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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cutting Class (1989)

It is getting to the point where I’m having to dig pretty deep to find non franchise slasher movies to cover. Cutting Class is a pretty deep dive that is only notable in that it stars a very young Brad Pitt as well as Roddy McDowall. I hadn’t seen this one in years before dusting off my DVD copy (literally!) for this review.

The plot to Cutting Class is pretty straightforward. You have the popular girl, played by Jill Schoelen of Stepfather/Popcorn fame, who is torn between her volatile boyfriend and the weird guy who was just released from a mental institution. The boyfriend, played by Brad Pitt, has anger issues and loses his temper many times. The weird guy was locked up for killing his father, so he has a history of violence.

The plot gets rolling as we see Scholen’s character, Paula, sending her lawyer father off on a hunting trip. He heads into the woods and is shot with an arrow by an unseen killer. Don’t worry though as he doesn’t die and serves as comic relief popping up now and then as he struggles to make it out of the woods. Other characters are dispatched by the killer as the movie keeps trying to make you guess who the murderer is. This leads to quite a bit of stalking and killing until everything is explained.

By the late eighties the formula for slasher movies was well established and honestly played out. You were almost in a no-win situation because there weren’t that many things you could do with the genre. Of course, Scream would reinvent things and give these movies a kick in the butt a few years later, but all we get with Cutting Class are a bunch of recycled ideas that aren’t executed that well. Be warned that there are spoilers coming, so if you don’t like that sort of thing stop reading. You have been warned.

The movie tries very hard to be clever in hiding the identity of the killer. Right from the start the movie gives you the kid just out of the mental asylum as an obvious choice, but then spends much of the movie showing how much of a jerk the boyfriend is. So of course, it must be him. The problem is they make it so obvious that the boyfriend is a red herring that clearly the overly nice “formerly” disturbed kid must be the killer. I know what you are saying, “But John you have already seen this movie…” I remember watching this one the first time and immediately seeing thru it. Plus, everyone that I’ve shown Cutting Class to has made a comment or muttered something to the effect the same sentiment. The writing isn’t good enough to fool us which is kind of important with a story like this.

At least we get some Roddy McDowall!
I’ve also always been bugged by the odd tone that the movie takes. We have some decently disturbing scenes with Pitt’s character losing his temper, you could already see he was going to be a great actor, tossed in with some poorly written silly teenage shenanigans. We also get an inexplicably pervy principal, played by McDowall whom they waste here. The character serves no purpose and sort of disappears part way thru. They must have only had him for a day or two. Finally, there is this odd bit with Paula’s father. I’ve already mentioned that shows up at different parts of the movie struggling and pratfalling with an arrow in his chest. I’m guessing that this was meant as comedic relief as they cast Martin Mull in the role. But it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. I’m really not sure what they were thinking.

The last thing I wanted to talk about are the kills. Even by the standards of the late eighties after the censors had completely neutered the slasher movie Cutting Class is tame. We only get seven kills with much of the best stuff off screen. Some of what we do get on screen is played for laughs, like the photocopier kill. The only interesting kills are the gym teacher impaled on a flagpole and the axe to the math teacher. Though the latter is punctuated with a quip that ruins it. All in all, there isn’t much to see here.

Cutting Class is a generic by the numbers late entry into the initial wave of slasher flicks. It is likely to have been forgotten like most of the later efforts if Brad Pitt hadn’t become a big star. This is another of those cases where they were able to stick someone’s face on the box and sell a bunch of copies. I think that there are much better things to spend both your money and time on. Not recommended.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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