Film: Student Bodies

Before you Screamed, there were Student Bodies.

Student Bodies is a 1981 film directed by Michael Ritchie (uncredited in that capacity, though he's sort of credited as a producer) and co-directed by Micky Rose (given a full director's credit). It is a Parody / Satire of the Slasher Movies of its era and includes much Lampshade Hanging of the various tropes and cliches of that genre, with the most noteworthy lampshade consisting of an onscreen body tally.

The plot (such as it is) revolves around a mysterious murderer whose face is never seen, known only as "The Breather", who — say it with me now — stalks and kills sexually active teenagers. The resident Final Girl, Toby Badger, is something of a Straw Prude herself and as such becomes the prime suspect.

In spite of having done a lousy job at the box office in its original release, the film has achieved cult status, largely in part because of its comic nature and rapid-fire subversions.

Tropes butchered by this film include:

  • Alan Smithee: Smithee took a break from "directing" to "produce" the film (in place of Michael Ritchie).
  • All Just a Dream: Parodied, so it's probably safe to mention it here.
  • Ambiguously Gay / Does Not Like Men: Ms. Van Dyke. During a health class she explained how the male reproductive organs were disgusting and unnecessary.
    The Breather: What's in a name? Everything.
  • And You Were There: Naturally, part of the All Just a Dream mentioned above.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating / Rated M for Money: Parodied in one of the film's most famous scenes:
    Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, in order to achieve an "R" rating today, a motion picture must contain full frontal nudity, graphic violence, or an explicit reference to the sex act. Since this film has none of those, and since research has proven that R-rated films are by far the most popular with the moviegoing public, the producers of this motion picture have asked me to take this opportunity to say "Fuck you."
    • Every theatrical movie also has to show the trademarked MPAA logo alongside its assigned rating; this is one of the few movies to show it in the middle of the movie (most show it after the movie, but some show it before it even begins).
  • Based on a True Story: played with in the Opening Scroll: "This film is based on a true story: last year, more than 30 horror films were made in America. None of them lost money."
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted, but only barely; the black couple are the second murder.
  • Brick Joke: During their first phone conversation, the Breather trolls the faculty by saying "Click" while on the phone. The second time he calls the faculty, Ms. Van Dyke pulls the same joke on him as payback.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Breather at one point calls the faculty just to tell them this.
    The Breather: Let's not beat around the bush. I killed all those people, and I'm glad.
    Ms. Van Dyke: I appreciate your honesty.
  • Clear My Name
  • Comical Overreacting: The first victim's mother arrives home and has a screaming fit when she sees the girl has not cleaned the house and then plays The Stoic when she finds the girl's "mutilated" corpse. Lampshaded by being juxtaposed with the father's (completely opposite) reactions to same.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Victims are killed with increasingly ridiculous weapons such as a bookend, a paperclip and a chalkboard eraser.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: The Breather has one in the girls' locker room.
    The Breather: I'm doing what mommy told me not to do!
    • Earlier, during the first phone call, it's pretty obvious what he's doing when a white liquid starts pouring out through the phone's receiver.
  • Death by Sex: Well duh, it is a slasher movie! The poster even lampshades it, with a button reading "sex kills" beside the corpse of a co-ed.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: The film poster focuses on the corpse of an attractive blonde girl suggestively sprawled across some classroom desks.
  • Dumb Blonde: who has to be reminded that "The North won" the American Civil War.
  • The End... Or Is It?
  • Evil Matriarch: Miss Mumsely, who apparently has every kind of relationship you could think of with her son the principal, was responsible for killing the boys after he killed the girls.
  • Fetish: The shop teacher, Mr. Dumpkin, is obsessed with horse head bookends.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Hand of Death
  • Harassing Phone Call / Evil Phone: Of the "heavy breathing" variety. Also notable that the breathing is heard virtually any time a phone receiver gets picked up.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Invoked when the Breather mentions school guidance counselor Mr. Sigmund was once arrested for corrupting the morals of a hooker.
  • Hope Spot: One would-be victim manages to talk the Breather out of carving him up with a chainsaw... only to get bludgeoned with the carrying case.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The Film starts, says "Halloween" on screen but nothing happens, fade out. Fade in again on "Friday The 13th" nothing happens on that day either, fade out again. Fade in again on "Jamie Lee Curtis' birthday" that's when all hell breaks loose!
  • Hypocritical Humor: "I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
    • Cue Body Count: 6 1/2
  • I Love the Dead: Invoked casually by one of the doomed boyfriends.
    Oh geez, you're dead! *beat* How about one for old times' sake?
  • Improbable Weapon User: Taken to a ridiculous extent over the course of the film, but the very first murder really sets the tone: After breaking into a secretary desk which is loaded with potential weapons (revolver, rope, dagger, rat poison, etc.), the Breather settles for a paper clip.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Mercilessly parodied.
  • Meaningful Name: Toby Badger "badgers" her friends not to have sex. Alas, she lives in a slasher film.
  • Monster Misogyny: Although the body count is fairly evenly divided between the genders, the boys are all discreetly suffocated in plastic bags, while the girls receive more exotic (and visible) deaths.
  • Moral Guardians: In-Universe example with Final Girl Toby, who follows her friends around to remind them not to have sex. They do, and they die.
  • My Beloved Smother: Miss Mumsley, who is apparently the principal's mother and follows him around at school while he's at work for no discernible reason other than she's his mom. She at one point tries browbreating Malvert into admitting he's the killer so suspicion will be taken off the principal, pointing out he doesn't have much to live for and no woman will ever want to have sex with him. She certainly doesn't.
  • No Fourth Wall / Medium Awareness: A staple of the movie.
  • No Name Given / Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Breather.
    • Meta example: The actor who plays Malvert the Janitor was known only as "The Stick".
  • Out with a Bang
  • Police Are Useless: "You have reached the police. We are closed. Lookout behind you!"
  • Precision F-Strike: See Avoid the Dreaded G Rating.
  • Product Placement: Several shots linger on various brands. A full list of products that supported the film is included in the credits.
  • Running Gag:
    • "X gets me hot!"
    • The Breather being audible whenever anybody picks up a phone receiver, even if only for a brief moment.
  • Satire/Parody/Pastiche
  • Screaming Woman: Played with; see Comical Overreacting above.
  • Sex Is Evil: Comically used as a Freudian Excuse.
  • Spit Take: Everyone (understandably) when Malvert describes how he "helped make" the punch.
  • Toilet Humor: A farting dog and a masturbating phone.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Hardly unexpected in a slasher film, but here it's repeatedly lampshaded; on-screen notes point out when a clue is missed or a door left unlocked. Hilariously, nobody says 'boo' to the girl who wanders around in a darkened kitchen mere seconds after receiving Harassing Phone Calls.
  • Vader Breath: The Breather, natch.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Male victims are dispatched by being put in garbage bags. While alive.