The fifth film in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Rospo Pallenberg’s Cutting Class (1989). Despite being one of Brad Pitt’s first leading film roles, this slasher comedy continues to be widely unseen outside of the circle of avid horror fans. If you’re looking to see a star-studded slasher this October, look no further. Brian Woods (Donovan Leitch) has been released from a mental institution, following the questionable death of his father. It’s back to school for Brian, where he meets Paula (Jill Schoelen) and quickly develops feelings for her, which does not sit well with Paula’s boyfriend Dwight (Brad Pitt). Grisly murders start happening on school grounds. Could Brian be the killer? Is anger pushing Dwight to commit murder? Or perhaps it’s the lecherous principal (Roddy McDowell)?
Cutting Class features an incredibly top-rate cast. Jill Schoelen proves to be a very capable and determined lead, while Leitch and Pitt play off each other quite well as two guys fighting for her affection. One of the more surprising elements of the film is the interesting casting of veteran actor Roddy McDowell as the particularly lusty Principal Dante who is also grossly interested in Paula. Just seeing this normally austere and comedic actor playing such a disgusting pervert is quite humorous. The ensemble assembled here works really well to give the audience multiple red herrings throughout the narrative. If I’m being honest, I was definitely fooled by one for the majority of the film. As a fun aside, we’re treated to a journey with Paula’s dad William (Martin Mull) as he tries to return to civilization following a hunting accident.
The high school setting proves to be quite effective for several of the grisly attacks. One particular scene involving the office’s copier is definitely a standout here. Pallenberg does a nice job of integrating the school setting into the mix, while also pointing out the comic moments of the slasher sub-genre. The film is also not afraid to shy away from the blood that naturally accompanies slashers.
Cutting Class falls in the middle of Jill Schoelen’s tenure in the horror genre in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In this time, she had lead roles in The Stepfather (1987), Curse II: The Bite (1989), The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Popcorn (1991), and When a Stranger Calls Back (1993). She was the epitome of the savvy, intelligent, and assertive Final Girl trope that slasher fans love so dearly. Following these roles, she worked on a few television projects but has not acted since 2004. Personally, I would absolutely love to see a Jill Schoelen comeback now. There are so many fun possibilities for roles within the genre that would fit her perfectly. The Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray of the film features a fantastic interview with Schoelen, as well, where she talks about her career at the time, her experience making Cutting Class, and more in such an intimate and engaging way. It is definitely a must-watch if you’re as big of a fan of her as I am.
Cutting Class is a very entertaining slasher comedy that features an excellent lead in Jill Schoelen’s Paula, a fun early appearance by Brad Pitt, a really creepy and lusty Roddy McDowell, a humorous excursion with Martin Mull, and fun death sequences. Definitely add this to your list for fun horror films to watch this month!
Cutting Class can be streamed with a membership on the Showtime app or rented from the Alamo On Demand app. The blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome, which again features a fantastic restoration and great special features, can be purchased HERE.
I will see you tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!