Student Bodies

For the Canadian-produced television series, see Student Bodies (TV series).
Student Bodies

Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Michael Ritchie (as Allen Smithee)
Written by Mickey Rose
  • Kristen Riter
  • Matt Goldsby
  • Cullen Chambers
Music by Gene Hobson
Cinematography Robert Ebinger
Edited by Kathryn Ruth Hope
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 7, 1981 (1981-08-07)
Running time
86 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $5.2 million

Student Bodies is a 1981 comedy horror film written and directed by Mickey Rose, with an uncredited Michael Ritchie co-directing. A spoof of slasher horror films such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night. Student Bodies was the first film to satirize the thriving slasher film genre. A prominent feature of the film is a body count that is superimposed onscreen whenever a death occurs.


Student Bodies is about a serial killer who stalks female students at Lamab High School, while at the same time, voyeuristically watching them. The killer calls himself "The Breather," presumably because the killer is always breathing heavily.

The Breather enjoys stalking victims over the telephone and much like Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th films, he hates seeing youngsters having sex. The Breather uses many unusual objects to kill his female victims such as a paper clip, a chalkboard eraser, and a horse-head bookend. He kills his male victims by placing them in trash bags alive.

The film itself ends with several twists: initially, it is revealed that the Principal and his elderly female assistant are working as a duo as "The Breather", even though they are shown at one point in the film in the same room as other characters when the Breather contacts the school to threaten to commit further murders. The film then goes to reveal that the entire film was a fevered dream, caused by the main character Toby being sick and consumed by overwhelming sexual repression. In a send-up of The Wizard of Oz, many characters are revealed to be much the opposite of what they appeared to be for the bulk of the film: the jock-like shop instructor is really the school's French teacher, the stuck-up would-be prom queen is actually the school nerd (who is given the crown by Toby after she wakes up, due to her kind nature), the two handicapped kids turn out to be able-bodied, and a local ROTC cadet is a hippie.

After being released from the hospital, Toby and her boyfriend are about to have sex, at which point he puts on gloves similar to the ones worn by the Breather and strangles Toby, as he has lost respect for her. However, in a homage to the nightmare-ending of Carrie, Toby's hands rise up from the freshly dug grave after her funeral to attack her killer.


Production notes

Student Bodies features a cast of true unknowns; most of them (including leads Riter and Goldsby) have never made another feature film. The best-known performer is probably Mimi Weddell, an actress in her sixties who later went on to play several roles on film and TV, including a grandmother in the hit series Sex and the City. Mickey Rose wrote and directed the film, with Jerry Belson offering additional material; however, Michael Ritchie was placed on set as an overseeing producer, to guide Rose should he need it. Some sources say that Ritchie was actually the co-director/writer, and had to take the "Alan Smithee" credit due to a strike by the Writer's Guild of America; others maintain that he took said credit to distance himself from the project. Mickey Rose was (and is) also a WGA member and received full credit; this would seem to debunk the "union problem" rumors.

R rating

Student Bodies contains no graphic violence or foul language—until 26 minutes into the film, when the action is interrupted by a man sitting at a desk. He explains that, in order to achieve an R rating, a film "must contain full frontal nudity, graphic violence, or an explicit reference to the sex act." He intones that R-rated films are by far the most popular, so "the producers have asked me to take this opportunity to say, 'fuck you'." A slide indicating that the film has been indeed given an R rating by the MPAA appears for a few seconds, a rare instance of the MPAA rating appearing during a film,[1] after which the movie continues.


The film parodies several slasher and horror films, including Carnival of Souls, Black Christmas, Carrie, Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, The Shining, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night.

"The Stick"

One of the film's oddest aspects is a character called Malvert, a creepy-looking janitor (itself a familiar trope in slasher films). Malvert mumbles, does bizarre things like urinate into wastepaper baskets ("Sometimes Malvert pee red!" being one the film's more memorable lines), and moves about in a herky-jerky fashion. (At film's end, Malvert is revealed to be something of a sophisticate; when Toby informs him that he was a janitor in her dream, he responds, "Absurd!")

Malvert was played by a tall, double-jointed stand-up comedian known only as "The Stick", who made no other films; his only other credit seems to be as a guest appearance in the pilot episode on the 1984 TV series Out Of Control. Several online reviews give the film itself a mixed reaction but praise The Stick's performance.[2][3][4]

An obituary from the Corsicana Daily Sun dated May 8, 1989, confirms The Stick's real name as Patrick Boone Varnell, born in Lawton, Oklahoma on January 22, 1941. He died at Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas, Texas on May 7, 1989, aged 47. His body was donated to science, by his sister who was a lab technician in Corsicana at the time of his death.[5]

Filming locations

Lamar Consolidated Junior High School in Richmond, Texas – called Lamab in the film (not to be confused with Lamar High School in Houston, Texas which is known for its use in the film Rushmore). Taylor High School in Katy, Texas was used for the film's football stadium, exterior and some interior scenes. The parade scene was filmed in downtown Houston, Texas, on Main Street.


One of a group of films directed towards teenaged audiences during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Student Bodies grossed $5.2 million its release.[6] It became famous as a late-night cult favorite on cable afterwards.[7] The DVD was released on June 3, 2007. The HD Blu-ray version was released May 3, 2011.

Critical reception

AllMovie wrote, "Student Bodies, though occasionally very funny, is not consistent enough to recommend as a comedy or scary enough to be an effective horror film."[8]


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