Varsity Blood is something of a throwback to the old days of ‘80s slashers, the likes of Prom Night, Final Exam or Graduation Day, which makes it a bit of an oddity in among the current fad of found footage horror films. Thing is, most of those films, despite their filmed on Go-Pro origins, actually look and feel far more polished, professional and less cheap than Varsity Blood. Low budgets are seldom an excuse for low quality filmmaking; there have been titles filmed on far less to far greater effect. This one however is amateurish in almost every regard save its gore effects, but even that low bar is hardly enough to save it from not even reaching “so bad it’s good” status.
It’s not worth going into too much detail on the plot, because if you’ve ever seen a teen slasher, you know this story. Bunch of students, out partying (in this case on Halloween night), guy in a mask kills most of them until a final showdown with the virginal final girl. It’s rote as they come, with nothing truly fresh bought to the table. The story isn’t even well told, with most of the backstory about the tragic secret the teens are hiding being bought across in a set of poorly thought out, and even more poorly delivered, exposition dumps. The final revelation of the killer is only half a surprise, in that you can easily tell it’s not any of the obvious candidates, but the villain’s actual identity, motivation and modus operandi make very little sense at all.
This is compounded by the awful characterisation, in both senses of the term; the characters are all awful people and the film does an awful job at establishing them. Every single character is shown to be selfish, hateful, and so unlikeable that you honestly can’t care about who is killing who. So much of the dialogue is spent on them insulting and sniping at each other you seriously wonder why these characters are friends. The decidedly non-professional cast doesn’t help matters either; the performances are uniformly terrible, with most of the cast apparently thinking that the main reaction one would have to seeing a friend get an arrow through their head would be dull surprise.
Speaking of, while the film does have some decent gore effects, it really doesn’t have the direction to match. The whole film is badly shot, with rarely a scene getting the right lighting it needs or with anything approaching tension, menace or atmosphere. What’s more, none of the kills are anything memorable, so while technically accomplished, it fails in the grand guignol factor. It would also be remiss to not mention the look of the killer; the incredibly poorly made team mascot of the football team, with a mask like a Native American caricature. Not only is it not scary in the slightest but the filmmakers really don’t seem to have twigged that there may be more than a few sensitivity issues raised with such a look. If it was there to make a point, like the ongoing insensitivity of actual sports teams like the Redskins, the film is far too witless to bring that across.
Varsity Blood is an utter waste of time. It’s joyless, scareless, brainless, with characters that are a chore to spend any time watching, and even the deaths have next to no energy to them. With titles like this, it’s no wonder the sub-genre has died out on multiple occasions. Don’t bother with this. If you want to see this sort of slasher done right, seek out ‘80s splatter Rosemary’s Killer or the recent British film Tormented instead.