Friday, May 22, 2015

Off the Shelf: Ski School (Blu-ray)

by Patrick Bromley
The hottest action ever to hit the slopes!

There's a certain kind of movie that seems like it was specifically engineered only for 1 a.m. airings on HBO in the early '90s. It's rarely ever the case -- though there was a DTV market back then, most movies of a certain budget got some sort of theatrical release -- but it's impossible to ever think of them playing on big screens. It doesn't even feel like these movies were written or filmed or marketed. They just sort of...appeared on late night cable, where they remained for the rest of their days.

The 1991 comedy Ski School is one such movie. It's yet another variation on Animal House/Stripes/Caddyshack, only set at a ski resort school. On the one side, you've got the party animals of Section 8 led by Dave Marshak (the great Dean Cameron channeling Bill Murray). They live to get drunk and have fun and play pranks and see girls naked. Of course this catches the ire of their uptight co-workers and bosses, who can't wait to have them kicked out of Ski School, which I'm told is a thing. There's only one way to settle this: a big race!
Here's something I never knew about myself until this viewing of Ski School on Blu-ray: I am a sucker for a stupid skiing comedy. I have never been skiing once in my life and don't plan to go anytime soon, but I have an irrational fondness for goofy movies set at ski resorts dating all the way back to Ski Party. Hot Dog: The Movie? Love it. Ski Patrol? Yep. Out Cold? You bet. I can't defend it. Hell, I barely even understand it. Is there something about the quest for an endless party and a bunch of horny co-eds that mixes particularly well with a snowy setting? I don't know. I'm a complicated man. Ski School is a complicated movie.

It is not a funny movie, despite being a comedy. There are jokes, sure, but none that I laughed at. Because it's a relic of the late '80s early '90s, some of the jokes are particularly tasteless (and I say this recognizing that most often, their tastelessness is the point). A full 10 minutes of screen time is devoted to setting up and paying off one long gay panic joke. There are several instances in which the male characters -- the heroes, even -- basically sexually assault women and it's seen as "charming." A bit of flirting, even. This is a leftover from Revenge of the Nerds, in which rape is a casual part of the courting process. There's nothing quite so egregious as that in Ski School, but it's operating from the same place. We must not just be willing to suspend our feelings on gender politics watching a movie like this. We must, in the words of Lloyd Kaufman, be willing to lock them in a cage and torture them.
Any self-respecting video store or cable kid of the '80s has a fondness for Dean Cameron, who stole our hearts as the horror-obsessed Chainsaw in Summer School and ruined our sleep by slamming his hand down on a knife in Bad Dreams. He gives good deadpan sarcasm here, and our residual affection for him helps us overlook the fact that he's kind of a smug a-hole passing as the hero of the film. He's surrounded by other actors we recognize from cable growing up, including Patrick Labyorteaux (also of Summer School and Heathers) and Stuart Fratkin (aka Teen Wolf Too's Stiles 2.0). Perhaps the movie's most important casting decision, though, is frequent Full Moon Features star Charlie Spradling (she of Puppet Master II, Meridian and Bad Channels fame) as the girlfriend of the movie's lead douche. This is because any movie with Charlie Spradling is better than a movie without Charlie Spradling, even if she is asked to wear her grandmother's underpants.
My affection for Ski School is completely rooted in nostalgia. I am aware of this. I watched it too many times on HBO in the early '90s to pretend like I'm not excited to have it as part of my collection. With its tired snobs vs. slobs premise, its abundance of day-glo ski wear and its juvenile attitude towards...well, pretty much anything, Ski School is the perfect late night '80s comedy that just happened to hit a few years late. The original MGM DVD, long out of print, goes for more than $75 on Amazon. Just think of all the money you're saving by buying the new Blu-ray or DVD from Olive Films

Let this sink in for a minute: we now live in a world in which both Bio-Dome and Ski School are available on Blu-ray. I'm no Bio-Dome fan, but even I have to admit that this truly is the best timeline.

Blu-ray release date: May 26, 2015
95 minutes/1991/R
1.85:1 (1080p)
DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)

Buy Ski School from Olive Films here


  1. Fun review - I love Ski School - I first watched it with a total ski-dude back in college who I'm pretty sure thought it was a documentary. I don't think I can justify a purchase, although it one of the great films to capture the classic Manichean conflict of cool dudes vs. douchebags. I'd also be lying if said I didn't dig Charlie Spradling's granny-panties - she's purty!

  2. I remember buying Ski School 1 & 2 on VHS from a video store that was going out of business about 15 years ago. I may still have them lying around somewhere. I also have some weird nostalgic fondness for these old ski resort movies, even though I know they are really not that good. I enjoy these and Ski Patrol.

  3. Totally remember watching this late night on TV. I also totally don't remember anything that happens in it!

    Also -
    "Any self-respecting video store or cable kid of the '80s has a fondness for Dean Cameron, who stole our hearts as the horror-obsessed Chainsaw in Summer School and ruined our sleep by slamming his hand down on a knife in Bad Dreams."

    This is why I love this site.

    1. Thanks, Chaybee. We love that we have the kind of community that not only appreciates a sentiment like that, but GETS IT.