Sunday, February 8, 2009

Splatter University: Earn a higher degree in terror

By Steve D. Stones

Pretty Julie Parker is hired as a sociology professor at St. Trinians College to replace a woman named Janet Phillips, who was murdered the previous semester. Father Jensen, a paraplegic, warns Parker that her classroom may be cursed as a result of Phillips being murdered in the same classroom she is being assigned to. Ms. Parker is not one bit fearful of this, and proceeds with her first day of classes. Her first day of class doesn’t go so well. Her students are easily bored and uninterested in the class. I know the feeling. Trying to maintain the attention span of easily-bored students is like trying to lead a cat to water to swim.

Father Perkins is asked by Father Jensen to observe Parker’s class on the first day. He is unimpressed with Parker’s teaching methods after observing her discussing abortion with her students. She is called into Father Jensen’s office for discipline. Father Jensen insists that the school has a strict curriculum that she must adhere to. Academic freedom has no place at a religious school. What else is new?

Parker moves into a new apartment near campus and is constantly hounded by her talkative landlady Mrs. Bloom. Soon Parker begins dating another sociology professor named Mark. She asks him about the murder that took place in her classroom. It appears he once dated the woman, but pretends not to have known her. One of Parker’s pregnant students named Kathy goes to the drive-in movies with her boyfriend. The two make out in the back seat of the car. After an argument, Kathy leaves the car to look for her boyfriend. While wandering around in the dark, someone slashes her throat and murders her. Father Jensen expresses condolences to Kathy’s mother for the murder.

A female colleague of Parker tells her that Mark was suspected of Janet Phillips’ murder because the two were dating at the time. To find out for herself, Parker breaks into Mark’s apartment to look for clues. There she finds newspaper clippings about the murder in Mark’s desk. The next day Parker finds her colleague murdered in the classroom closet with her throat cut. This confirms to her that Mark has got to be the murderer.

She decides to leave the school and gives Father Jensen her resignation for fear she will become the next victim. Jensen tries to convince her to stay. While packing her belongings to move away, Mark confronts her at her apartment. He tries to explain to Parker that he is not the murderer. She panics and beats him over the head with her telephone. She flees the apartment and goes back to Father Jensen for his advice. While trying to comfort Parker, Father Jensen gets up out of his wheelchair and pulls a knife on Parker. Here we discover that Jensen is the murderer. She escapes from his office and runs down the halls of the school, hiding in an elevator. Jensen soon catches up to her and stabs her in the back. This scene is the most graphically violent of the entire film.

Unfortunately Mark arrives too late and discovers Parker dead in the elevator. He confronts Father Jensen in his office as Jensen attempts to quickly wipe blood off his hands. Jensen has sat back in his wheelchair, pretending to be disabled again. Mark looks up on the wall behind Father Jensen to see a bleeding crucifix of Jesus.

The film ends with two psychiatric orderlies looking through a window at Jensen in a straightjacket sitting in a padded room. He has been placed in a psychiatric ward.

Of all the “slasher flicks” that stormed the box office in the 1980s, this one seemed to stand out to me. Perhaps it was because I found myself developing a crush on the main character Julie Parker. We’ve all been “hot for teacher” at some point in our school career. She is a very classy, easygoing, laid-back kind of schoolteacher. I can actually say that I hated to see her get killed at the end of the film. I was hopeful that she would rise as the heroine of the film.

Another aspect of this film that is appealing to me is the idea that a person can easily use religious fanaticism to hide behind his or her own personal evils and insecurities. Even members of the clergy are human and prone to committing acts of evil, such as Father Jensen murdering coeds at his school. The next time one of your religious leaders asks you if you have committed a sin, hold up a mirror and ask the same question of them.

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