With all the slasher films set in high schools it’s a wonder there’s are any teens left to grow up and keep America populated. From Friday the 13th, Prom Night and The Mutilator to more recent examples like The Lurker and now Last of the Grads, masked killers turning student bodies into dead bodies is a genre staple.
First-time writer/directors Jay Jenkins and Collin Kliewe literally went back to school to make Last of the Grads. They shot it in Seacrest High School in Naples Florida, which they both attended. Was it worth going back, or should they have listened when Alice said schools out forever?
Last of the Grads opens with a lengthy prologue wherein a couple are set on fire and we get some background on the “Coast to Coast Killer”, a possibly fictitious serial killer who’s leaving a trail of bodies across the country. According to the police department’s newest addition, Officer Jordy (Jay Jenkins), that trail is leading right to Shelby Florida. Sheriff Murray (Michael Vincent Berry) and Officer Greg (Charles White Jr., better known as YouTuber Cr1tikal) are having none of it. That kind of thing doesn’t happen here and nothing is going to interfere with the annual Senior Class Lock-In.
As the senior class goes about its last day of school, class president Donna (Sara Eklund), Emma (Jessica Lang), Steve (Jadon Cal, Hallows Point, Fake News), Stacey (Chloe Friedman) and their classmates don’t realize it may well be the last day of their lives as well.
Running just shy of two hours, Last of the Grads takes its time getting started. After the intro, we don’t get another killing until near the thirty-minute mark. Much of the time is spent introducing the film’s rather large cast. Thankfully Jenkins and Kliewe manage to keep things fairly interesting until we get to the dance and, after that the Lock-In, which is just what it sounds like, the students locked in the school overnight for a last party.
Like the films it takes its inspiration from, Last of the Grads isn’t particularly scary until the cast is reduced to the final girl. The rest of the cast is there to die and we know it. And die they do courtesy of some nasty practical effects. There are, among others, a knife through the neck, an axe to the head and an improbable but impressive boot to the face that splatters blood and brains everywhere.
I don’t know what this film’s budget was, but a large percentage of it had to have gone to effects guys Antonio Grassano (Wrong Turn, Cyst) and Kyle Roberts (Haunt, Red Woods) who do a good job of whittling the film’s large cast down to size.
The acting is surprisingly good considering how few credits most of the cast have. Of the film’s two YouTubers, Andrew Wagenheim a/k/a Huggbees is passable as one of the teachers. Cr1tikal is obnoxious as fuck, but I think that’s the point.
Last of the Grads is fairly formulaic, but I don’t think it was setting out to redefine the slasher film. There’s plenty of characters and situations familiar from old-school slashers and they’re played straight. There’s no ironic winking at the audience, just a bit of updating to make the characters a bit more believable. Unfortunately, that does mean a rather unbelievable collecting of the cell phones scene. Not letting the kids take selfies at their last school dance seems less believable than the Coast to Coast Killer’s alleged body count.
Last of the Grads is, along with The Last Matinee, one of the best and most blood-soaked slashers to come along in a while. It’s currently available to stream on Gumroad. You can watch the film’s website and Facebook page for announcements of other platforms.