Graduation Day (1981) Review
** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- This Is One School You Won’t Graduate From
Release Date- May 1st, 1981
Running Time- 96-Minutes
Screenplay- Anne Marisse & Herb Freed
Director- Herb Freed
Starring- Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, E. Danny Murphy, Michael Pataki
Most slasher fans will cite the 80s as the best era for these films and most will probably say the early 80s were the peak and while I would agree some people also forget that as many excellent slasher flicks that came out of the early 80s there were also a slew of poor and forgettable movies and Graduation Day is somewhere in the middle. By this time in slasher flicks it was popular to set your movie on a certain day or on a certain event. The setting never seemed that important to the movie, but again by this time it was the cool thing to do and no special day or even were safe. It wasn’t safe any day it seemed in the 80s from Halloween to Prom Night to here with Graduation Day.
Graduation Day has gone on to gain a cult status and it’s not difficult to fully understand; for starters it has a solid cast with one of my favorite actors Christopher George and also features a very small role from Vanna White (who happens to be George’s niece in real life) and we also have Linnea Quigley in a small role. Graduation Day has some nudity and decent gore (but not enough) and like many 80s slasher flicks its silly, but can be entertaining at times.
After the death of a track student a killer shows up and begins to kill off all the members of the track team and that’s the basic plot with nothing really else happening. The screenplay by Anne Marisse & Herb Freed is rather weak with poor characters and more importantly pointless characters; slasher films often have characters that are there to simply die, but most of the characters here were just pointless. Other slasher flicks may also have weak characters, but the characters in Graduation Day make other characters in various slashers seem deep and complex. Quite honestly Graduation Day in my opinion has some of the weakest characters I’ve seen. The mystery aspect fails since there are really only two suspects and both are the only choices, but regardless you should figure out who the killer is, but if you don’t it’s not because the movie was smart, but because it was so poorly handled. Slasher flicks aren’t known for writing, but this is for sure one of the weaker scripts you’ll find.
Director Herb Freed fails at brining much suspense or tension and the pacing can at times be a bit sluggish. Many of the death scenes are during the day and thus it kills any possible suspense. Freed is able to deliver some scenes with decent suspense, but more often than not the film is devoid of any suspense. Later in the movie the band that plays at the roller derby intercut with the killer dispatching of two characters fails miserably and its just sloppy filmmaking even for this style of film. Despite the problems, Freed does deliver some fairly entertaining moments, but as a whole Graduation Day never seems to work.
Overall Gradation Day was a below average entry into the 80s slasher film and while the film does have its moments, but for the most part I found it to be a dud. The first half of the film was ok, but as the film goes on it begins to slump and never really gets going again. The final act was decent with a nice homage to Psycho, but Graduation Day often fails more than it succeeds and while this isn’t the worst of the 80s slasher films its far from the best. Fans of these movies will no doubt find something to like here, but the rest should avoid.