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""Graduation Day" is an obscure yet interesting little slasher film. The movie doesn't really offer anything we haven't seen a million times before, doesn't really do anything spectacular with its miniscule budget, but it is an enjoyable movie nonetheless. I was a bit surprised to see Troma--those purveyors of abysmal cinema--distributing the DVD version of the film. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised since Lloyd Kaufman occasionally recognizes he must give the public something worthwhile to balance out the junk that constitutes the bulk of the Troma canon. "Graduation Day" came out in the early 1980s during that halcyon time when slasher films ruled the roost (and the box office) thanks to motion pictures like John Carpenter's "Halloween" and Sean Cunningham's "Friday the 13th." Most of the films attempting to cash in on the success of the splatter genre faded into obscurity. Thanks to the advent of DVD, we can now see both the good and the bad entries in this memorable cinematic movement. If that means we must turn our eyes to Troma to do so, then so be it. "Graduation Day" starts with an opening sequence so cheesy, so horrifyingly awful to behold, that it almost made me turn the film off. Imagine, if you dare, the camera panning across your typical high school track and field event. Since the film takes place in that painful gray area between the late 1970s and early 1980s, most of the people we see look so geeky that even Bill Gates would have stigmatized them. Feathered coifs, lame T-shirts, lots of smiles caked in braces, and a background song with a decidedly disco motif that had me grinding my teeth into powder nearly sent me running to the local mental motel. As bad as the first five minutes of "Graduation Day" is, there truly is a method to the madness. We see a young girl beating her feet around the track, straining to pull into the lead and finish first as her testosterone drenched coach roars her on to victory. The girl does win, but she collapses and dies immediately after crossing the finish line amidst roars of shock from the crowd. It turns out the hapless young lady trained so hard to compete in the race that she ignored her deteriorating health, as did her domineering coach. You just know after seeing this unfortunate incident that someone will seek bloody revenge for the now dead girl.Someone does start turning the student body into mincemeat shortly after the track and field fiasco, with special attention paid to the other members of the track team. We know this because the killer, who is some doofus clad in a sweatshirt with a hood, has a team picture of the track jocks he holds up to the camera every chance he or she gets. Every time the murderer offs one of the dead girl's teammates, he draws a red 'X' over that person's face in the snapshot. The kids die in various tepid ways. One of the girls dies in the locker room, one jock gets his on a trail running through the dense forest behind the school, and one girl dies outside of a party at the roller skating rink (!). I would like to tell you the kills are memorable in a way that puts all other slasher films to shame, but I won't lie to you. The whole slice and dice situation is quite mediocre for the genre as a whole. Several subplots take up large segments of the film, such as the put upon principal dealing with angry parents, a geeky music teacher who sleeps with his female students, and the sister of the dead girl who arrives home from the Navy to confront her angry stepfather and the apathy of the student body. The overbearing coach gets screen time too. So why is "Graduation Day" a memorable film possibly worth viewing? Maybe it has something to do with the in your face early 1980s atmosphere. Check out that party at the roller skating rink. Man, oh man is that scene about as close as you can get to a time warp back to the days of early MTV, New Wave music, and Valley Girl speak. The band banging away in the background alone should give anyone who lived through that time a serious case of the flashbacks. The presence of Linnea Quigley in one of her first screen appearances also speaks well for the film, or maybe not depending on your views. The best element of the film, however, is the warped conclusion. Up to the end of the movie "Graduation Day" just sort of meanders along, not quite sure of itself, but the film takes a dive into the depths of weird when we finally discover who has been dispatching some of the locals. The atmosphere and the conclusion helped "Graduation Day" when nearly every other element failed to deliver. Why, for example, is there a kid walking around in a football uniform at the end of the school year? I thought football season ended before Christmas. Sometimes it is better to avoid such pesky questions and instead focus on the positives.Since Troma Films released "Graduation Day," you can expect a boatload of lame extras typical of every Kaufman and company disc. This one has an interview with Linnea Quigley, trailers, a lousy sketch on how to stage an arm dismemberment, and a shameless plug for Kaufman's book about filmmaking (By the way, if you need to learn how to make a film from a guy like Kaufman, you should probably keep you day job flipping burgers.). Give "Graduation Day" a chance if you like slasher films. Sure, there are films with more gore and better atmosphere, but there are also worse ones than this movie. What a ringing endorsement, eh?"
Sort of a let down...
Xanadu | New Lenox, ILL | 07/03/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you're expecting something like "Friday the 13th" or "Halloween" out of this, you only sort of get it. Theres a masked killer murdering teens, but it doesn't have the actual fun of F13's or the scares of the "Halloween" series. For the most part, it's pretty boring, in the same way "Prom Night" was, but even more so. Theres a TON of boring build-up, with teens and teachers having conversations, and stuff. The kills are pretty lame, too. However, it's not completely bad. It's actually pretty well made, and the directing is pretty good. You also get to see some cool clothes and hair from the early 80's, which was very enjoyable for me. But, again, it's mostly a snoozer, but it really doesn't deserve less than two stars. I sort-of reccomend it..."
Linnea Quigley AND Vanna White!...
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 02/14/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Our tale opens w/ the unexpected death of a highschool track-star. Next, we find the dead gal's sister returning to town, just in time for graduation. That's when the teenagers start dying off in hideous and grisly ways! Yep, GRADUATION DAY is another teen / revenge movie ala PROM NIGHT, etc. This time we get Christopher George (GRIZZLY, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, PIECES) as the mean track coach, obsessed w/ perfection. We also get Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS) as Dolores, a girl who just can't seem to keep her clothes on! Then, there's a young Vanna White (!) in a small role (alas, her clothes stay put)! GD isn't a bad movie, and it has enough humor and gratuitous nudity to move things along. Did I mention Ms. Quigley? Oh my!..."
0.5 STARS: Cheaply done and forgettable.
HorrorMan | The Marsten House | 10/02/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The more I watch these movies and the older I get, the more I appreciate movies like the original "Halloween"; the more I also appreciate good acting within such a slasher flick. Needless to say, the poorly executed plot in "Graduation Day" suffers from horrible acting which leads to an artificial and lifeless screenplay/action.
"Graduation Day" is about a girl named Laura who died while running for her school track team. Apparently, the coach pushed her too hard, and her heart gave out. At any rate, members of the track team begin meeting their death one by one at the hands of a dorky-looking villain dressed up in a fencer's outfit. The kills are not that great...the football sword that killed the football player is absolutely ridiculous. There is ZERO character development and the plot suffers accordingly. The mood and theme of the movie are poorly established at best and the action does not flow well whatsoever.
Frankly, there isn't much at all to this film's credit. "Graduation Day" definitely attempted to cash in on other holiday/eventful slasher flicks like: Halloween, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool's Day and Silent Night/Deadly Night. Some of these movies are good, most of them are not..."Graduation Day" is most certainly not a good slasher flick.
If you are looking for a good slasher flick, don't look here because it is so poorly done, you will be sorely disappointed. Crucial to any horror movie's success as such is how the movie builds atmosphere, suspense and anticipation along with the development of the characters and the plot of the flick itself...all of this is missing in "Graduation Day", and the result is a lifeless movie which comes across as a bunch of random events barely tied together by a weak and underdeveloped plot."
Stanley Virgulto Jr. | Connecticut | 04/02/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is one movie that I'm glad I have in my collection. If you liked PROM NIGHT, and TERROR TRAIN...you'll like this one alot. It's one of those campy, suspense, who dunnit slashers...great find!"