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Douglas Grossman
Maureen Mooney, Christopher Stryker, Christopher Cousins
Writing Credits:
Leo Evans, Douglas Grossman

When four teens play a prank on their teacher, they encounter unforeseen ramifications.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/19/22

• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Douglas Grossman
• Audio Commentary with Critic Joe Bob Briggs
• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Douglas Grossman and Cinematographer Steven Fierberg
• Introduction from Critic Joe Bob Briggs
• Deleted Scene
• “School’s Out” Featurette
• “A Beautiful Nightmare” Featurette
• “Jon-Jon’s Journey” Featurette
• “The More the Better” Featurette
• “Music Is Not Sound” Featurette
• “Back to Schools” Featurette
• Archival Interviews
• Alternate Opening Title
• Trailers & TV Spots


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Hell High [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 27, 2022)

Slasher flicks were a dime a dozen in the 1980s. For an entry with some twists, we go to 1989’s Hell High.

Athletic star Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins) quits the football team. Instead, he decides to hang out with a rougher crowd led by the cruel and violent Dickens (Christopher Stryker).

This crew decides to play a sadistic prank on one of their teachers, Miss Storm (Brooke Mooney). Unbeknownst to the teens, however, Miss Storm harbors her own ugly history, one that means they find themselves with ramifications they didn’t expect.

If nothing else, the movie offers an experience different than I would anticipate based on the title. To me, Hell High conjures notions of a madman who slaughters victims through a schoolhouse.

Instead, much of the story takes place in the vicinity of Miss Storm’s home. Occasional sequences occur at the high school itself, but none of these offer the expected violence.

This becomes a positive twist, as it means High can subvert some expectations. However, although the film goes down paths that seem somewhat unusual for the genre, that doesn’t make it an actual good movie.

Elsewhere on this disc, well-known horror buff/critic Joe Bob Briggs refers to High as a neglected classic. I can’t help but think some of this high regard stems from the fact the movie differs from so many of its 1980s peers, as I fail to locate much that makes High a quality effort.

Though High differs from those 1980s slasher flicks, that doesn’t mean it lacks obvious influences. The movie often feels like a strange mix of Straw Dogs, Breakfast Club and Rebel Without a Cause.

To say High lacks tonal consistency would offer a severe understatement. At times I feel like a nag in my reviews, as it seems as though I refuse to accept movies that embrace more than one genre.

Nope. I just don’t like films that lack focus and fail to integrate these tonal shifts, and High falls into that category.

The film flits from one vibe to another without consistency, and this makes it a mess. It mixes teen hijinks, high school melodrama, juvenile delinquent, slasher and home invasion themes all in one big, messy pot.

At no point does it meld these in a logical or sane manner. All these different components co-exist in a weird, incoherent film that rarely makes a lick of sense.

Again, I do respect the fact that High deviates from the era’s standard tropes. It really does owe more to a flick like Straw Dogs than usual slasher fare, though the nature of the Miss Storm character matches with 1980s horror more than 1970s thrillers.

It just remains impossible to think much of High because it delivers such a weak end product, and I can’t just blame the scattered, incoherent story. Don’t expect much from the actors either.

Most offer campy work at best, wooden at worst. Not a single good performance arrives here, and the actors actively undercut the project’s potential strengths with their weak turns.

Add to that a ridiculous end sequence and Hell High becomes a dud. Admire its semi-ambition as I might, the final film seems silly and ineffectual.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Hell High appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer captured the source nicely.

Overall definition seemed appealing. A little softness impacted a few interiors, but the majority of the movie brought appealing accuracy and detail.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain seemed appropriate, and print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.

Colors went for a natural vibe without any dominant tones outside of heavy red light during the climax. These came across as well-rendered.

Blacks looked deep and dense, while shadows offered good delineation. The image held up pretty well over the last 33 years.

As for the film’s LPCM stereo soundtrack, it seemed more than competent for a film of this sort, though I felt that way mainly because so many 1980s horror flicks stayed one-channel. The soundscape didn’t impress, but it opened up the material in a moderate manner.

This meant good stereo music as well as a decent sense of movement. For instance, cars went from one side to the other in an appealing manner.

A few other elements used the channels in a logical way. Again, none of this felt impressive, but the soundfield showed reasonable engagement.

Dialogue felt decent though a little thick, and some sibilance occurred. Still, the lines always seemed intelligible and suffered from no substantial problems. Music came across as reasonably full and robust, though high-end could seem a bit harsh at times.

