When I stumbled over "Medley," I initially had high hopes. A low budget horror film from Italy taking aim at the social and mental pressures of the public school system sure sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? Yes, it does. Just the fact that "Medley" arrived on our shores from the homeland of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, and Ruggero Deodato was exciting in and of itself. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, what we have here might kick off a new wave of exciting Italian filmmaking. Even the Troma tag on the DVD couldn't dissuade me from thinking positive thoughts, although anyone remotely familiar with Lloyd Kaufman's company knows the Troma moniker is the kiss of doom as far as films go. Sadly, I feel it necessary to announce to the world that "Medley," a shot on video production created by some guy named Gionata Zarantonello, is a cinematic catastrophe on a global scale. I watched every excruciating minute of this seventy-minute film, and am convinced that I shall carry the scars inflicted on my mind by this claptrap to the grave. This is not the new Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, or Ruggero Deodato. I suspect these directors, the ones living anyway, would disavow this film on sight if they were offered the chance.
I should give Zarantonello credit on one small point; his film does live up to the title. What we have here is a medley of scenes, snapshots if you will, strung together by a point of view that sweeps and soars down school hallways. Problem is, not one of these self-contained scenes inspires any interest in what the movie tries to say. "Medley" avers that the Italian school system consists of sadistic teachers, impossible workloads, and students seeking to avoid it all. The movie therefore simply takes the brutal process one step further, putting guns and various sharp objects in the hands of teachers and students alike. The first scene tells us all we need to know about "Medley." A group of kids learns to their utter horror that they must take a pop quiz. None of them studied for it, apparently, and since even the smallest graded exercise could adversely affect the all important grade point average, they go to pieces. A cheater caught by the zombie like teacher has his arm handcuffed to his desk. Kids pull out guns and threaten one another in order to get the answers whenever the teacher turns his back to the room. Eventually, someone snaps and shoots the instructor in the head. Not to worry, though, since anyone slain during the course of the film seems to return to life quite easily.
More nonsense follows. Teachers bellow, bully, and cajole their unwilling charges. One professor melts after a kid poisons his drinking water. One student humiliated by an instructor turns on another student, opening him up with a sharp object only to discover his insides stuffed full of pencils, pens, calculators, and other assorted classroom materials. A gaggle of kiddies turns on a teacher in the hallway, performing a bloody operation on the poor brute that we unfortunately never see in close up. There's the obligatory kid who sells cheat sheets, study guides, and other much needed materials out of a darkened room. In what must rank as the film's most pointless scenario, a trio of kids in a bathroom falls prey to a chainsaw wielding instructor who then sets the room on fire. The whole thing turns into a spoof of a cologne advertisement (!), or at least I think that's what happened. This last scene highlights one of the main problems in the film; I never, ever had the feeling I knew exactly what was going on. I think the difference in cultures accounts for most of my confusion. "Medley" never gave me anything to hold on to beyond the universal dislike of public schools.
The performances in this film uniformly tank. You either see people wildly overacting or shambling about like mindless automatons. The actors playing the school staff obviously attended the Il Duce School of Acting since they spend most of their screen time shrieking at the top of their lungs and/or gesticulating wildly. Moreover, the performances suffer from the shifting cast. With the exception of a few people every scene contains new faces, which makes it that much harder to feel any empathy with the movie. How can you like a character when they disappear, never to return, within the space of four or five minutes? Other problems bringing this film down include the unexplained presence of a mime in the opening and closing frames, the poor picture quality, "humorous" scenes that are not funny in any way, and the slow pace of the movie. For a picture that only runs seventy minutes, "Medley" felt like it lasted longer than "Lawrence of Arabia."
As usual, the Troma DVD of "Medley" contains plenty of extras. You get a director's commentary track, a boatload of trailers for other low budget Troma trash, an interview with Lloyd Kaufman, the always odd "Radiation March" clip, and an interview with the director. Zarantonello claims he made the film when he was eighteen years old, an admission that helps clear up the question of why the film is such an adolescent piece of junk. After sitting through yet another Troma film, I am seriously considering retiring from watching any of their other projects. Outside of "The Toxic Avenger," and perhaps one or two other movies that are slightly entertaining, none of the stuff this company releases is worth watching even in the "so bad it's good" sense. Avoid "Medley" like the plague.