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summer school

Posted on May 2, 2016

Echoes of Horror: Short Cut


Earlier this week I was asked to create a twenty minute training presentation as part of a job interview. In their gross misstep, I was encouraged to train the team on “anything”. It was mentioned that previous candidates had done trainings on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or even how to do the perfect round house kick. Bouncing between ideas of how to cast spells from Harry Potter and teaching the team how to count and sex horseshoe crabs, (if you had any doubt about my nerd credentials, I believe this confirms it) I opted to go with a power point presentation on “How To Survive an 80s Horror Film”.

While working on the presentation, I found myself thinking about the ways that horror permeates broader culture. It is a well-known fact that there have been several horror comedy films and spoofs such as the Scary Movie franchise. But that is too obvious. Likewise, hip hop has borrowed elements of horror for emphasis within rap lyrics.[i]  I looked back on my many nights watching USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear and I immediately thought about the film Summer School (1987).  For all you fans of Agent Gibbs on NCIS, this film is worth a look. More important to this brief analysis, are the characters of Chainsaw (Cameron) and Dave (Riley).

Chainsaw and Dave are presented as a little left of center at first. In an attempt to impress a beautiful foreign exchange student, they put on a display that involves lots of fake blood and some vicious bunnies. Only to be met with the source of their inspiration, Anna-Maria (Udenio) saying, “It’s disgusting…I love it!” These guys don’t fit the mold, none of the kids in Summer School do, not even the teacher. They might love prosthetic limbs, gore, and outlandish attire, but they are really good kids. More prominently, Chainsaw and Dave are able to turn negative labels on their ear by challenging the principal’s assessment of the kids as “psychopaths”. Read more

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