If you think the horror spoof comedy genre started with Scary Movie and Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth, think again. Horror was all the rage in the early 1980s (as the introduction to this film points out, all 26 horror movies released during the previous year made a profit), so it comes as no surprise that some filmmaker would come along and try to exploit the genre for laughs (and money) - and so was born Student Bodies. I know what you're thinking when you see the title - naked girls - but I'm going to have to disappoint you on that score. Even though the film received an R rating, there's almost nothing R-rated about it - no actual nudity, very little profanity, and only the slightest amount of blood. Sure, kids keep getting killed for having sex, but none of them actually live long enough to do it. And the killer uses whatever he can find, so forget about machetes and knives and think eggplant, erasers, and paper clips.
A distinctly Halloween-esque opening scene introduces us to The Breather. Actually, you could say The Breather introduces himself to us because, even though the camera shows us each scene from his perspective, he maintains a fairly constant monologue around all of his heavy breathing. In this fashion, he gives us a number of the film's funniest lines, such as when he's struggling to climb stairs, stepping in chewing gum, questioning his choice of footwear, or calling in to announce when and where he is going to kill next (using a rubber chicken to disguise his voice). We don't know who the killer really is until the end, of course, but there's no shortage of suspects at the local high school. Don't expect any yellow tape to appear around crime scenes, by the way, because the school conducts its own investigation. Principal Peters (Joe Talarowski) isn't going to let the murder of several students ruin the biggest school day of the year (due to budget cuts, the school has to have all extracurricular activities such as the big game, the big parade, the prom, etc. on the same day, and today's the day) - not even when a second couple are murdered at the big funeral of the first dead couple. Instead of cops, Principal Peters calls on a few teachers and a schizophrenic psychologist to name the killer. Meanwhile, do-gooder Toby (Kristen Riter), who has the bad habit of discovering most of the victims, conducts a secret investigation of her own. Who could the murderer be? Principal Peters? The horse head bookends-obsessed (and constantly scene-stealing) shop teacher Mr. Dumpkin (Joe Flood)? The seriously addled contortionist of a janitor? The girl who would do anything to make sure she gets elected prom queen? Weirdoes abound on this campus, so just about anyone could be The Breather.
I should point out the fact that you don't have to be a horror fan to enjoy Student Bodies - you might not recognize the references to films such as Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, or Carrie, but that won't stop you from appreciating all of the comedy on display here. Don't let the fact that producer Michael Ritchie went the Allen Smithee route in the credits worry you, either. This movie is almost bursting at the seams with great one-liners. Not only is Student Bodies a genuinely funny movie, it actually manages to stay consistently funny from start to finish - and all without resorting to the exceedingly raunchy level of similar films today. It is possible that a few viewers might be offended by a few things here and there (such as the manner in which a blind student and a crippled student are portrayed), but I'd be lying if I said these weren't some of the movie's funniest moments. If you have a sense of humor and don't adopt an elitist attitude toward dumb jokes, I'm willing to bet you'll find much more satisfaction in Student Bodies than all of the films in the Scary Movie franchise combined. In this case, the first truly is the best.