Review

Review

Slasher Cinema Showcase: 'Boardinghouse'

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When I started this feature, I never promised I'd focus entirely on the cream of the slasher crop, but I'd like to think every film I've discussed had some merit as pure entertainment for fans of the genre. Take my earlier pick Disconnected, for example: it's an incoherent, babbling mess (if it were a person, it would be that lady on the bus who wears seven sweaters and talks to her collection of doll heads), but it was a riot to watch, and never boring... and honestly, boredom is the only unforgivable cinematic sin in my book.
 
The 1982 monstrosity Boardinghouse is not boring either... but damn, it's just wrong on so many levels. Made during the dawning days of home video, Boardinghouse has the dubious (and alleged) distinction of being the first shot-on-video horror film to be transferred to film for a legitimate theatrical release. In the digital era, even the lowest-budget horror titles can look totally cinematic if filmed with some degree of skill, but in 1982 a shot-on-video production usually involved equipment normally reserved for porn and local TV news... and believe me, there's little to no skill behind the camera to make up for that weakness. What Boardinghouse does have, however, is a shitload of pure, unfiltered crazy.
 
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The plot can be summed up pretty quick: an eccentric playboy with psychic and telekinetic abilities – played by the film's director, Peter Wintergate, who struts around in a Speedo for half the movie – rents out his mini-mansion exclusively to nubile single women. As we're informed in the cheesiest computer text prologue imaginable, the house was the site of multiple murders and is believed to be haunted by a malevolent spirit. That's the setup, and the rest of the film involves the entire cast being supernaturally splattered in enthusiastic ways, thanks to plenty of absurd makeup effects (the warthog-head woman who barfs up a mouse is one of the biggest WTF moments ever) and buckets of gore. There's even a musical number performed by the film's “Final Girl,” and it's even goofier than you could ever imagine.
 
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But wait, there's more! As we're told through a reverb-heavy narration in the film's introduction, we have the opportunity to hide our innocent eyes from these plentiful scenes of carnage, thanks to a William Castle-style gimmick called “HorrorVision”TM that flashes hilarious low-tech video effects onscreen prior to any potential “scares” that may be coming our way. This gag has been pulled a hundred times before, but cheap exploitation stunts never fail to amuse the hell out of me... and it makes for a pretty good drinking game, if you're so inclined (and of legal age; I need to state that for the record).
 
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I have no idea how Boardinghouse performed in theaters, but it actually played a few festivals and revivals, and it was quite a popular VHS rental back in the day via Paragon Video; folks who rented just about any of Paragon's titles would also be treated to a trailer spoiling nearly all of the film's goriest kills, but that probably just upped the curiosity factor for the adventurous horror seeker (like yours truly). Code Red released the film on DVD in 2008, and there's a funny interview with Wintergate and his wife/co-star Kalassu (the aforementioned Final Girl), who were just as surprised at the film's modest financial success as I was, and are even planning a sequel!
 
Here's that infamous trailer... silly spoilers ahead:
 
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