Thursday, 20 March 2008

The Majorettes

An evil nurse scheming to get her hands on her elderly employer’s fortune... A pregnant girl trying to dupe the school geek into having sex with her so she can claim he’s the father... A cheerleader trying to manipulate her quarterback boyfriend into staying in town instead of going away to college... No, not an episode of Sunset Beach, but the 1986 slasher movie The Majorettes.

Now, you hear me saying the words “slasher movie” but I know your inquisitive mind is saying, “Ross, that sounds more like a soap opera”. And you’re right, damn you, there’s definitely something a little different going on here, as further evidenced by the fact that (a) it’s based on a novel, and (b) it runs over 90 minutes – almost unthinkable for a low budget 80s slasher.

Things get off to a comfortably familiar start, at least. After a title sequence positively bursting with synth-rock and neon credits, it’s down to business as a high school majorette squad practise their new routine. There’s a little of this:

A lot of this:

And, really, I thought I was in for an archetypal slasher. Especially when, barely ten minutes later, we’re already had a gratuitous lockerroom scene and a double-stabbing in the woods (where, naturally, two teens have been getting it on in a parked car). Where things start to seem a little off-kilter is when you start to realise that no single character is getting much screen time of their own. By the looks of things, Vicky McAllister (Terrie Godfrey) – granddaughter of the elderly widow mentioned above – seems set to be our final girl but, with enough going on around her to give Peyton Place a run for its money, it’s actually anyone’s guess.

The reason for this? There IS no final girl! Because The Majorettes suddenly stops being a slasher movie about an hour into its running time, and becomes instead a vigilante revenge flick complete with shootouts, explosions and this:

Which is something of a shame, because a lot of the more slashery aspects of the film work well, particularly the killer’s hunting-gear attire and creepy habit of hiding in ingenious places before carrying out his kills (check out the swimming pool sequence for a memorable frisson of fear). What doesn’t work is the film’s nasty ending: after sixty minutes of cheap thrills, you can’t expect me to come along willingly when you start trying to go all serious. For onesies, I don’t really care about any of these characters. For twos, this ain’t The Deer Hunter, no matter how you dress your killer.

I did appreciate the attempts to flesh out the teenage characters a little more substantially than we’re used to in films of this sort (although, again, it’s all left by the wayside when the movie switches gear). Ultimately, The Majorettes feels like half a pretty good slasher struggling to burrow out from beneath a ton of other, less successful stuff.

Extra points, however, for the diner scene in which the characters inexplicably colour-coordinate with people and things behind them:

Rating: 2/5

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