DVD Review: Varsity Blood

Starring: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Debbie Rochon
Director: Jake Helgren
Rating: 4/10

Screenshot (103)It’s Halloween at Hogeye High, and a stalker garbed as the school mascot – a Native American warrior – is offing members of the cheerleading squad and football team with a gigantic tomahawk. Who is the culprit? Could it be the mental patient who’s gone missing from the local asylum? Or could it be the school principal devastated by the death of his daughter in a hastily covered up, alcohol-related accident exactly a year before?

Actually, not a great deal of time is devoted to these questions, even though new girl onScreenshot (99) the squad Hannah (Lexi Giovagnoli) is rightly curious as to why this bloodbath is befalling them and the rest of the cast oblige with reams and reams of backstory. But to be fair to Hannah, she can hardly hear herself think for the regular browbeatings she receives from her strict mother (veteran scream queen Debbie Rochon, playing it very straight), so much so that it takes her a long while to notice that nice shy boy Jeff (Wesley Scott) has the hots for her – but wait, could he be a suspect too?

Screenshot (100)The best thing about Varsity Blood is that if you squint a bit you feel as if you’re watching a genuine ’80s slasher flick; it has the same raw, blank direction and under-rehearsed performances, enough to give you a prickle of familiar pleasure. As you would hope for with the B-word in the title, there’s a decent amount of gore. The most efficiently staged of the murders is the first one up, as a bitchy head cheerleader (nicely played by Elle LaMont) in fetching black lingerie is pursued through the girls’ locker room.

All of the cheerleading stuff is fun in a sub-Hellcats kind of way (although the costumes Screenshot (104)look like they could have used an iron); where the film suffers is when it shifts location to a party (with hardly any people) at a deserted farmhouse (with not much in the way of lights). A lengthy, murky siege situation occurs (if you can have a siege with only one assailant) and much scurrying for safety across pitch-black fields.

Screenshot (105)Before we get to that, though, Varsity Blood does a pretty good job of evoking an authentic small town ambience. According to IMDb, the film was shot in part at writer/director Jake Helgren’s own high school in Elgin, Texas, and to the British eye at least it’s a creepy-looking educational establishment, washed around by a sea of farmland, with crops coming practically right up to the classroom windows. This isn’t a film that brings anything new to the slasher genre, but the baddie’s costume is nifty and eye-catching, if non-PC, and his mighty tomahawk goes crashing into people’s skulls in a satisfyingly crunchy way. A few of the cast trip over the bitchy dialogue, but Lexi Giovagnoli makes for a very pert and amiable lead and Wesley Scott as sensitive Jeff stands out as likeable and natural.

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