Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cutting Class

Despite a genre-friendly cast that includes Martin Mull (SERIAL), Roddy McDowall (PLANET OF THE APES), and Jill Schoelen (POPCORN), the real draw of 1989's CUTTING CLASS is 25-year-old Brad Pitt, getting third billing behind Schoelen and rock-star-son Donovan Leitch two years before his breakout role in THELMA AND LOUISE.

As arrogant basketball star Dwight, Pitt is one of many suspects in the serial killings taking place around the local high school. He’s also one-third of the film’s central love triangle involving his girlfriend, nice cheerleader Paula (Schoelen, adorable as always), and his former friend Brian (Leitch), just released from a mental hospital after he was accused of killing his father.

Rospo Pallenberg, a former colleague of John Boorman (EXCALIBUR) directing his one and only film, and writer Steve Slavkin, who went on to pen a lot of kiddie television, have a tough time finding a consistent tone. CUTTING CLASS isn’t a spoof or a parody, but it’s littered with a lot of silly comedy that meshes horribly with the scary stuff. For instance, Mull, playing Schoelen’s father, the local district attorney, is shot with an arrow early in the film and spends the rest of the running time comically stumbling around the swamp looking for help.

McDowall is very amusing as the school’s pervy principal, seen at one point sneaking around backstage trying on flowery theatrical costumes, but, again, it’s a performance that belongs in a different film. Slasher films were well out of vogue by the time CUTTING CLASS was released, and Republic bypassed a theatrical release for VHS. It’s a rather bloodless film with a couple of ingenious kills and one excellent sense of suspense in Schoelen’s bathroom. Also with Brenda Lynn Klemme, Mark Barnet, Robert Glaudini (red herring), Nancy Fish, Norman Alden, Eric Boles, and BROOKLYN NINE-NINE's Dirk Blocker (hilarious on a trampoline).

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