Student Bodies

April 11, 2012

A lonely house on a dark ‘n stormy night…a title appears, to orient us in time: “Halloween.” Wait, another title replaces it: “Friday the 13th.” But now, the final title, the true date of our story: “Jamie Lee Curtis’s Birthday.” This is Student Bodies, a movie that seeks to spoof the recent horror film cycle, and particularly the central notion of that series: teenagers who play fast-and-loose with their budding sexuality run a high risk of being hacked to death with a kitchen knife.

Now, the narrative conventions of the likes of Prom Night and When a Stranger Calls are certainly ripe for dissection, and the first scene here is funny: babysitter is dogged by a series of phone calls, boyfriend drops by for a little passionate necking, and we watch, horrified, as the killer’s hand gropes for a murder weapon and comes up with—gasp!—a paper clip. But after this sequence, which at least has a tautness inherent in the situation, Student Bodies loses pep, and slack, scattershot gags become the order of the day.

Writer-director Mickey Rose (who has written with Woody Allen) doesn’t display too much good filmic sense—he lets a few nice comedic set-ups just dribble away—and the cast is uniformly lackluster (a shop teacher with an obsession about horsehead bookends should be funnier than he is). But budget limitations—and it sure looks like Student Bodies was shot on a shoestring—may have come into play there, and hamstrung any comic ambitions. It’s not a good movie, but I find it difficult to actually dislike a film that considers Jamie Lee Curtis’s birthday a well-known holiday.

First published in the Weekly, August 12-August 18, 1981

Yes, that’s right—a Scary Movie before its time, predicting the Wayans brothers by all those years. Mickey Rose wrote Bananas and Take the Money and Run with Woody Allen, but this was his only directing shot; some reports suggest he co-directed with Michael Ritchie, who declined credit.