Vernon is the typical high school horror movie nerd, the kind of student that even Carrie White would beat up. The mean jocks that terrorize Vernon call him "The Creeper", and even Vernon's teachers seem to want to antagonize him in whatever way that will hurt him the most. A skeezy janitor menaces Vernon at every turn. His English teacher determines that Vernon's poor grades in her class stem from his obsession with chemistry, so she shreds his "biology report" with her paper cutter. His gym teacher strongarms Vernon into helping his dumb football players cheat on their work by copying Vernon's answers on tests. What none of them know is that Vernon's lab experiment involves creating a formula that turns his gentle white guinea pig into a dark-furred, raging guinea-beast. Before you can say Dr. Jekyll, Vernon is drinking the stuff himself, at which point he transforms into a homicidal alter-ego who viciously murders his tormentors.
"Horror High" makes for a more interesting title, since the horror sequences have a drug movie angle to them (lots of colored lights, zooming cameras, rock music, tilted framing). It definitely seems possible that it was written while high, considering some of the more outrageous plot points. For instance, why would the school remain functioning after even one murder occurs, let alone TWO murders? Why does Vernon seem to live alone with no adult supervision whatsoever? What kind of high school janitor brings his cat to the school with him? All I can say is, none of it mattered to the younger me, I wasn't paying attention to the plot so much as waiting for the next gruesome shock.
"You talkin to me?"
Cult film fans rejoice, because "Horror High" has got a few luminaries. There's one single person in the entire school that likes Vernon, and it's Rosie Holotik, from "Don't Look in the Basement!". She gives a performance similar to the one she gave in "Basement", which is to say very sweet, very vulnerable, and then very screaming. Austin Stoker (from Assault On Precinct 13 and Abby to name just a few) plays the lone detective assigned to this case of a serial killer operating inside a high school. He has the difficult task of playing it straight in a movie that is clearly not grounded in reality. It also must be said that Pat Cardi carries the film rather nicely as Vernon; looking a lot like I imagine Marilyn Manson looked in his high school years, Cardi's performance is appealingly oddball, and he manages to make a somewhat ridiculous character likable enough to be compelling, yet awkward enough that we understand why he's an outcast, too. Some of the otherwise unmentioned performances are best unmentioned, as they are barely passable. Vernon's gym teacher is played by an actor who can't read his lines all that well but does portray a convincing sleazeball character who makes Dennis Franz seem positively squeaky clean, .
"I can't believe Bill Marshall suggested that I read for this."
The music score is an eerie prog-rock sounding thing; it's more Alice Cooper than Goblin, and it's not nearly as prevalent as it should have been in the finished product. There's even a spooky, folky ballad theme song (with Vernon's name in it!), a hallmark of the 70s. The original unedited 1974 theatrical version of the film was a Crown International Release, and it got a nice DVD release by the Code Red imprint a few years back--it's now out of print, but the film usually shows up on YouTube, and the edited TV version is on a few budget DVD multi pack compilations.