The Horror Honeys: National Lampoon’s Class Reunion: Pioneering Low Art

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion: Pioneering Low Art

A Slasher Honey Review with Chassity

National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982)

I have something to say to you, dear readers, and the other Honeys. Shame on you. Shame on all of you. For not telling me that John Hughes’s National Lampoon’s Class Reunion existed. I thought I knew his whole body of work. But somehow this one slipped under my radar. I love comedy and horror more than anything…anything except John Hughes that is. 

I’m not mad, guys. I’m just disappointed, is all. Imagine me wagging my finger. 

Okay, now that that’s out of the way. I’ll forgive you all because Class Reunion wasn’t at all what I expected. And while I haven’t decided for sure if this is 100% a good thing or not, it definitely puts the film in a league of its own as far as horror spoofs go. 

So what was I expecting? Something along the lines of Slaughter High, only with more comedy. I expected to see early versions of the Hughes characters we would all come to love, only with more slapstick. I thought I’d get more parodying of your basic slasher tropes, and that the jokes would be a lot more sophisticated than they actually were. 

What do we really get with Class Reunion? Well, the name gives away all the basics. And if you’re even remotely a slasher aficionado, you already know the drill. The popular kids play a prank on someone not of their group, and ten years later at the reunion, the wronged party comes back seeking to exact his revenge. Through murder, of course. 

And that’s about as trope-y as it gets, to be honest. Which is fine, considering that this was an early 80s film. There is the joke of the characters being played by actors who appear to be much older than the young people they’re playing. It was distracting, but I chose to look at it as joke about something the genre is notorious for; a joke that happened to be ahead of its time. Normally, one would be 28 at the time of a high school reunion. Almost none of the actors playing the reunion attendees look even close to that. And it works, because it adds to the humor. 

Let’s talk about the prank that is the inciting incident. If you want to parody the prank-gone-bad, revenge slasher convention, good luck with that. I can’t imagine that being done in a more clever and tragically hilarious way than it was here. I won’t give it away, but suffice it to say it was a great start to the film and lets you know right off that you’re dealing with filmmakers who know a thing a two about the subgenre. 

As often is the case, parody films sometimes sacrifice humor for trying to prove knowledge or loyalty to a genre, or they sacrifice the knowledge that is ultimately needed to pull people in (the kind of wink, nudge that makes you really feel in on the joke) for the sake of pure comedy. The latter is the case here, and it shows. Class Reunion opts more for humor, and as a result, it can sometimes be too zany and over the top. There’s so much that could have been done with the slasher conventions that were already in existence at this time. While it has a lot to offer, it’s easy to feel like you were hoping for more. 

But ultimately, when put in perspective with the time period, and questioning if the formulaic nature of slasher flicks was solidified at this time, it’s difficult not to wonder whether or not expecting more from it is just a little bit unfair. In fact, one could argue that it was actually maybe ahead of its time. 

Which is another fascinating thing. If Hughes serious teen films had come first, it could have been said that Class Reunion takes the teen films archetypes that those movies tried so hard to deconstruct, and turned them into caricatures. But the opposite is true. Here, Hughes sets up the same archetypes that have been teen movie fodder for years, sets them up as the worst versions of themselves (horror movie youngsters), and tears them down later in his serious teen films. 

And speaking of this, my favorite thing about the movie is the development of the “class nobody” character. Watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean. It’s hard not to love him. 

If you’re a high-brow movie snob that hates frat boy humor and expects your comedies to be “intelligent," then this isn’t the movie for you. But if you truly love horror, can easily find humor in things, and have a healthy appreciation for the high school movie, you will love it as much as I did. 

Slasher Honey Rating: 4 saddle oxfords out of 5

National Lampoon's Class Reunion is available via YouTube & DVD

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