"Before there was SCREAM, there was...STUDENT BODIES"
So goes the line on the front of the DVD box. Now, I'm not one of those who believe that Scream killed horror, or at least serious horror. I love Scream; even moreso what is essentially its pilot run in Wes Craven's earlier film New Nightmare. So I was intrigued by Student Bodies, this film from 1981 that claimed to be the original Scream. In fact, it is much closer in spirit to Airplane, The Naked Gun, or the Scary Movie series, and surprisingly funny at that.
Not much of a horror, Student Bodies uses the late '70s/early '80s genre leanings to maximum comic effect; the opening scene is a medium shot of a house exterior with the word "Halloween" appearing at the bottom of the screen....cue creepy music. And then, the screen goes black. The same exterior appears a second later, the title at the bottom of the screen now says "Friday the 13th"...cue creepy music. Again, fade to black. A second later, same shot, but the title now says "Jamie Lee Curtis' Birthday"...cue creepy music. Ha! Then we go inside, where a scene very similar to the opening of Scream takes place, a girl answers the phone, heavy breathing ensues, repeat... Then she hears a weird noise and goes outside to check on it, but when she comes back in, she leaves the door unlocked. The camera zooms in on this soon-to-be fatal error and the word "UNLOCKED" flashes on the screen, with a big arrow pointing at the door. Stuff like that...
The killer is called "The Breather" and pants like a dehydrated dog, which then becomes near-athsmatic wheezings, all the while tracking and killing virtually anyone who has sex. Red herrings abound, obvious suspects killed, The Breather j-oing in a locker room while he stares at nubile coeds, a couple references to the real cause of death being swine flu (!?!), bizarre uses of the deus ex machina plot device and then, at the very end, the cliched "it was all a dream", followed by a real twist! At 80 minutes and change, this movie stays just long enough and leaves before wearing out its welcome.
Intentionally or not, Student Bodies was quite prescient. I can't believe how much so many later films have "borrowed" from this, yet it remains relatively unknown. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned films, you'll do well to check this out; even if you're not a fan, or are unfamiliar with them, you could do far worse for some mindless fun and surprisingly original humour.