After Dennis the Menace lost his v-card to The Teacher and the hippies had their psychedelic sexual voyage in Pick-up, I figured this softcore-sex-between-thin-plots formula would eventually deviate. I expected the sequence break to be something like giant ants or robot Nazis—different, but still fun.
Trip With the Teacher, however, is a violent rape-revenge grindhouse flick. The previous two movies in the collection had their share of gritty violence, but this is on a different level. It will be harder to have fun with this one.
In this movie, four students and their teacher are held hostage, raped, and sometimes killed by psycho bikers. Breast flashes aren’t meant for titillation but gut-wrenching poignancy.
That said, I ran a problem: I barely knew the girls’ names by the end. It’s a bad sign when you’re keeping up with characters through physical features and archetypes instead of proper nouns. I’ll let the Parable Scene from Life of Brian explain my confusion:
“There were these four schoolgirls, and they were on a camping trip.”
“What were they called?”
“What were their names?”
“I don’t know. And their bus broke down.”
“You don’t know!?”
“Well, it doesn’t matter!”
“He doesn’t know what they were called!”
“Oh, they were called ‘Promiscuous Blonde,’ ‘Brunette Virgin,’ ‘Other Blonde,’ and ‘Raven Hair!’ Now—”
“Oh! You said you didn’t know!”
“It really doesn’t matter. The point is there were these four schoolgirls—”
“He’s making it up as he goes along.”
“No, I’m not! And these bikers…wait a minute. Were there five?”
“Oh, he’s terrible!”
“There were four.”
“They were, they were fo, fodder, really.”
“Aww, get off!”
So yeah, the girls are on an extracurricular camping trip with their teacher (Brenda Fogarty). Their bus breaks down, but not before they’ve caught a biker trio’s attention. Jay (Robert Gribbin) is the nice guy of the three, and is only with the other two, brothers Pete (Robert Porter) and Al (Zalman King) because he’s offered his services as a good Samaritan. Little does he know that Pete and Al are very bad people.
Al is the most unhinged, murderous and sex-crazed of the pair. Either out of loyalty, fear, or both, Pete is an enabler who barely lifts an eyebrow to tame his son of a bitch brother. It reminds me of the first half of From Dusk Till Dawn, where George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino played characters with a similar dynamic. Al does the lion’s share of raping and menacing, but like Seth Gecko, it can be argued that Pete is the most morally repugnant because he never intervenes.
The bikers tow the bus to what turns out to be an abandoned farmhouse. All seems innocuous until Al runs over the bus driver’s neck. Now Jay and the girls are murder witnesses, and the brothers aren’t the types to leave loose ends. They herd everyone into the farmhouse and the terror begins.
Out of everyone in the movie, the bikers get the most development while the girls recieve little explanation. They exist to be victimized, hopefully finding reprieve at the end. We learn that Bobbie/Promiscuous Blonde (Dina Ousley) is well-disciplined in the carnal arts. At one point she tries using sex to keep the captors satisfied, which backfires. Brunette Virgin is just that, Promiscuous Blonde’s Christian parallel opposite. As for Other Blonde, I often got her mixed up with Promiscuous Blonde. I don’t recall Raven Hair ever being spoken to or doing much of anything at any point.
Likewise, the Titular Teacher doesn’t contribute much either. Her role is to bookend the beginning and end of the movie by showing grit and fortitude. Otherwise she’s as much in the background as the other females. According to IMDB, the alternate video release title was Deadly Field Trip. I find it more fitting.
The plot is paper-thin. Once everyone is taken hostage it narrows down to victims and victimizers, rapes and murders. There are several times when the girls have an opportunity to retake the situation, but they don’t. When their hero Jay is knocked out, the girls are left totally helpless with no man in their corner to throw punches. That is, unless you’re savvy at basic math. Let’s see, five adult-sized women, two villains (one a passive drunkard, the other prone to psychotic giggling fits), and a shed full of potential makeshift weapons. I think I see a way out of this.
But no, the script demands that bad things happen to them, and thus it is so. The girls remain shell-shocked captives for the sake of moving the story along.
What director/screenwriter Earl Barton lacks in storytelling he makes up for in tension. Putting aside the logical inconsistencies, Trip with the Teacher works as a general horror show. I felt dread and pity for the poor girls, holding out hope despite knowing so little about them. When it comes to the movie’s murder and rape scenes, Barton does not play. He holds the camera steady, up close and personal. He stretches out the horrible acts on-screen to stomach-churning limits. The experiences, as a result, are wholly uncomfortable.
Al is an effectively creepy bastard, thanks in part to the direction and Zalman King’s performance. He’s a hard character to spend any length of time with. His malicious grin, crazed eyes and unkempt, greasy hair sells the idea that he is a dangerous monster. Al’s best moments are when he starts his wheezy snickering; there’s no telling what godawful images are parading through his twisted mind.
Either I’m not the right audience for this or I was used to the previous movies being so different. Trip with the Teacher left me with a sour taste. I’m not opposed to violent thrillers on principle, but I guess I’m looking for more fun here as opposed to feeling bleak and depressed. Here’s hoping that in the next movie, the boobs will spring free with more sunshine and optimism.
NORMAL GRADE: C-
COLLECTION GRADE: C-