Class Reunion Massacre (1978)

aka The Redeemer
Directed by Constantine S. Gochis
Continental Video VHS

Bizarro slasher or Christian scare film? Wait. Don’t run away! If I’m going to get to the bottom of this, I’ll need all the help I can get.

This is one uniquely strange horror film. It’s creepy, unsettling, and places all bets on the mysterious side of things. For a majority of the running time, I had no idea what was going on. Why did that kid just rise out of the water? Is this a fully-functioning Catholic school or a regular, deserted high school? Does that guy have two thumbs? Are the filmmakers really trying to say that if you’re a dirty sinner, Satan will send “The Redeemer” from the depths of the California desert to even the score? Or was it just an easy set-up for a slasher? Judging from the year and seriousness on display, I’d probably go with the former.

After a truly baffling prologue involving the kid who rises out of the water, a sermon, and the murder of a janitor, Class Reunion Massacre sets the scene. The synths kick in. Six stereotypical former high-schoolers are introduced through presentback (you know, like a flashback, but now). We’ve got the heartless lawyer, the drunken town slut, the ex-quarterback douchebag, the rich bitch, the flamboyant gay actor, and the amiable lesbian. All total sinners, right? Anyway, the super-six arrive at their high school reunion, only to find that they’re the only ones invited. Ignoring the red flags, they partake of the catering and live it up. That is, until they discover that all of the doors have been locked. From the outside. Soon enough, bible-quoting killer picks off our cast one by one while utilizing a variety of disguises. After the carnage, the film wraps up just where it started, only with an on-screen biblical blurb to help us out.

As a straight horror film, Class Reunion Massacre succeeds. It’s light on gore, heavy on gruesome and effective killings, and filled with creative shots. The killer himself actually scared me. Twice. Most successful is the mystery factor — nothing is explained and events continue to grow more bizarre as each minute passes. The tone is uncomfortable, especially with the killer’s numerous costumes (clown, skull-face with a hood) and voice changes. Naturally, when you add the religious subtext to all of this, things get even stranger. I find it a little far-fetched to buy into the idea of selling anything through the “art” of trash-horror, but whatever. Just the idea of someone trying to explore their beliefs on Christianity through the use of “The Redeemer” is hilarious. And kind of scary.

The film has a soft focus look, which isn’t helped any by the muddy print. There was also a lone horizontal video line running through the entire picture…is this tape on its last legs? The mono sound was just fine. I wish the big box wasn’t all smashed in.

Not a one. Not a two, either…thumbs, that is.

Belying its exploitive title, Class Reunion Massacre turned out to be quite frightening and peculiar. The uniqueness shone through, especially after figuring out what was what. It’s a must own.