Horror Movie Review: Return to Horror High (1987)

Return to Horror High is a 1987 American comedy slasher film written and directed by Bill Froehlich and starring Vince Edwards, Brendan Hughes, Scott Jacoby, Lori Lethin, Philip McKeon, and Alex Rocco. This film is George Clooney’s film debut.

In 1982, the town of Crippen was rocked by a series of murders at Crippen High School. The killer was never caught. Several years later, Cosmic Pictures, headed by sleazy producer Harry Sleerek, arrives in Crippen to make a biographical movie about the crimes titled Horror High. To maximize the production’s low budget, the cast and crew temporarily move into the real Crippen High School. Where they are to film on location; the lead actress, Callie Cassidy, is hired to play multiple roles. In the midst of the film shoot, multiple disappearances and murders occur. These are subsequently investigated by police Chief Deyner and Officer Tyler. While the bodies are recovered from the school, Chief Deyner and Officer Tyler interview the film’s screenwriter. He recounts the events on-set.

Some days prior, lead actor Oliver informs director Josh Forbes that he is dropping out of the production. Before leaving, he is murdered in an empty wing of the school. Harry immediately replaces Oliver with Steven Blake, a real-life police officer and former Crippen High student. Tensions on set rise when Harry insists Callie show on-screen nudity. While Arthur is forced to repeatedly make script changes to accommodate Harry’s requests for more gore. One day, an extra is murdered, followed by a special effects assistant. Shortly after, a cast member is caught in a booby trap that drags his body into a steel-blade industrial fan.

While wandering the high school in-between scenes, Steve recounts to Callie his relationship with his high school girlfriend, Kathy. Her father, Crippen’s Principal Kastleman, is on-set serving as a technical advisor, but Steve has not seen Kathy in years. Meanwhile, Callie begins noticing that cast and crew are disappearing. Fearing the killer has returned, she and Steve begin their own private investigation.

What is going on at Crippen High? Has the killer returned to finish what he started all those years ago? Watch and find out.

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Right off the bat it’s clear that Return to Horror High is a trashy, cheesy horror film. It’s all very silly, but there’s entertainment to be had. At times it feels as if you’re looking behind the curtain, seeing how production runs, with sets, props and deadline pressure.

The whole movie hinges on a big twist at the end and unfortunately, I just don’t feel anything works.

Return to Horror High is very disjointed. It’s not funny enough to be a horror comedy, but not serious enough to be anything else. The character, Officer Tyler, specifically feels out of place – as if she’s been plucked from the movie Airplane.

It’s a movie within a movie, which flits between the two with no transitions. And the movie that they’re making has no cohesive story to follow. I found it hard to follow and then we hit the twist. I could dissect it and go through how completely illogical it is but then I’d have to breakdown the entire movie. In theory, it’s an awesome idea but it’s so badly executed and out of nowhere, it’s hard to know what to think once the credits roll.

Overall, Return to Horror High is certainly… something. The idea is fun, the kills and gore are cool and the madness of it all is admirable. But, it’s frustratingly incoherent. Plus, the entire time you’re left wondering, what was the deal with George Clooney barely being in it?


  • Sally Powell

    Editor/Writer - Stay at home mum educating the horror minds of tomorrow. If it's got vampires or Nicolas Cage in it, I'm sold. Found cleaning bums or kicking ass in an RPG. (And occasionally here reviewing all things horror and gaming related!)

Return to Horror High
  • The Final Score - 4/10
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