This film is brought to you by Troma Team Video Distribution Company which is a part of Troma Entertainment. They have been responsible for releasing B-rated pictures since the mid-1970's under its founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz. Troma has shared in the success of several underground features; 1984's The Toxic Avenger stands as their most recognizable work. Tromeo and Juliet from 1996 and '93's Cannibal! The Musical should also receive a mention as far as popularity is concerned.
This film tells the story of a high school senior, Laura, who dies of a heart attack following the events of a 30-second 100-meter dash. Laura's death causes her sister, Anne, to return home from the Navy as a set of grisly murders occur among a group of clowny high-schoolers.
Viewers can expect the usual cast of losers to appear...almost like film producers meet in a dark alley to swap actors and actresses enabling a healthy rotation of amateurism. In the far out reaches of your expectations Vanna White fills a role in Graduation Day - due to the common age range of most of my readers, White doesn't need much of an introduction. If you're still drawing a blank, she was the "letter turner" on Wheel of Fortune. She is also the niece of famed actor Christopher George (he also appeared in Mortuary) who plays a role in this film as well.
In addition, Linnea Quigley was added to the group as the whorish archetype that she willingly embraced in many of her earlier horror movies. Quigley is a cult icon in the genre and most notably portrayed "Trash" in 1985's Return of the Living Dead - other works include Silent Night, Deadly Night, Creepozoids (I would have had a field day with that film if I was writing reviews back then), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Night of the Demons, and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings.
Much to my surprise the creators of Graduation Day managed to cast young-looking individuals to portray high school students. There is one exception to this and it concerns Laura's boyfriend Kevin who appears to be over 30. Unfortunately I cannot find proper documentation to state how old he was in 1981 but passing him off as someone in their late teens was a ridiculous stretch. The woman responsible for the special effects makeup, Jill Rockow, would advance her career by branching out to films like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Silver Bullet, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3, and the Star Trek remake that was released in 2009. Rockow's achievements in Graduation Day are text-book, novice level achievements and won't frighten or impress the majority of viewers.
The use of false leads in this film run off into the countryside with the remaining sensibility you were desperately clutching onto. Everything from the principle having a knife collection in his top drawer, the head Track coach that people blame for Laura's death, the annoyed persona of Anne, to the heckled police officer who frequents the school grounds; no one is safe from the accusatory index finger, not even the bees who spread pollen from one flower to another.
The killer in question is armed with a fencing sword and dons a sweat suit and netted mask, fumbling around with a stop watch before and after the murders. I don't find such a silly image too far out of the ball park but why do characters who are caught off guard by the killer's presence always try to act reasonably? An anonymous brigand is lurking around in the hedges and the only thing that you can insist upon is how mannerly you come across? What a half-witted decision that is. How daft! Let's not allow this small facet to overshadow the simplemindedness involved when allowing oneself to stand motionlessly while the killer performs his/her preferred method of execution on your person. I've always refused to suspense my disbelief in this department; the act of "letting" someone kill you is preposterous and isn't functional on any level. Far be it for me to rain on the Slasher parade, though, as the sub-genre is littered with unrealistic bits like this o' plenty.
Bandwagon-jumpers of the 1980's all rushed to throw your average, ordinary high school and college students into the clutches of danger. The vast number of them seems staggering - the only way to properly catalog them all is to keep a list or have an amazing memory. I've seen so many titles that resort to this formula and shake my head in disappointment when I realize that I'm not out of the woods yet. Graduation Day, like many of its breed, simply "exists" just for the sake of being there...the look of the film itself even appears dated and I cannot think of one single element that stands above the rest. For us completists, the obsessive fanatics that we are, we may find it appealing that Linnea Quigley plays a role...but even this tidbit can go either way considering some of the doozies she's been in.