny Murphy, who later worked primarily in TV guest spots and an occasional film. There could also be one of the most annoying supporting characters in school security guard MacGregor, played by Virgil Frye, whose threats comes off more as laughable.
The film would feature performances by actors who later gained fame in various ways. Billy Hufsey, who played Tom, would go on to play Christopher on the hit series Fame during the series’ last three seasons. Linnea Quigley, who played Dolores, would go on to be an iconic scream queen in the 80’s thanks to her numerous appearances in horror films, a career that continues to this day. Finally, there’s Vanna White, who plays Doris (one of two girls who sporadically appear in the film), who to this day is the iconic letter turner of Wheel of Fortune.
Graduation Day is a pretty good slasher film that keeps you guessing who the killer could be and has some pretty inventive death scenes. Some early performances from future stars may pick the interest of viewers and 80s horror fans will definitely want to see this, even if a certain victim’s decapitated head and the school security guard are more laughable.
WFG RATING: B-
IFI/Scope III presents a Baughn/Freed Productions. Director: Herb Freed. Producers: David Baughn and Herb Freed. Writers: Anne Marisse and Herb Freed; story by David Baughn. Cinematography: Daniel Yarussi. Editing: Martin Jay Sadoff.
Cast: Christopher George, Patch McKenzie, E. Danny Murphy, E.J. Peaker, Michael Pataki, Richard Balin, Carmen Argenziano, Beverly Dixon, Virgil Frye, Hal Bokar, Denise Cheshire, Billy Hufsey, Linnea Quigley, Vanna White.