Story: Toni (Pamela Ludwig) has just arrived on campus and as a journalism student, her timing couldn’t have better to cover the school’s latest news. After all, a controversial fraternity is about to reopen, rush week is kicking off, and after a strange meeting with the school’s dean, Toni senses some potential scoops. After all, Dean Grail (Roy Thinnes) informs her that his own daughter died under mysterious circumstances, which piques Toni’s journalist radar, before she is assigned to cover the rush week parties. While she is reluctant at first, she soon learns another coed has gone missing and while she digs into that, she also tries to learn more about Jeff (Dean Hamilton), the leader of the frat that was just allowed to reopen. He is a colorful student with some questionable decisions in his past, so Toni follows his various pranks and parties. As the pranks intensify, it seems like more women are vanishing, all while Jeff and his frat brothers run around in cloaks with axes. Is there a killer on the loose as Toni suspects or is she overreacting, and if there is a killer, are the murders related to rush week?
Entertainment Value: Rush Week is often marketed as an 80s slasher flick, but that might feel a little misleading to genre fans in search of stalk & slash violence. This is not a fast paced, blood soaked slasher, but instead more of a murder mystery with some light horror elements blended in. That is going to delight some and disappoint others, but regardless of the genre approach you prefer, Rush Week has its moments. The narrative is passable and tries to weave in some twists, but remains predictable and with a slower than expected pace, more wild turns or colorful elements could have worked wonders. But it does have a wealth of 80s vibes and some fun scenes, including an odd, fun small role played by Gregg Allman. And while the pace is slower than usual and the blood is minimal, Rush Week still has some worthwhile genre elements and if nothing else, is worth a look just to see how it takes some different paths than most slasher type pictures. I’d label as it is a mixed result, enough to warrant a light recommendation, but with more than a few reservations. But we all know 80s horror has a rabid fan base, so I have to think Rush Week will draw in those fans regardless.
The sleaze factor of Rush Week is rather low, especially given that it wants to be a slasher flick that unfolds during a campus wide assortment of parties. But we do have a few topless scenes, not to mention a naked meditation scene, though the latter is on the tame side. Even so, Rush Week delivers on the genre expectations at least somewhat, so it deserves some points. There is no blood however, despite the potential killer on the loose, sticking us with off screen deaths that really dull the horror atmosphere. I wouldn’t have minded so many off camera kills if there had been some fun ones mixed in that showed some red stuff, but no such luck. The dialogue has some bright spots however, with a lot of frat boy talk, 80s lingo, and dated references. I do want to mention there are a lot of references to other horror movies made, so genre fans can extract more fun from those moments, I think. Not many home run lines or quotable exchanges, but a couple points are earned. On the craziness scale, Rush Week stays chill for the most part, but has some minor moments of wackiness. The highlights include a double cloaked axe battle, an absolutely terrible villain mask, and old school computer graphics fun.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: Rush Week has been restored for this release by Vinegar Syndrome, who scanned the original interpositive in 2k, giving us an impressive visual release. The restoration yields a remarkable looking print, super clean and detailed, with minimal debris or source flaws. This allows the image to showcase rich black levels, accurate colors, and as I mentioned, a terrific level of overall detail. I’d say I was surprised by the magic worked by Vinegar Syndrome here, but this label is consistently among the best, so it should be no shock that Rush Week looks so good here. The extras includes an audio commentary track from genre film podcast The Hysteria Continues and a pair of interviews, as cast members Courtney Gebhart and Dean Hamilton share their memories of the production.