Graduation Day (1981)

GRADUATION DAY (1981)
Article 3724 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2011
Posting Date: 10-25-2011
Directed by Herb Freed
Featuring Christopher George, Patch MacKenzie, E. Danny Murphy
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A high school student dies upon the completion of a race at a track meet. Shortly after that, the other members of her track team begin to be killed off one by one. Who is the killer? Is it the deceased student’s strange sister? The bad-tempered coach? The harried principal? The father of the deceased girl? The stupid pot-smoking cop? One of the students?

Right before I watched this movie, I read a couple of blurbs about it from some of my sources, plus I recalled a short review that I’d read about it some time ago that purported to give away the end of the movie. After having actually watched the movie, I found myself a little amused by the fact that each of the blurbs had been inaccurate. The ending given away by the one source turned out to be wrong, though I’m willing to entertain the idea that it may have been purposefully inaccurate in order to throw off the reader. One emphasized the use of field and track equipment as murder weapons, but I’m not aware of any track and field events that use boards of spikes, switchblades or swords. And one review magically concocts an elaborate backstory (involving a “Dear John” letter, some pitchfork murders, and a the revival of a traditional Graduation dance as the event that sets off the murders) that simply doesn’t exist in any way, shape or form in the movie I saw. Maybe they weren’t from faulty memories; after all, many of these slasher movies come off as clones of each other, and I bet it’s hard to keep them straight at times. As for the movie itself, it’s pretty bad. The murder scenes are singularly devoid of suspense, some of the murders are pretty silly, there are too many unnecessary characters, and its handling of some of the slasher film cliches is pretty clumsy (especially the cliche about the discovery of the dead bodies at various times and locations being used for shock effect). There’s a few interesting tricks in editing that would have been effective had the rest of the movie worked, but I’m particularly disappointed on how the movie fails to use the killer’s gimmick (he carries a stopwatch to time out the murders) in any way to increase the tension. At least it doesn’t hint at a sequel, and none was forthcoming.

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