Directed by Jake Helgren, who wrote 2012’s Bloody Homecoming, Varsity Blood is another drop in the pool of ’80s slasher homages that the DTV horror market is inundated with. While the film has its moments, overall it’s a frustrating, tedious experience that viewers will most likely dismiss shortly after watching it.
Released on the heels of the wickedly original All Cheerleaders Die, Varsity Blood follows a much more worn narrative path where a group of knucklehead jocks and their cheerleader counterparts are slaughtered by a masked villain. There’s not much originality here, but Helgren does balance the stereotypical characters with nicely sympathetic ones and others who break the mold. One of the main jocks, for example, is actually not a caricature and kind of a nice guy. That being said, the other jocks are beer-guzzling, tail-chasing nimrods that I couldn’t have cared less about.
The film is set on Halloween, always a good sign in my book. The holiday amounts to nothing but set dressing though. Nothing that occurs in the movie, besides a small bit of trick or treating, has anything to do with Halloween. Bloody Homecoming star Lexi Giovagnoli returns as Hannah, the new girl in school who recently transferred after her father was killed by a drunk driver. Her new stepbrother also saw tragedy at the hand’s of a drunk who killed his girlfriend. What does all this backstory amount to? Well, not much. It all gets scrapped later on for silly twists and the infuriating motivation of the killer.
Hannah meets her fellow cheerleaders at an abandoned farmhouse on Halloween night for some “end of the school year partying.” What school district ends its year on Halloween? Were these kids in school all summer? Anyways, the dialogue between Hannah and her friends is pretty fun and even clever at times. One cheerleader refers to her “cheergina” and another tells a trick or treater that costumes are for ” preadolescents and perverts, princess.” It’s the type of dialogue reminiscent of Heathers and Mean Girls, the kinda stuff I love in a high school movie.
Aside from that, there’s not much else to enjoy in Varsity Blood. The killer’s mask is pretty cool (it’s their high school mascot, a tribal mask), though any mystique surrounding him is shattered by the reveal of his identity. His motivation is so painfully stupid I thought it was a red herring at first. Once the kids arrive at the farmhouse, the film is terribly underlit, so even anticipated moments of gore are nearly impossible to make out. In a movie like this, populated with mostly negative characters, the kills are what you look forward to. Varsity Blood takes that away from its audiences. Bummer.
Varsity Blood has some good dialogue and some fun scenes, but overall it’s a lazy, unoriginal film. Save yourself the time and watch All Cheerleaders Die instead. Helgren obviously knows his stuff, but is it just enough to be an homage to ’80s slashers without bringing anything new to to the table? Of course not.
Varsity Blood is available on DVD August 19, if you hate yourself enough to watch it.