‘Where the school colours are blood red!’
Splatter University is an American slasher horror film directed, edited, co-produced and co-written by Richard W. Haines. The movie stars Forbes Riley [as Francine Forbes], Ric Randig, Dick Biel, Kathy Lacommare and Laura Gold.
Having been filmed in 1981, extra scenes were added in 1982 to bring it up to feature-length and the movie was eventually distributed by Troma Entertainment in 1984.
Vinegar Syndrome released Splatter University newly restored in 2K from the 16mm camera negative on January 29, 2019. The release includes reversible cover artwork. Special features:
Audio commentary track with director Richard W. Haines
Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcast
Audio interview with composer Christopher Burke
A patient escapes from a mental hospital, killing one of his keepers and then stealing his uniform.
Three years later, a teacher is working late and gets stabbed and killed by the same patient, after he makes his way to the local college. Next semester, the late prof’s replacement and a new group of students have to deal with a new batch of killings…
“This college-themed slasher never takes itself too seriously with a subtle sense of humor, but plays it straight with the slashing! Splatter U is filled with POV shots, red herrings, inventive deaths (watch for the bloodless knife-down-the-throat kill), sax-crazed college students, religious undertones, and some of the most outrageous 80’s fashions, all rounded out with an enjoyably cheesy keyboard synth score.” Slasher Studios
“Abysmally motiveless killing and rock-bottom acting; flunks even as camp.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics
” …if not for the rather cheap production value and occasional Happy Birthday To Me-esque hijinks committed by our core cast, I’d actually consider them to be really good shock twists. But the loose and sloppy approach to this sort of material leads me to believe that it wasn’t intentional…” Horror Movie a Day
“Francine Forbes is the only real actor in the cast. She brings a charming innocence to this film. The rest of the cast must be friends or relatives of the filmmakers. They obviously weren’t hired on talent or good looks. The killer’s identity is a bit of a surprise, but the actor looks too silly to be menacing.” Retro Slashers
Richard W. Haines recalls working on Splatter University:
I graduated from NYU’s film school in 1979 and immediately went to work in New York City’s indie film industry. My first job was sound editing Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day. He then sent me over to his brother, Lloyd, who operated a low budget production/distribution company, Troma Inc.
I did sound editing for Waitress! then edited Stuck on You, The First Turn On and The Toxic Avenger while simultaneously developing my own properties.
My first feature film was Splatter University which was shot in 1981 at age 24. I co-produced it with my ex-college roommate, John Michaels. We were able to scrape up enough to get the picture on film for $25,000. Then we ran out of money and continued to work on other movies while funding post-production.
Although I storyboarded the script and did extensive pre-production work, I discovered that principal photography consisted primarily of troubleshooting since nothing went as planned. We secured Mercy College in Yorktown, New York for the school location and were promised two weeks to film there during a break.
At the last minute, they reduced it to one week. That meant we had to shoot around the clock to get it done. I averaged about five hours of sleep per day. One of the actors didn’t show up so I had to fill in and played the role of a Priest in one scene. Our production manager was so overwhelmed, our leading lady, Francine Forbes, ended up coordinating much of the shoot.
Our special effects artists, Amodio Giordano and Ralph Cordero, were the youngest crew members on set. Ralph was still in high school. They ended up crashing out on the floor of the classroom between F/X shots during the Mercy College shoot rather than going home to rest. We barely made our deadline and they were mopping up stage blood while students arrived back to school after the break. They did a good job despite our budget limitations.
Other locations included the Hollowbrook Drive Drive-In located in Peekskill, New York. My family used to go there when I was a child and the film was booked there in 1984. Audiences could see the actual drive-in they were attending as they watched that scene in the movie.
Like many low budget horror films of the era, we shot in 16mm because that was the cheapest way to go. The blow-up to 35mm was only $6,000 at the time. Other features that went that route included The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Martin. We used some NYU equipment by having one of the students who worked on our movie borrow it from our alma mater.
It took another year to edit the film and we discovered it was too short with a 65-minute running time. We showed our rough cut to potential distributors and they told us we needed a minimum of 80 minutes for theatrical release. They suggested adding a framing device making the killer priest an escaped mental patient to avoid offending religious viewers. In addition, they told us to add some Porky’s type humour to enhance its appeal to the targeted youth demographic.
I had no choice but to add this footage if I wanted the movie released although it changed the tone of the film. The original cut had fairly good acting by the leads and was a semi-legitimate horror film. By adding the prologue and sophomoric humour it made the film very campy. While I wasn’t crazy about this alteration it’s what gave the picture its cult following.
We rounded up non-professionals to shoot these extra scenes and let them to overact and camp it up as requested. We ended up with a 79 minute running time which was acceptable for a feature presentation.
Since I was still working as an editor at Troma, I licensed the movie to them for distribution so I could track its release. In 1986, the rights returned to me and I marketed it afterwards. While far from my best movie, it was a financial success which enabled me to get funding for additional projects.
Richard W. Haine’s recollections first appeared in Filmrage.