Tuesday, April 24, 2012

10 Slashers That Could Benefit from a Remake: GRADUATION DAY (1981)

Now that we're well into 2012, something has occurred to me: it's the first year in a decade that has no slasher remakes scheduled for release. While the remakes have swooned the box office with usual great success, very few horror film movements have drawn up as much protest as the dreaded remake craze did.

It's pretty obvious, looking back, as to how studios and producers chose which slashers were deemed worth remaking - they were the slashers that were original moneymakers upon their original release. HALLOWEENTHE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACREFRIDAY THE 13THPROM NIGHTTHE HILLS HAVE EYES, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET were all monster successes and pop-culture phenomenon's. Even more cult-y slashers like BLACK CHRISTMAS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE had earned a solid enough reputation to guarantee a solid fanbase.

But when you really think about it, doesn't the thought of remaking more well-known slasher films seem to sort of juxtapose what a remake stands for? Shouldn't they be remaking films that are less-known and more dated, to bring them to a modern-day audience? While 2012 might not have any remakes on its schedule, I can guarantee you that a second wave of remakes will eventually come along. But when it does, it should be focusing its efforts on the movies that actually could benefit from a redo. As we take a break from remakes in theaters, here's the ten suggestions for films to consider a redux for, and ways to take the original movie and make it fresh and modern without spitting in the face of the original's fans (here's looking at you, Rob Zombie!).


09. GRADUATION DAY



"Why are all the seniors dying to graduate?" and "Whoever thought surviving high school would be so hard?" are great questions to ask - and taglines for a remake of Graduation Day.

Back in the summer of 1981, Graduation Day was the equivalent to Prom Night from the summer before - a sleeper slasher hit. Earning nearly $24 million domestically at the box office, Graduation Day became the second highest grossing horror movie of the year, bested only by HALLOWEEN II, which made $25 million. But over time, Graduation Day quickly fell into the yarns of obscurity, and today it stands as one of the lesser seen slashers from the Golden Age of Slasher Films. So why didn't Graduation Day endure the cult status of movies like THE PROWLER, THE BURNING, or MY BLOODY VALENTINE? It's simple: by no means is Graduation Day a good movie! And because of that, it's the perfect flick to target for a remake.

The original film was a standard whodunit. The initiating incident is the sudden death of a female track star named Laura, who was so overworked that she died from a heart attack. Shortly after, a killer dressed in a grey sweatshirt, matching sweatpants, and a fencing mask - and carrying a fencing sword - starts killing the students in varying creative ways. Could it be the track coach who everyone blames for Laura's death? Or Laura's estranged sister who has recently returned home after her sister's mother? The girl's protective boyfriend? Or someone else entirely? 

Concept


Graduation Day's biggest failure was that the story pretty much ignores the graduation itself, instead zeroing in on the track team. Graduation is a ceremony where people move from one level to the next. The idea of graduating is being able to move onto the next stage of life. So in the Graduation Day remake, shouldn't the killer not want his targeted victims to move on from the past? 

Of course, a good slasher movie takes something horrible from the past and brings it back to bite the people of the present in the ass. When students are getting ready to graduate - and move on from the past - its the perfect opportunity for a killer to strike and make sure they don't live to graduate and move on!

When you graduate high school, you are making a huge step in life. The peers you are graduating with have possibly been with you since you were in pre-school. That's twelve-years of history. The mystery of Graduation Day needs to trace back all the way to pre-school, when the characters first met. And over the years, they have moved on from what happened... until now, when someone is out to remind them!

As for the tone of the Graduation Day remake, it should be similar to the remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE or the SCREAM series - great, funny, suspenseful homages to slasher films from the early 80's. Graduation Day needs to have a sense of humor (I mean, just look at the source material), but it still needs to have enough chills, thrills, and gory scenes to keep horror viewers entertained. We're talking scenes reminiscent of the famous opening Drew Barrymore scene in Scream, only throughout the whole movie - brutal, intense, and gruesome, but also wildly entertaining and fun!

The Plot


The opening scene: a cat-and-mouse game of terror as high school student Karen Quigley slowly begins to realize that the prank caller flirting with her on the phone is, indeed, quite deranged and psychotic. In a play on the classic "Babysitter in Peril" urban legend, Karen's growing concerns would lead her to believe that her prank caller is more sinister than she first imaged, leading to her contacting the police. The police trace the call... to her own house! But by the time they arrive, Karen has met her gruesome demise...

