Movie Review: Horror High

Posted: October 9, 2015 in Reviews
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Flashlight, Bare Hands, Pestle, Acid, Paper Cutter, Cleats, Revolver, Shotgun

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Reviewed by: Jenicide

High school. Some students have it made throughout their four years, while others do not. For Vernon Potts, our central character in the 1974 film Horror High (aka Twisted Brain), he definitely falls into the latter category. This film is a typical example of the exploitative drive-in schlock pieces of the 1970s, full of cheesy special effects and bad music. While overall a pedestrian effort, it is an enjoyable revenge-driven film, hitting a nerve for every social outcast that survived high school.

Vernon Potts is a high school kid who can’t seem to get a break. When he’s not tormented by the football jocks, he’s constantly belittled by the school staff. His safe zone is in the school laboratory, where he works diligently on a genetic enhancement formula for his guinea pig, Mr. Mumps. After drinking the formula himself, Vernon physically transforms into a raging, killer monster. As Vernon starts losing control of his new personality, the police, led by Lieutenant Bozeman, start to close in on him.

HorrorHighVernonExperiment HorrorHighVernonTransformation

Horror High uses the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” concept heavily. Vernon is a likeable guy; he excels in science and even attracts cute classmate, Robyn. Yet, he harbors rage towards his daily tormenters, such as bully Roger and the mean Mrs. Grindstaff. After drinking his formula, he can’t resist using his alter ego to get even with his enemies. The good versus bad inner-conflict in Vernon is the basis of his character and drives home the message of the movie: the further one allows oneself to go towards a dark path, the less self-control one has. Even so, it’s hard to feel any sympathy towards his victims and is actually satisfying to see Vernon get some vengeance.

HorrorHighMrGriggsAcid HorrorHighDetective

What brings down Horror High is bad music and cheap special effects. Music is a key ingredient in a successful horror movie, meant to escalate the tension of a scene and draw in the audience. However, the music played while Vernon attacks sounds plain silly at times, where it cannot be completely taken seriously. Instead of making the scene frightening, it feels almost laughable. Likewise, the special effects are weak as well. Vernon’s transformation is hardly visible, and what is seen does not look much different from his normal appearance. The monster Vernon basically just walks with a limp and has a low growling voice. On the other hand, some of the kills are exceptional, for example, the scene where Vernon stomps his victim to death using cleats is original and satisfying.

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Horror High offers a decent interpretation of the classic “Jekyll and Hyde” story, but overall, fails to impress due to corny music and special effects. Still, its charm makes the film enjoyable to watch. Despite its low points, Horror High is a “so bad it’s good” type of movie that every nerd that ever got picked on in high school can appreciate for its vicarious revenge thrills.

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