Effects had less to do, but they worked fine, as those elements felt fairly accurate and concise. This was a perfectly adequate soundtrack for a 33-year-old horror tale.

A bunch of extras appear here, and we find three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from co-writer/director Douglas Grossman, as he provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, music, editing and related topics.

Expect a decent but erratic commentary. The main problem stems from more than a few dead spots as well as occasions during which Grossman just narrates the movie.

Still, Grossman does provide a good level of information overall. The flaws made this an inconsistent commentary but it comes with enough useful material to merit a listen.

For the second commentary, we hear from critic Joe Bob Briggs. He brings his own running, screen-specific view of cast and crew, story/characters, genre domains, production notes and thoughts about the film.

Briggs offers a mix of film historian material, appreciation and mockery. The latter becomes a bit of a surprise because Briggs genuinely seems to view High as a very good film, but he likes to make fun of tropes and lapses of logic, so that fits his MO.

One probably won’t learn a ton from Briggs’ chat. Nonetheless, he gives us a pretty entertaining reel and comes with enough info to make it worthwhile.

Although the first two commentaries appeared on prior releases of High, the third becomes exclusive to this 2022 release. Co-writer/director Douglas Grossman and cinematographer Steven Fierberg deliver a new, running, screen-specific view of the same topics as Grossman’s solo track, though with more emphasis on photography.

While this commentary manages some new insights, it doesn’t tell us a whole lot we don’t already know from Grossman’s independent piece. Toss in a lot of praise and this becomes a redundant/superfluous discussion too much of the time.

We can watch the film with or without a five-minute, six-second Introduction from Critic Joe Bob Briggs - or more like a four-minute intro, since the first minute just shows an elongated credit reel.

Briggs gives us a quick look at the flick and some of its production highlights. The intro seems watchable but unnecessary.

A Deleted Scene runs two minutes, 10 seconds and comes without sound. We see the main teen characters as they wander about the swamp. It seems utterly inconsequential, though perhaps it would work better if it offered sound.

A few video programs follow, and School’s Out brings another chat with co-writer/director Douglas Grossman. It spans 42 minutes, 55 seconds and looks at Grossman’s youthful interest in movies, High’s development and aspects of the production.

Inevitably, Grossman repeats information from his two commentaries. Nonetheless, he gives us some unique information, and indeed, this becomes probably the most compelling of his three conversations.

A Beautiful Nightmare lasts 28 minutes, 56 seconds and provides additional information from Fierberg. He examines how he got into movies as well as aspects of High.

Fierberg also repeats some info from the commentary, and he can tend to ramble off-topic at times. Still, he adds some decent details.

Next comes Jon-Jon’s Journey, an 18-minute, 49-second interview with actor Christopher Cousins. He looks at his career and time on High during this fairly informative piece.

The More the Better goes for 20 minutes, six seconds and features actor Maureen Mooney. Like Cousins, she tells us about her work as an actor and aspects of High. She gives us a surprising level of introspection during this solid conversation, though she contradicts Grossman’s claim that she and actor Christopher Stryker didn’t get along.

With Music Is Not Sound, we get a chat with composers Rich Macar and Christopher Hyams-Hart that spans 26 minutes, 48 seconds. As expected, they cover the movie’s score in this useful piece.

Back to Schools fills 13 minutes, seven seconds as author/filmmaker Michael Gingold gives us a tour of High locations. It becomes moderately interesting at best.

After this we find a compilation of Archival Interviews. We get one from Grossman (19:30) and another from co-writer Leo Evans (11:41).

Grossman mixes info we got from prior pieces with some new tidbits, while Evans tells us about his experiences during the production. Given that he appears nowhere else on this disc, Evans’ segment becomes the more valuable of the two.

An Alternate Opening Title takes up two minutes, five seconds and differ from those in the main feature because these use Hell High. The primary program opts for Real Trouble as the title, which seems like it should be the alternate, not Hell High.

In addition to two trailers, we find two TV spots. Note that one of the trailers uses the title Raging Fury whereas the other goes for Hell High. They’re identical otherwise.

On one hand, I applaud the fact that Hell High deviates from the well-worn 1980s slasher tropes. On the other hand, it becomes a weirdly inconsistent mix of genres that fails to connect in a coherent and compelling manner. The Blu-ray brings very good picture along with adequate audio and a solid roster of bonus materials. Its ambitions make Hell High better than many 1980s horror flicks but it still doesn’t satisfy

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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