"It's too bad Karen's dead," remarks class clown Robbie Draper the next day as he and his peers talk about the tragedy, "she promised to give me great head after graduation." While Robbie's so-called promise is probably false, Karen's reputation is not, and police look at faculty and students who have had rumored affairs with the deceased bombshell. 

But violin player Laura Ramstead has a funny feeling that Karen's reputation had nothing to do with the crime, and that the bloodshed doesn't stop with her. Unlike her peers, Laura has not forgotten about what happened to Betsy Codd. When Laura was in pre-school with Robbie, Karen, and several others, she vaguely remembers a little blonde girl named Betsy who mysteriously disappeared... and the adults never talked about it. While everyone else seems to have forgotten about Betsy, Laura knows in her heart that somehow Karen's death is related to what happened in pre-school... and it's only the beginning.

Laura is aided by dopey social outcast Billy Fisk, a drug dealing pothead skater who, despite his outside appearances, is actually a genuine person. As graduation approaches, Laura and Billy notice that several of their classmates are mysteriously absent from preparation ceremonies, and they begin to think the worst...

And they are right. Someone is killing off the graduating seniors, one by one. Each victim belongs to a different clique, and each student's history can be traced back to that pre-school class where Betsy Codd disappeared years ago. The town's long hidden secrets will violently unravel on graduation day.

The Mystery


Much of the movie would obviously be in the style of Scream, which ironically looked to the original Graduation Day for its own inspiration. It would be a self-aware slasher about a small town with a dark past, filled with some intense sequences of suspense and violence, followed by others with light-hearted humor and characters. And like Scream, the movie would revolve around a whodunit mystery, that would of course lead to a shocking reveal at the end of the movie. 

The original movie had some gruesome death scenes, although most blended together for being rather unspectacular. One student's pole-vaulting onto a bed of spikes demise is actually clever, but also illogical in terms of realism (after that, all graduation ceremonies would be cancelled for sure). In the remake, aside from Karen's opening kill, the deaths would have to remain hidden until the end of the movie, with a gory HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME-style "graduation ceremony" between the final survivor(s) and the killer(s). The deaths should include school-themed murders, like pencils through the eyeball, killing with play props, a lock room kill, and of course some kind of gory execution in the shop room!

The Characters 



Laura Ramstead
. Female, 18. A gifted violin player. After her parents died in a car accident, she retreated to music as therapy. She is shy and keeps to herself, but is also sweet, caring, and intelligent.

Billy Fisk. Male, 18. Dopey skater who smokes and sells pot to earn friends. At his core he is caring and protective, especially of the girl he’s secretly had a crush on since pre-school... Laura.

Kevin Badger. Male, 18. Preppy Alpha-male of the school. Competitive in nature with a jealous and vindictive personality that creates intense frustration. Smart and manipulative.

Violet Hammerstein. Female, 18. Goth. Moody and angry. Dresses in black and always jams to music. She values individuality above all else.

George Michaels. Male, 18. Track star. Popular, quick, and strong. He’s used to all the attention being on him.

Delores White. Female, 18. Cheerleader. Popular, witty, and fashionable, but also shallow and bratty. The Sheriff’s daughter.

Robbie Draper. Male, 18. Sarcastic, funny, and outspoken. He’s always competing for attention, whether its good or bad. A teacher’s worst nightmare.

Greggor Weinerslav. Male, 18. Nerdy, bookish, and small, yet aggressive and assertive. Going to M.I.T. for school, and he’ll less you know it.

Liana Josbena. Female, 18. Overly dramatic, obnoxious, and loud. She thinks she’s going to be a Broadway diva someday.

Karen Quigley. Female, 18. She knows how to get what she wants, and doesn’t care about her reputation. Voluptuous and crude.



Final Thoughts



The original Graduation Day has become a laughing-stock of horror fans; it's dated, cheesy, and super-low budget. Plus, the film's story never truly connects to the movie's theme of graduation. However, Graduation Day is prime for the remake treatment and, if handled with commitment, could turn the once ridiculed franchise into a successful rebooted series. Just think of the sequels: "Graduation Day Part 2: College" and "Graduation Day Part 3: Grad School". 


Graduation Day cannot simply be an update of the 1981 original movie. That movie has been done. It has been completed. And even though its no masterpiece, it deserves to be left untouched. However the idea behind the film needs a little bit of touchup, and with a clever mystery, some fun laughs, well-crafted suspense, and fan-pleasing gore, than a Graduation Day remake would be a sure hit. 

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