Director: Rospo Pallenberg
Writer: Steve Slavkin
Distributor: Republic Pictures Home Video
Music: Jill Fraser
Runtime: 91 min.
Starring: Donovan Leitch Jr. – Brian
Jill Schoelen – Paula
Brad Pitt – Dwight
Roddy McDowall – Mr. Dante
Martin Maul – William
When thinking about the big time “before they were stars” roles in horror films, a few come to mind immediately. Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th just to name a couple. Rarely mentioned is a young Brad Pitt in the high school slasher Cutting Class. In 1989, Pitt had some cameos in a few films, had a some minor roles in film and television, but hadn’t really had a starring role. That is, until Rospo Pallenberg’s directorial singlet.
Surprisingly enough, the crew for this film has an impressive resume. Pallenberg was an uncredited writer of The Exorcist II: The Heretic. Writer Steve Slavkin was the creator of the beloved Nickelodeon show Salute Your Shorts. Then, throw in special effects guru Robert E. McCarthy, who worked his magic in Phantasm II, Return of the Living Dead and would go on to work with artistic god David Lynch in Twin Peaks (TV and Fire Walk with Me), and you have all the making of something special. Well, sort of.
Cutting Class is a pretty typical teen slasher. Still riding the wave of the 80s flurry of psycho killers mangling teens, this film doesn’t add anything too memorable to the sub-genre. In all honesty, the film’s only reason for rediscovery would be Pitt. Fans of the actor grab this up and watch how, even at a young age, Brad was light years ahead of his peers at mastering his craft.
When District Attorney William (Maul) heads to the woods for a week of hunting and r&r, his daughter Paula (Jill Schoelen) is left to hold down the fort and stay busy in her studies. Naturally, as any rebel teen filled with rapidly increasing hormones, her boyfriend Dwight (Pitt) sees it as an opportunity to party and bang his high school sweetheart. Paula is the “hottie” of the school, catching the eye of many of the young men (and principal Mr. Dante), but none more than Brian (Donovan Leitch Jr.). Brain is a troubled youngster. He has recently returned from an institution for cutting the brakes on his old man’s car, which lead to his demise. Decked out in a super sweet black blazer and menacing blank stare, Brian sneaks around the school, creeping everyone out. Well, everyone but Paula; she seems to find it charming…for some reason.
Meanwhile, in the forest, DA Will is hot on the trail of water foul when an arrow plunges into his chest. As we see progressively through the film, though, the arrow was not a kill shot. Set up as the comedy relief from the heavy material of teenagers and school teachers being offed by a 16 year old, William struggles through the woods trying to stay alive. He’s even walked over by the biology teacher while the kids are on a field trip…to the marsh? I guess? It’s time out of class, I suppose. But who approved a field trip into a thick patch of forest?
Anyway, the film makes the audience believe that Brain is committing the murders for the first 70 minutes. At the last possible moment, they throw in some red herrings of sorts in the form of Brad Pitt and an “off his rocker” janitor to maybe confuse the audience right before the big “who dunnit” reveal.
As stated early, this is a pretty standard slasher. A studio’s way of cashing at the end of slasher era. There are some fairly gruesome death scenes, which makes sense considering the mastermind behind the special effects. Pitt is the stand out. Martin Maul really isn’t on screen that much and when he is, it’s for comedic reasons. He really is playing that bumbling cop role made famous in 70s shock films. Roddy McDowall is the same. Barely on screen and when he is, he’s the perverted old high school principal looking to catch a peek on some teenaged underwear.
The writing is descent. As far as a story goes, it flows fairly well. You’re never confused or wondering where this train is headed. For me, the problem with Cutting Class, and slashers of the like, is that we’ve seen it before. And we’ve seen it done one hundred times better. It’s not necessarily a “bad” movie. It’s just not that great. Give it a watch if you want to see a young Pitt and discover why it was a no brainer that this guy was going places. His acting really does make his counterparts look silly.
That’s all for this film. Stay posted on new things coming from Glynn Avenue Massacre and, as always, let me know what you think about this film. What do you like or dislike about it? Check back in frequently for new material. And as always…stay spooked.