"Put on the cheerleading uniform!
Ape Law commands it!"
Cutting Class asks us to believe that its good-girl heroine is so desirable that Roddy McDowall would make a fool of himself to catch a glimpse up her skirt. While McDowall (rest his soul) was never above making a fool of himself for several thousand dollars, you'll have to forgive us if we are skeptical at the sight of him playing a perverted heterosexual school principal in a genre-conforming high school slasher flick.
Enter Paula Carson (Jill Schoelen), the all-American schoolgirl. Her grades are good, she is admittedly quite cute, and she has Brad Pitt for a boyfriend. No kidding: Pitt (who even dated Schoelen briefly after the film was made) makes his "feature film" debut in Cutting Class, and it must have been before the acting lessons. Pitt's character Dwight is the bad boy to whom our good girl is inexplicably attracted. He drives a red convertible with reckless abandon, defies every form of authority, and even tries to make it with Paula. "Not until your grades improve," she tells him. That particular line of dialogue reveals that Paula isn't really even that good of a girl; she just has her price. Wanna break into the school's student records, to which Paula inexplicably holds a key? It's gonna cost you that family ring of yours, buster.
Jill Schoelen in Driving Brad Pitt.
What Paula doesn't know is that Dwight has a shadowy past, including some involvement with Brian Woods, the creepy student who just recently returned from a mental asylum after the death of his father. Although Paula's father, the local district attorney (Martin Mull), believes that Brian intentionally cut the brakes on the car that killed the senior Woods, no evidence came to light, so Brian was quietly shuffled off to the loony bin and has recently returned to school with the rest of the loonies -- er, teenagers. Paula catches Brian's fancy, and the flirting begins, much to the distress of Dwight.
You probably don't need much help guessing what happens next: people begin to die mysteriously, and Brian is the prime suspect. But Paula notices some odd behavior on Dwight's part, casting some suspicion on him as well. Is Brian the killer, or is Dwight trying to frame him for horning in on his girlfriend? Or is there some third party responsible for the mayhem?
Sadly, there are no surprises waiting for us in this dismal little movie. The writer picks one of the two prime suspects and goes with him as the killer, despite the availability of at least two other wacked-out characters in the film. We really would have liked to see the custodian revealed as the killer, especially after his inspired delivery of the now-cliched "respect your high school janitor" speech.
Shultz: I'm the custodian of your f---ing destiny!
Instead, the killer is revealed to be one of the two boys, and Paula must join forces with the other to fight off the true madman. Here we get the other line of good dialogue, which is doled out like a precious gem: "I am a murderer! Not as prestigious as a lawyer or a doctor, but the hours are good!"
Thrown in with the main plot is the recurring subplot concerning the Odious Comic ReliefTM. Mull's character is ambushed while on a hunting trip and we visit him periodically as he stumbles through the swamp, an arrow through his chest. While an arrow through Martin Mull's chest would normally qualify as a good start, here it merely gives him an excuse to gesticulate wildly and make stupid faces at the camera. We can only assume that psychotic killer standards are slipping, as any true nut-job would have finished the job properly -- much to our relief.
The real letdown is that Cutting Class has no reason to exist. We've told you the only interesting lines in the film, and the acting isn't nearly good enough to make up for the rest of the script. For a horror flick it's remarkably unscary, and though the allegedly humorous appearances of a dying Martin Mull suggest that Cutting Class might have been intended to be a comedy, there isn't much funny about the film either. People of Hollywood: Please, please if you're going to make a slasher flick, make sure you have either a funny script or a director adept at suspense! Still, a lot of movies like this are made every year. Apparently there's a lot of cutting class in film school too.