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High School Can Be Murder
by Scott Tunstall

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Look at little Brad Pitt.

Look at little Brad Pitt.
Before Brad Pitt became a Hollywood hunk and the poster-boy for international adoption, he was a young actor trying to launch a career. After laboring in TV land on shows such as Dallas, Head of the Class and Growing Pains, Pitt set his sights on feature films. Before his bare-chested cameo in 1991's Thelma and Louise, Brad got caught up in the flurry of high school movies that permeated the 1980s. He landed his first meaty role in Cutting Class, a biting comedy about a teenage serial killer. It's no classic, but it's not awful.


Someone is killing people at Wurleigh High. The prime suspect is darkly clad recluse Brian Woods, a recent resident of the local insane asylum where he was sent for murdering his father. Caught in the middle of this creepy whodunit are teen couple Paula and Dwight. Paula is the quintessential girl-next-door,
The perfect couple?

The perfect couple?
cute as a button and a stickler for the rules. She's also the object of Brian's obsession. Dwight is the prototypical bad boy: hot tempered, drives a fast car, spurns authority. He's also Brian's former best friend. Who is responsible for all these murders? Is it really Brian? Or could it be Dwight? Other potential slashers include a crazed janitor and a perverted principal. Paula doesn't know who to trust but one thing is certain. No one is safe at Wurleigh High.

This movie is a guilty pleasure. It reminded me of Heathers which was released the same year, but its story structure more closely resembles Wes Craven's Scream, minus the phone games: horror that refuses to take itself seriously. It has its share of gore and the plot is twisty enough to keep you guessing until the final act. The Director is some guy named Rospo Pallenberg, which  sounds like a pseudonym to me. He 
I think the copier is broken.

I think the copier is broken.
failed to direct another movie. Whether he's real or not, Rospo helms a silly ship that never gets boring. Instruments of death range from a pottery kiln to a copy machine. I'm always amused by the number of things in high school that can kill you.

Donovan Leitch gives it his over-the-top all playing the disturbed Brian. We know he's got a screw loose, but his culpability is not definitive. A couple of acting vets also appear: Roddy McDowall of Planet of the Apes fame plays lecherous principal Dante and comic Martin Mull adds an oddball spin to Paula's attorney father. Speaking of Paula, she's portrayed by raspy voiced Jill Schoelen who peeked in 1987's cult terror flick Stepfather. Like so many other 80s "scream queens" she faded into obscurity by the mid 1990s. Cutting Class will be forever known for the Brad Pitt connection, but it's got more going for it than just him.

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Eye On The Overlooked
Every other Sunday

A lot of great movies slip through the cracks. I'm here to catch them.

Other Columns
Other columns by Scott Tunstall:

A Wolf In Girl's Clothing

Southern Hospitality

Ten Great Films From the 2000s

Down With The System

Stranger In A Strange Land

All Columns

Scott Tunstall
Scott is a freelance writer currently living in the Southeast. He is a film school grad with a love of theory and screenwriting. His tastes vary from obscure niche films to giant Hollywood blockbusters. In other words, he'll watch pretty much anything.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Scott Tunstall by clicking here.

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