The paperboy delivers newspapers that inform anyone who cares to read that a boy who murdered his father five years ago has now been released from a mental institution, supposedly cured. When Paula Carson (Jill Schoelen) goes out to pick up the paper, a figure looms up behind her with a rifle - but it's all right, as he's her father William (Martin Mull) and he's going off to spend the week hunting on his own. He has never left Paula alone before, so lays down some rules for her: do her homework, no boys in the house, and no cutting class. Paula agrees, but little do either of them know that this week will be a trial for them both...
Arriving too late in the eighties slasher cycle to make much of an impact, but too early for the revival of the genre in the nineties, Cutting Class also had the drawback of not being especially entertaining. It gained belated renown when one of its stars, Brad Pitt playing Paula's boyfriend Dwight, went on to far bigger things; they all had to start somewhere, after all. Here he plays one of the suspects as to who the killer might be, but not really as the killer turns out to be precisely who you would expect from the first minute or so. If you can't work it out then I won't spoil it for you.
The film has a weird, off kilter quality to it that at least marks it out a little from the crowd, but not so much that you would hail it as a welcome subversion of the medium. In fact, there are signs this is supposed to be spoof, with some scenes apparently opting for laughs, but there's nothing all that hilarious here. Roddy McDowall plays the principal of Paula's school, and he appears to think he's in a comedy at any rate, firing off quips and acting oddly (even taking an opportunity to gaze up Paula's skirt at one point). Plus you get to see him in a long, blonde wig with plastic fruit in it.
So you're offered the none too slick tone of a film that is in two minds about how seriously the audience should be taking it. The released killer, Brian, is played by Donovan Leitch, yes the son of the Scottish folk singer, and although shunned by the students he has taken a liking to Paula, always hanging around her but not saying much. Or is it his ex-friend Dwight he likes? His manner of turning up where he is speaks of homosexual obsession, yet the filmmakers don't exploit this angle. But it remains that someone is going around killing people, although the murderer's first attempt isn't carried off.
For the first would-be victim is William, out hunting and becoming the prey, although the arrow that hits him merely knocks him over and he spends the rest of the film stumbling about in the wilderness, even getting stepped on by a nature class and trying to persaude a dog to rescue him. It's notable that far more of the school staff are bumped off than the students, including one art teacher baked in his own kiln, not that anyone notices and he is never referred to again. Didn't anyone realise? Other novelty demises include death by photocopier (not the scariest thing you'll ever see, it must be said) and a trick "borrowed" by Eli Roth for his Grindhouse trailer involving a sharp object and a trampoline. Director Rospo Pallenberg was an associate of John Boorman's, but Cutting Class doesn't distinguish itself otherwise. It's probably a comedy. I think. Music by Jill Fraser.