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Varsity Blood (2014)
DVD Released: 8/19/2014
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/26/2014
Any horror film historian knows that the early 80s were dominated by the slasher cycle. Following the runaway success of Halloween and copy-cats like Friday the 13th, everyone wanted to jump on-board the slasher bandwagon. And why not? The movies were relatively cheap to make. All that you needed was some film equipment and a group of teens (or actors posing as teens) who were willing to run around, scream, get covered in fake blood, and maybe take off their shirts. Slap a clever name on the product and wait for the money to roll in. That trend eventually died out, although it came back briefly following the success of Scream. Still, we do see slasher movies pop up from time-to-time, as they are still relatively cheap to make, and they don't get much cheaper than Varsity Blood.
It's the height of football season and the students of Hogeye High love their team. Following the big game, which just happens to be on Halloween night, a group of kids -- jocks and cheerleaders mostly -- travel to a secluded farmhouse to party. New girl in town, Hannah (Lexi Giovagnoli), is hesitant to attend, but she breaks curfew and decides to join the group, as she's become a cheerleader and wants to fit in. While the drinking, hooking up, and bickering commence, someone dressed as the school mascot begins to stalk the group. Is this somehow tied to a secret which the kids are keeping?
I was just a little shaver when the slasher cycle hit, but I remember trying to see as many of them as I could. (I loved horror movies, and as there weren't many alternatives at the time, I soaked up the masked killer entries.) As far as I can recall, I enjoyed the movies at the time. However, when I went back and watched them as adults (thanks to the nostalgic horror boom brought on by DVD and Blu-ray Disc), I found most of these movies to be dreadfully boring. They typically opened with a murder (often taking place in the past) and then fell into a rut of scene after scene of young people talking about ridiculous things. Pepper in a few killings her and there, have the killer chase the lone survivor, unmask the killer (as these movies were often murder-mysteries) and then it would all be over. Within the standard 90-minute slasher movie, there was usually only about 5 minutes of material where something was actually happening.
And this is where Varsity Blood comes in. If Writer/Director Jake Helgren's goal was to perfect emulate the quality of most 80s slasher movies, then he has triumphed. The movie has the look and feel of those movies, as we are treated to slack pacing, atrocious acting, a barely-existent storyline, teenage partying, a sex scene (which is a tattooed mess), a masked killer, and some light gore. The movie follows the old pattern perfectly, as we get an early murder and then a lot of talking and arguing. Apparently, the killer had to walk or hitch a ride to the farmhouse, as it takes him a while to get there and commence with the slaughter. As if things weren't bad enough, the movie is crammed with too many characters, and many of them are interchangeable. You won't be able to tell who's who and you won't really care.
OK, if nothing else, a movie like this should have at least two things going for it. First of all, we should get some imaginative and entertaining kills. Varsity Blood strikes out in that department, as the murders are very pedestrian, save for the victims which are killed via bow and arrow. Bow and arrow? Is this Robin Hood? Well, the killer has a cool costume, right? Not really. I think it's supposed to be a Southwestern ceremonial mask and a poncho, but it looked like the Witch Doctor from the Scooby Doo Where are You! episode "A Tiki Scare is No Fair". So, not exactly the most intimidating villain in screen history.
The final nail in Varsity Blood's coffin is that the movie is so dark that it's often difficult to tell what is happening. Say what you will about today's horror movies, but one advantage which they have over the old classics is that they can be shot in HD equipment for relatively little money (when compared to older films) and typically look very slick. Varsity Blood looks like a low-budget production which only further lessens its appeal. The movie's claim to fame seems to be that it was shot at the same high school were Varsity Blues was shot. Maybe you should stick to that corny football film and skip this shoddy attempt at horror.
Varsity Blood offers the worst game of Truth or Dare ever on DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is somewhat sharp and clear during the early daytime scenes. However, as noted above, the image is very dark the action is difficult to make out at times. The colors look OK, most notably the orange of the cheerleader uniforms. The image is consistently flat and the picture is somewhat soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are adequate, as they reveal some off-screen sounds. There are minimal surround sound effects during the action scenes. I didn't note any outstanding subwoofer effects.
The Varsity Blood DVD doesn't contain any extra features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long