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Class Reunion Massacre

Director: Constantine S. Gochis

US - 1978



With Class Reunion Massacre (or, the more amusing title, Redeemer: The Son of Satan!), I delve once again into the seedy world of 70s slasher flicks.  I can’t put my finger on the exacSinners!t reason why I like slasher flicks from the 70s – for the most part, they generally suck – but like ‘em I do.  The same applies to Class Reunion Massacre. 

The story is simple enough.  Six former high school chums are invited back to their alma mater for – you guessed it – a class reunion.  Each character is introduced with a flashback associating them with some sort of evil habit (or habits, depending on their overall level of evilness).  Terry is the arrogant former football star.  He neglects his kid and isn’t very nice to his wife.  John is a lawyer with no interest in justice, just money.  Jane is a wealthy snob who spends her free time shooting pigeons (which is evil, but rather random).  Roger is an actor.  He is both arrogant and hard to get along with (so essentially, he’s Val Kilmer).  Cindy is the promiscuous one (at least that’s what the box says.  Sadly, the film features no sex or nudity).  She also likes to hang around bars and prattle continuously to drunks who aren’t paying attention (I would probably categorize that as more “annoying” than “evil”).  Finally, the worst of the bunch, Kirsten.  Kirsten is Bet you were expecting a priest joke...a lesbian!  That’s right.  Kirsten likes women as opposed to men! 

They arrive at the party, but lo and behold, they are the sole attendees.  There’s a buffet, party decorations and a dance floor, but no one else to party, dance or eat with.  Naturally, this can only mean that these particular individuals have been invited back to their school to be murdered for the sins of their youth.  It doesn’t take the viewer long to figure out this little plot twist (I estimate approximately two seconds after the title credits).  Sure enough, they are soon picked off one by one by a mysterious chubby fellow with an affinity for bad disguises. 

Who is this mysterious man with a striking resemblance to Bruno Kirby?  Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the genre might assume that the killer is a former classmate who was a"How about a little fire, Scarecrow?"ntagonized by the popular kids back in the day and is now looking to exact revenge (a la Slaughter High, another guilty pleasure of mine).  That’s what I assumed, but alas, I was mistaken.  Turns out that the killer is none other than some random omniscient preacher who feels he must deliver redemption to the ne’er-do-wells. 

I guess it’s an “Angel of Death” kinda thing, which certainly isn’t a groundbreaking cinematic convention, but what I find puzzling is if the killer’s supposed to be a bastion of good morals (that is, if you can justify killing in the name of God), then why would he kill a hapless janitor in the beginning?  This ethical dilemma could have been easily avoided by providing a montage similar to those provided to the other victims.  You know, a little something to estaSinners!blish what a bastard that janitor truly was.  Perhaps he hated babies and killed puppies.  Maybe he was even gay! 

Though the murder of the janitor can perhaps be justified by the simple fact that the killer is crazy, there really should have been a more solid explanation (or any explanation, for that matter) as to why the preacher would want to kill these six sinners in particular.  I mean, considering this film is chockfull of clichés, why not add the distraught nerd exacting revenge on the folks who gave him one swirly too many?  If you’re going to beat a dead horse, might as well beat it thoroughly.

The biggest “What the hell?” moments are reserved, however, for the bookends of Class Reunion Massacre.  The film opens on a lake nestled between two mountains.  We sit there for a Kilmer!moment or two, then the sun ducks behind a cloud.  Suddenly, a defiant fist shoots up from the water and a young boy emerges.  He makes his way to shore and hops the first school bus into town.  Like anyone who had recently emerged from the depths of a secluded lake (and happened to find a school bus nearby), he heads directly to church.  He is teased by a couple choirboys, then listens to the service of the resident preacher (who, it turns out, is also the killer).  We then jump into the main story.  After all is said and done, we return to the young boy at church.  The service is over, and the preacher returns to the choirboy locker room to discover the young lad from the lake has killed one of his tormentors.  The preacher appears relatively unaffected, and ushers the boy back to the bus.  He returns to the lake, and a Bible verse stating something to the effect of “bad folks’ll be gettin’ theirs” is shown right before the credits roll. 

After doing a little research (and I do mean a little), I discovered that Class Reunion Massacre might have been trying to cash in on the popularity of The Omen (which preceded it by about a couple years).  That would somewhat explain the preacher and the evil spawn of Satan he apparently summoned.  What it doesn’t explain, however, is the mysterious double-thumb.  


In the beginning, the lad passes his double-thumb to the preacher.  At the end, the thumb returns to the lad.  Does a double-thumb having anything to do with Satan?  I mean, what the hell is a double-thumb supposed to signify?  Yeah, Damien has the powers of Lucifer, Regan can spin her head a complete 360 degrees, but me?  I have this terrifying double-thumb!  Can you imagine the horror of my cuticles?!

So, in summation, we have a stupid, predictable (double-thumb aside) slasher movie.  Why do I enjoy it?  Well, it’s a combination of little things.  I like the overall aesthetic of the film.  Massacre is grainy and dark; there’s a general air of creepiness.  Part of this is probably due, for the most part, to the actual integrity of the print.  I mean, the movie itself is old, and chances are they didn’t spend a lot of cash on the film to begin with.  Movies (that is, 35mm prints) like Star Wars and Harry Potter are tough to tear with your bare hands (not that I tried).  Movies like Valentine and Bubble Boy, however, tear if you breathe on them wrong.  Film quality applies to the story told, but it also applies to the actual print itself.  More often than not, the two coincide with one another.  The dark and grainy texture is one of the main reasons Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is brilliant.  Though Class Reunion Massacre is a far cry from genius, it does have a creepy feel to it.

Secondly, I enjoy the fact that the killer often taunts his victims out in the open;  sometimes close enough to touch them.  It just adds an air of suspense that is lacking in most slasher films.  He also kills in broad daylight, which, again, is a rarity.  Sometimes the victims aren’t even alone. 

Does that make Class Reunion Massacre worth going out of your way to find?  Probably not.  But if you happen upon it while surfing the USA Network one lazy Saturday afternoon, it might supply an hour and a half of brainless entertainment.  


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-- Copyright 2003, J. Bannerman



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