Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Jake Helgren
Writer: Jake Helgren
Producer: Elizabeth Snoderly, Jake Helgren
Stars: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Natalie Peyton, Blair Jackson, Elyse Bigler, Melody Herron, Jesse Ferraro, Kiarra Hogan, Elle LaMont, Chris Hlozek, Debbie Rochon
The students of Hogeye High have their Halloween party upended by a masked murderer bent on revenge for a small town secret.
The new girl at Hogeye High has her hands full with enough teenage melodrama to fill a full season of “Dawson’s Creek” and enough red herring to choke a lake. After her father was killed by a drunk driver, Hannah and her mother Nancy moved to a new town. Hannah now dates football jock Blaine, even though good guy Jeff is the one with the real puppy love crush on Hannah. Linda teases Jeff about his crush relentlessly. When she isn’t teasing her friend Heather about Heather’s lifelong crush on Peter, that is. Unfortunately for Linda’s friend, Peter is actually into school slut Vickie, who also happens to be Heather’s stepsister.
Linda should mind her own business anyway. Yearbook photographer Robin and her beau Bubba already have their buddy Jeff’s back when it comes to winning Hannah’s heart. Besides, Linda has enough trouble staying on the good side of her father, the town sheriff. At the same time, Sheriff Jones has his own hands full once Dispatcher Saxon reports that Ben Youngblood has gone missing from the nearby mental health facility. Ben is the brother of Mark Youngblood, and both are the sons of Rick Youngblood, who is now dating Hannah’s single mother Nancy. Ben has been in a catatonic state ever since the tragic death one year earlier of Principal Graves’ daughter Ginny.
See, unbeknownst to Hannah, she is the cheerleader who assumed Ginny’s vacant spot on the spirit squad. This is a fact that bitchy cheerleader co-captain Tina has no problem reminding Hannah of. Tina, who is dating Blaine’s friend Mike, assumes full captain duties when head cheerleader Diane, who is secretly having side sex with Hannah’s boyfriend Blaine, goes missing. What no one knows just yet is that someone dressed in the school mascot costume of a weird-looking Warrior already murdered Diane in the school’s gymnasium on the night before Halloween.
Who could the killer be underneath the goofy googly-eyed tiki/witch doctor mask? Well, the three preceding paragraphs introduce 18 different names. Over 20 if you include everyone who is dead, too. Then there is still Herman, the bullied nerd normally in the mascot suit on the sidelines when he isn’t receiving a swirlie in the lavatory toilet. Of course, Coach Randall and Miss Benton probably should not be ruled out, either. Oh, neither can local tavern owner Myrtle, who rumor has it may also be a witch. Wait, what? How many characters does an 84-minute teen slasher really need?
Got all of that straight? Don’t bother. It isn’t that the characters, relationships, and subplots of “Varsity Blood” are too confusing to keep track of. It is that they are too uninteresting to care.
Standing out amidst a morass of forgettable low-budget indie horror is already a difficult enough task. Distill that niche further by slotting specifically into an overcrowded subgenre like high school slasher and a movie really has its work cut out for it. Yet “Varsity Blood” is so generic, its poster art may as well be an empty white space with plain black text.
Everything about the film is disposable. The story takes place on Halloween, although you’d never know it if not for brief mentions of the holiday in dialogue. An occasional jack-o-lantern crops up once in a while, even a random trick-or-treater here and there, but nothing that remotely sells a distinctly crisp Fall setting. What kinds of teenagers throw a party on October 31st where not one single person wears a costume? A better question is what kinds of teenagers throw a party that features underage drinking, underage sex, cocaine use, and… roasting marshmallows around a campfire?
The script features all of the typically expected teen slasher staples. Bitchy cheerleaders. Meatheaded jocks. Dumb behavior by everyone involved (e.g. when the killer drives a truck at a victim running towards a tree, the girl freezes on the side of the tree facing the killer so that she can be swiftly crushed – instead of, you know, moving two feet to the other side of the tree, which would have stopped the truck). Except nowhere in that formula did “Varsity Blood” make an effort to include a memorable hook, a unique personality, or something worth mentioning as a reason to react with anything other than a yawn.
Including over 25 named characters might make sense if the overstuffed roster was intended to pad a body count. But after the lone pre-opening credits death, the killer does not strike again until the 47-minute mark. That leaves a lot of room to be filled with every pointless plot element outlined above, like the forehead-slapping whodunit angle that would have been laughed out of the writer’s room at a “Scooby-Doo” script meeting. Top things off with a lifeless cast delivering lines at rapid-fire speed in mumbling monotones, and cinematography so dark that the blood may as well be Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and you have no reason why “Varsity Blood” should be given a shot when so many superior selections sit on the shelf.
Whatever “Varsity Blood” thought it was doing to make a name for itself, if anything, didn’t manifest. This isn’t bad acting and uninspired filmmaking winking with post-modern irony to be self-aware entertainment, a send-up of the subgenre, or a sly tribute to sins of slashers past. It’s just bad acting and uninspired filmmaking.
Review Score: 20