HELL HIGH aka RAGING FURY (1986) Reviews and overview

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Hell High aka Raging Fury is a 1989 released American slasher horror film directed and co-produced by Douglas Grossman from a screenplay he co-wrote with Leo Evans. The film was made in 1986 and originally titled What Do You Want to Do Tonight?

The movie stars Christopher Stryker, Maureen Mooney, Christopher Cousins (Earth vs. the Spider; The Vampire Diaries), Millie Prezioso and Jason Brill (Office Killer).

A teacher still haunted by the death of two teens that she accidentally caused as a young girl goes beserk when four teens start harassing her and then attack her in her home…

Review:
It film kicks off showing a little girl who is out in the swamp, playing with her doll. She watches in horror while two teenage lovers get killed as the result of a macabre motorcycle accident. It’s a pretty disturbing sight, especially since one of the lovers ends up getting impaled and spitting blood all over the place. Bleh!

Anyway, the girl grows up to be high school science teacher Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney). She’s a good teacher but she’s also extremely repressed and haunted by the image of that impaled girl spitting up blood.

Unfortunately, one of Ms Storm’s students is a sociopath named Dickens (Christopher Stryker). Dickens is the type of student who goes to football games just so he can threaten the injured players with a gigantic switchblade. Oddly, no one seems to notice Dickens standing on the sidelines, holding a gigantic knife over a helpless jock. At first, I thought that this meant that Dickens was meant to be either a ghost or a figment of someone’s imagination but no, Dickens is real. I guess people are just so used to being threatened by Dickens that no one even notices anymore.

Anyway, Dickens has three friends. Queenie (Millie Prezioso) is the tough girl who bares her breasts to anyone who stops by her house. Smiler (Jason Brill) is the fat guy who is always smiling, no matter how upset he is. Smiler continually says things like, “What’s gotten into that Dickens?” and “My mamma said there’d be days like this.” And then there’s Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins) who is Dickens’s newest friend. Jon-Jon’s essentially a good kid but a little weak-willed. He’s got a crush on Queenie and Dickens seems to have a crush on him.

Anyway, Dickens and his friends decide to play a prank on Miss Storm but, in the process of doing so, they cause her to have flashbacks to that day in the swamp. And soon, Miss Storm is stalking all four of them. How dangerous is Miss Storm? Well, she’s dangerous enough that she can kill you with a number two pencil. You thought Liam Neeson was a creative and relentless killing machine in Taken? He’s got nothing on Brooke Storm!

Anyway, Hell High is kind of an oddity. On the one hand, it’s pretty much a standard slasher film. On the other hand, the film has just enough strange moments to distinguish it. Yes, there’s Dickens with the knife on the football field. But there’s also Smiler with his nonstop grin. And Queenie with her relentless mood swings. And there’s the strangely off-kilter dialogue, which is full of random song lyrics. And then there’s the film’s twist ending, which makes little sense but it is still satisfying in its own over the top way. Overall, Hell High is a thoroughly odd but undeniably effective 80s horror film.

A lot of the credit has to go to the film’s cast, all of whom give far better performances than the material really deserves. Maureen Mooney is both scary and sympathetic as poor Miss Storm while Christopher Cousins is likeable as the somewhat weak-willed Jon-Jon.

The film, however, is truly dominated by Christopher Stryker. Stryker goes all out as the crazy Dickens and it’s unfortunate that he died shortly after Hell High was released. Had he lived, he’d probably now be a Sid Haig-style character actor, popping up in indie horror movies and Quentin Tarantino films.

So, watch Hell High if you get a chance.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

Other reviews:
“Director Douglas Grossman uses some interesting camera angles to give the murders more impact. One of the best involves a recently lobotomized victim staggering down a flight of stairs with his eyes rolling back in his head and a Number 2 pencil protruding from his temple. Leo Evans, along with co-writer Grossman, gives the characters in Hell High more layers than one would expect in a low budget slasher.” Retro Slashers

” … it’s definitely a pretty good horror movie in general. For starters, there’s an amazing 80’s pop soundtrack, coupled with a truly memorable and creepy main theme and some Carpenter-esque cues during the horror scenes. Someone needs to get me this soundtrack ASAP. Also, it’s almost a shame that the mask-wearing folks aren’t the killers, because two of the masks they wear are pretty awesome.” Horror Movie a Day

Hell-High-Dickens

“There’s a great money shot that was used on most covers and marketing material and it sees the teacher running down the stairs in silhouette with a knife in her hand a la Norman Bates. In fact, the photography from Stephen Fierberg is by far the best thing technically about the picture. The scenes in the swamp are particularly gloomy and atmospheric and superbly lighted.” A Slash Above…

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“A decent little slasher that breaks the mold of the typical theme we’re all used to seeing from the ’80s. Worth a check if you can sit through the story, but don’t expect a lot of deaths or gore.” Upcoming Horror Movies

“A straightforward, no-frills effort from one-time director Grossman, with the marked difference of electing a final boy (who looks like Judd Nelson) rather than the usual girl, and pretty much closing the book without a convoluted twist to cap it off.” 2.5/5 stars Vegan Voorhees

Hell High really had a lot of potential but director Douglas Grossman screwed the pooch when he made the audience wait 70 minutes into the 79-minute movie for the antagonists to get their comeuppance. When they finally do buy the farm though, it’s damn good times.” 2/5 The Video Vacuum

“The film itself fails miserably. The acting is on the level of a high school production, while everything else is Grade D-minus. Even within the limited expectations of the horror genre, it’s not particularly satisfying, since the chills are all on the cheap.” The Washington Post

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Filming locations:
The Bronx, Scarsdale and Westchester, New York

Censorship:
The British PolyGram VHS release was cut 1 minute 36 seconds by the BBFC to avoid anarchy in the streets. The lurid sleeve artwork was later re-used for a Dutch release of Alice, Sweet, Alice. The 2013 American Shriek Show DVD includes an enthusiastic commentary by Joe Bob Briggs.

Our rating:

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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