You’ll come for the young Brad Pitt. And, let’s face it, you’ll stay for the young Brad Pitt, with a bit of blood, in this stale slasher.
Students and teachers are murdered by a mysterious killer as everyone rushes to figure out who the culprit is. Let’s dig into 1989’s “Cutting Class”, directed by Rospo Pallengberg!
As I See It
The plot is as uninspired as it comes; winding down the golden era of horror with a whimper of a slasher film.
The meat-and-potatoes here is that we get Brad Pitt in just his second credited role. I’ve seen various opinions on the internet over the years about Pitt’s lack of talent as an actor (often citing his poor accents and including his Italian accent for Inglourious Basterds, which is mind-boggling since it was a very intentional thing), and it has always puzzled me. I fancy myself a better-than-average film watcher, and I think the boy’s got some promise (sarcasm).
There is an air of overconfidence in his earlier performances, sure. But, even here in this poorly written, passionless, formulaic teen slasher, it is clear that he’s not just a pretty face. He’s done some fantastic work later in his career, but even in the early nineties, he had some bit parts that were scene-stealing because of his talent (think True Romance).
Alright, enough about the handsome guy… well, there isn’t much to say beyond him.
Jill Schoelen is great. She displays emotion easily and demands endearment with no effort.
Besides the two charming leads, there are a couple of unique kills — the kiln-kill being one, though it’s probably pulled off a bit too quick for gore hounds’ liking. And we’re treated to one of the goofiest climax fights, in one of the most dangerous parts of high school, the workshop.
The tone switching to whimsical and comedic falls flat as there is no real comedy going on. The killer (SPOILER: it’s always going to be the kid that wears bowling shoes) suddenly becomes susceptible to puns and rhymes.
Ultimately, it’s just a mess of unfocused energy. Still, I recommend watching it. That A list star power goes a long way, Brad.
Jill Schoelen has graced the Dig before with The Stepfather.
Roddy McDowall (Mr. Dante) is terribly underutilized here as the creepy principal. Any genre fan can confirm that after seeing him as Peter Vincent in Fright Night.
Martin Mull happens to be an intellectual hero of mine, completely unrelated to his film and TV work. You may recall him as Colonel Mustard in the brilliant and underrated Clue, as Leon in the original run of Roseanne, or from the Melissa Joan Hart Sabrina the Teenage Witch series.
Of Gratuitous Nature
There is plenty to balk at here. It is an eighties high school horror after all.
There is the requisite topless close-up in the girls’ locker room. The bottomless cheerleader (Brenda James) puts on a show for the crowd at the basketball game. Jill Schoelen has another “underage” (though she is even older than she was in The Stepfather scene, and at least this time they pulled a hand bra and did something with the moment) bathing scene.
We really should have seen some more of Brad Pitt if there was any fairness to being required to disrobe earlier in your career to “make it”.
Reportedly, Pitt wasn’t shy about showing it as he flashed a passing motorist during the production and had to chat with the police about it.
It has to be Brad Pitt, right? Jill Schoelen is unbelievably cute (hell, even Pitt thought so as they were briefly engaged), but I have to concede to the king of heartthrobs instead of taking the contrarian way out.
Ripe for a Remake
Eli Roth extracted probably the only unique element of the film (besides the kiln kill) by using the trampoline kill in his faux trailer for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature Grindhouse. His was admittedly a bit sexier, unless your thing is old, bald, gym teachers with knee-high socks being impaled by an American flag. Beyond those two kills, there is nothing to mine here.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Vinegar Syndrome released a Blu-Ray in 2018 with 5(!!!) different slipcovers. These have since sold out but can be found on the secondary market. You can also rent this treasure on Alamo on Demand.