Director: Richard W. Haines
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome enrolls at SPLATTER UNIVERSITY to "earn a higher degree in terror" on Blu-ray.

Julie Parker (future infomercial queen Forbes Riley) takes a position at St. Trinians College teaching sociology in a "jinxed" classroom where the previous teacher was murdered the semester before. She soon finds herself in trouble with wheelchair-bound headmaster Father Janson (Dick Biel) after officious Father Perkins (director Richard W. Haines) reports her attempt to engage the contemptuous students with a discussion of abortion. Her only friends are fellow sociology teacher Cynthia (Laura Gold) and flirty colleague Mark (Ric Randig) who begins a courtship with her in between classes. Julie's students, resentful of having to repeat the course because their "stupid teacher got murdered" are planning to cheat on the midterm, but a knife-wielding killer is soon on the loose again and his victims seem to consist solely of promiscuous women (and there are a lot in this Catholic school). No one seems to notice when Doreen (Joanna Mihalakis) get scalped and dumped in the trash after a public fight with her boyfriend Tony (George Seminara), but Cathy (Kathy LaCommare) has just confided to Julie her pregnancy by serial cheater Tom (Ken Gerson), Wolf's (Sal Lumetta) girlfriend Aki (Aki Fujiyoshi) gives good head, secretary Margaret (Noel Stilphen) takes dictation from Father Williams (Dan Eaton), and Tawny Kitaen-haired Denise (Denise Texeira) is slutting it up with both the faculty and the student body. While Father Janson continually insists the killings are unrelated and isolated incidents, Julie and Cynthia start to suspect Mark who dated the murdered teacher and was a suspect at the time.

While many slashers had compact timeframes setting the killer's return around a certain day (Halloween, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night) or even the days preceding an event (Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me), SPLATTER UNIVERISTY has a bizarre timeframe with the killer escaping but not killing anyone until three years later. The story proper takes place "Next Semester, Yesterday" and then jumps forward three months to finals week with no reference to the deaths or disappearances of two characters when discussing the deaths of other characters; although, to be fair, three of the deaths were added after the film's rough cut ran only sixty-five minutes. Without two of those murders, nothing really happens after the first murder for about six months and the body count would only be four. Although he intended to be something more serious than a campy slasher, director Haines overestimates the effectiveness of what was intended thanks to listless editing, a lack of coverage and rather pedestrian cinematography, a monotonous score; but the greatest fault are the performances (with Riley in her pre-life-and-style hostess days annoyingly stiff, but no more so than most of the cast). The original kills are sufficiently splattery while the added ones are as slapdash as the other added scenes. Although the killer's real name is revealed to be "Daniel Grayson" (without revealing his identity), the opening intertitles list him as "William Grayson". Troma's Lloyd Kaufman served as a creative consultant, and Haines would then edit THE TOXIC AVENGER and direct CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH.

Although released theatrically by Troma with advertising that was more entertaining than the film itself and distributed on VHS by Vestron in rated and unrated versions, the film's rights and elements were retained by Haines himself who licensed the film to DVD to Elite Entertainment in 2004 for a barebones anamorphic DVD. The first Blu-ray came from 88 Films in the UK from a 2K scan of the 16mm negative supervised by Haines in 2015. Initial copies were missing one of the killings not due to censorship or damage but because it came at a reel change and was missed. Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from a new 2K scan but do not expect a massive upgrade. Although Haines has championed shooting on film, even managing to lens his last film to date WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU? (2008) on 35mm long after most films of this ilk had turned to DV and HD video formats, the 16mm photography is at its best during the initial shoot with stable colors and good detail while the reshoot scenes look grainier, flatter, and events defects both in-camera and of cheap processing. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is as good as the mix allows with clear music and effects while the dialogue is only as good as the original recording (with Wolf's howls distorting slightly on the high end). Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Extras port over the audio commentary by director/editor Richard W. Haines and make-up effects artist Amodio Giordano recorded for the UK disc and heard over the first seventy minutes of the film. Haines concedes that the sequences added to bring the film up to feature-length – the additional kills, the bar scene, the pot-smoking in the stairwell scene, the kids partying in the dorm, and the opening and closing Bellevue scenes which include doctors named Howard and Fine – skew the tone of the film towards the campy and comic from what he and Giordano describe as a project intended to be a "Hitchockian noir." Haines also concedes that those aspects are probably why the film has a following. The disc also includes a new commentary by podcasters The Hysteria Continues who also question Haines assertion about the project as originally conceived, noting that some of the campiness is evident in the classroom scenes that were part of the original shoot. They draw on the commentary track as well as their own interviews with Haines and Riley who is not ashamed of her debut and treated it seriously (even taking it upon herself to do her own continuity since scenes in the same location were lumped together but not filmed sequentially). They also note that the film was double billed in the UK with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – a double feature they compare to the UK's lineup of SUSPIRIA and EYEBALL – and IGOR AND THE LUNATICS.

There is also an audio interview with composer Chris Burke (35:37) who was working as a production assistant on MOTHER'S DAY and met Haines who was the film's editor. He discusses the difficulties of working with early eighties synthesizers and scoring the film with a stopwatch and reel-to-reel tape recorder. More interesting is his discussion of his other work during this period as a production assistant and location scout, including work on the American location shoots for various productions by Fabrizio de Angelis' Fulvia Film including Lucio Fulci's MANHATTAN BABY and Enzo G. Castellari's BRONX WARRIORS. The disc also includes the entertaining Troma theatrical trailer (1:44), a TV spot (0:27), radio spots (2:21), still gallery (4:02), a recording of the theme song (0:54), and a script gallery (7:25) of the original screenplay. Comes with a reversible cover. The first 1,500 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a limited slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr. (Eric Cotenas)