1986 was pretty late in the game for a slasher film to be released. Most of the textbook mystery/slasher films from this period were easily forgotten, as the nation soon slipped into Freddy Krueger fever. However, like the sub-genre of the monster movie and the haunted house film, the slasher sub-genre has proven time and again that it is ultimately here to stay. If it can survive films like FATAL GAMES, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE and THE MAJORETTES, it truly deserves to stay.
After seeing majorettes dance to a cheesy late 80s pop song, the film starts off with a couple of eager teens in a lover's lane type place. Soon, a mysterious masked stranger dressed all in camouflage tears through the top of the couple's convertible, slitting the throat of the guy, while the girl runs off into the woods. Within minutes though, she too is tracked down and the stranger's hunting knife slides across her throat. Soon, other majorettes from the same team die at the hands of this hunter-like maniac. Before the film is over, we're introduced to a bevy of odd characters, among which is a mentally-challenged peeping tom, a drug-dealing Colin Farrell look-alike, an evil nurse, a creepy sheriff, a fanatical pastor, a detective that looks more like a 70s porn star (it doesn't help that the first time we see him he's laying shirtless in bed), and of course, author John Russo playing a coroner.
To be fair, there are certainly worse slasher films than THE MAJORETTES. The problem is, in a sub-genre with a formula as often repeated and copied as the slasher sub-genre, I felt that nothing really stood out in the film. The only thing that really makes it stand out is that it's one of the rare slashers to have been based on a novel. The kills are technically crude and relatively bloodless (and the original cover art is a cheat, as there is NO death-by-baton), the acting is rather drab and amateurish, and the pacing is way off. In fact, one of the major faults with the film is that its killer is revealed entirely too early. Around the one-hour mark, you know who the killer is and there is no more mystery left. The film then drags on for another thirty minutes or so with the audience caring very little as to what goes on from that point on. One bizarre sequence toward the end features what is quite possibly the most machine gunfire and explosions ever displayed in a horror film. I thought I was watching COMMANDO for a second there.
I will say this, the film has a great (if fairly cheesy), thick synth score, making the lackluster stalking scenes a little more effective than they had a right to be. I also liked most of the photography. Many shots seem like the kind a first-time director would use to try to impress, and well, I guess they worked. This film does have some well-done shots. The killer, looking like a hunter, also works to some extent. I've seen creepier killers in slasher films, but the killer in THE MAJORETTES, on the whole, wasn't too bad. The fact that he baptizes his female victims after killing them helped to lend him an eerie presence. I will also say this, if nudity is your thing, you'll get your fill in THE MAJORETTES.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. For a movie from 1986, the transfer is pretty good. The colors are vibrant and the picture is generally clear. Imperfections are present, but not in abundance. The print overall looks great. The Dolby Digital audio is also pretty good. The disc is listed "Not Rated" but one kill in particular seemed sort of edited. Not sure if this was an MPAA problem, lost footage, bad editing, or simply director Bill Hinzman going for a more stylistic approach to a bloodless kill. I suppose we'll never know.
Despite the film not being the greatest of examples from the slasher sub-genre, Shriek Show has done a good job of rounding up a few extra features for the disc. Chief among the disc's special features is a documentary on the making of the film, titled "One By One." Containing bits of interviews with director Bill Hinzman (who played the cemetery zombie in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), actor Russ Streiner, author John Russo, and FX man Jerry Gergely, this 30-minute documentary is fairly pleasant and interesting. Among other intriguing bits of info revealed here, is the fact that Jerry Gergely was a student of FX legend Tom Savini and that the killer's identity was different in John Russo's original novel. This leads me to warn you: If you haven't seen the movie, you may want to hold off watching the documentary, as it does reveal the identity of the killer. Also present is "The Majorettes Yearbook," a collection of publicity stills and behind-the-scenes photos. No groundbreaking stuff here, but an interesting inclusion nonetheless. One exceptional special feature on this disc that I wish more and more horror discs would include is that it contains the film's original soundtrack. All the great synth stuff and even the cheesy opening song are found here for your listening enjoyment. Finally, rounding out the disc are five trailers for FLESH EATER, SLAUGHTER HOTEL, FACELESS, FLESH FOR THE BEAST, and the overseas release of THE MAJORETTES (under the title, ONE BY ONE, since they apparently don't have majorettes overseas).
It is also worth noting that the disc's cover artwork, like Critical Mass' BLACK CHRISTMAS: COLLECTOR'S EDITION, is reversible (with the cheap-looking new artwork of a blood-splattered girl on one side, and the original VHS box artwork on the other side). I display mine showing the original VHS artwork. Inside the case, Shriek Show has included an insert with a chapter listing.
THE MAJORETTES stands as an interesting relic of a time when the slasher film was at its lowest point (a time which is sadly upon us again). For slasher completists like myself, this disc is a must. If you're a casual horror fan though, it probably won't hold your attention for very long at all. (Wes Ray)
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