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Monday, March 4, 2024 | Reviews


Starring Donovan Leitch Jr., Brad Pitt, and Jill Schoelen
Written by Steve Slavkin
Directed by Rospo Pallenberg
MVD Rewind

We all know Brad Pitt as the superstar who can pretty much write his own ticket these days, but there was a time when Pitt was building his street cred and appearing in all kinds of out-there B-list fare (Ralph Bakshi’s Cool World, anyone?). CUTTING CLASS is another entry in the early Pitt oeuvre, and several decades later, it remains a messy mashup of teen comedy and slasher. Both silly and pervy, it sends up its respective genres, beating Wes Craven’s Scream to the punch by four years. MVD Rewind has seen fit to remaster this bad boy in both 1080p and 4K for your viewing pleasure.

Although Pitt’s name would fly higher on marquees, CUTTING CLASS’ star is Donovan Leitch Jr., here playing troubled teen Brian – who was just released from a psychiatric facility for the murder of his father. Now that Brian has returned to school, it’s not sitting well with his old friend, Dwight (Pitt), especially considering that Brian has eyes for Dwight’s girlfriend, Paula (Jill Schoelen). Coincidentally, Paula’s father (Martin Mull) is viciously attacked while away on a hunting trip, and the wheels of the plot are spun as the body count goes up.

As expected from a 35-year-old high school slasher parody, some elements have aged poorly. There’s a creepy sequence early on in which Paula is roped into posing in her bathing suit for an art class, which just feels plain wrong. The film’s lecherousness is just amped up when Roddy McDowall, who’s otherwise great in this, is portrayed in several scenes as a pervy principal trying to sneak a peek at Schoelen’s booty. 

The pervy voyeurism on display here (and the bystander culture surrounding it) is so rampant, and coming from the male adults in positions of power (principal, art teacher, etc.) that it crosses the line, even in a film from 1989 (especially for this writer, a male elementary classroom teacher when he’s not watching schlocky horror movies). Nobody steps in to correct any of the teachers’ behavior. Even the police aren’t summoned until something like three murders in. The movie’s off-putting skeeviness can be felt in one of the few bonus features. Costar Jill Schoelen admits to being cajoled to take the gig by her agent in a 15-minute interview in which she awkwardly tries to find something she liked about the movie and tries really hard to connect with the protagonist in some manner. 

These predatory portrayals may be the lines in the sand that mar your enjoyment of the film, but if you can get around them, there’s still fun to be had with CUTTING CLASS. You get the feeling that everybody knows they weren’t hired for the next Citizen Kane, and you can tell they’re doing their best to have fun with the material. Leitch’s reminiscences in the other bonus feature are kinder; He admits to taking on the role to meet director Rospo Pallenberg, who’d previously written for John Boorman (which explains why the crossbow used for one early scene also popped up in Deliverance). In particular, McDowall basically takes his Peter Vincent character from Fright Night and distorts him into the gross principal, Mr. Dante. Martin Mull blunders his way around in a jokey subplot that has very little bearing on anything else in the movie, except to provide a cheap punch line. 

All that said, CUTTING CLASS remains an interesting product of its time, not quite hitting the mark as either a comedy, a satire, a whodunnit, or a slasher (horrorphiles like ourselves may wish for grislier fare, although the gorier unrated cut presented here boosts the bloodshed), but the kills are creative. And it is fascinating to see so many stars (both A-list and cult faves) try to get through the material. Like a car accident, CUTTING CLASS may not be tasteful, but it’s kind of hard to look away from.

Jeff Szpirglas