Fresh Outta High School 9

I can’t deny the high expectations built up from the first eight in the Fresh Outta High School series, but I still tried to maintain objectivity when I popped the DVD in my player. I don’t intend to sugarcoat my opinions, so if you consider yourself a fan of this series, you might want to sit down. Fresh Outta High School 9 might be the biggest disaster of 2008.

What an absolute embarrassment for all involved, from the cast to the production crew. Everything that made the previous films special, different, innovative — up in smoke. What remains is a horrific amalgam of poor direction, fresh-off-the-street (or -boat) acting and shoddy production design. I’d like to try to find an explanation for what went wrong.

Director Greg Lansky cut his teeth on gritty gonzo fare like Slut Diaries, When Cock Is Not Enough and Sugar Butt before embracing the Fresh Outta High School series. He’s directed all nine entries and is slated to direct two more before 2008 ends. Could directing nine films in two short years have burned him out? I don’t know the man personally, but his body of work exhibits an undeniable decline in quality in both this and the Naughty College Girls series, and of course none of this series work has matched the raw authenticity of his auspicious early works.

Of the actors — well, I wish I could say “the less I say, the better,” but I can’t review this film without taking a look at the extraordinary lengths Lansky went through to keep his cast devoid of talent. I don’t want to be too hard on veteran actors like Steve Holmes (Da Vinci Load, Rachel’s Choice, Belladonna: Manhandled 3) or Marco Banderas (59 Seconds, F My A), but nobody manages to rise above the languid material.

If the men sleepwalk through their thankless roles, it’s the woman who stand out as true embarrassments. All are relative newcomers to the industry — not unusual for this series, which Lansky has used to spot the freshest young talent available — and their inexperience shows thanks to Lansky’s uninspired directing. The film’s worst exchange occurs in the third scene, which features Stephanie Cane as a dull-eyed party girl whose neighbor (John Strong) urges her to keep the noise from her parties to a minimum.

“I’ll call the homeowner’s association and they’ll put you in your place!” shouts Strong, unable to reach his usual potential acting alongside such a green newbie.

“No, no — just come inside,” Cane pleads.

“This better be good,” Strong sighs.

“It will be.” Not coy, not sexy — she gives what could have been the scene’s most erotic line of dialogue such a bored, matter-of-fact reading the average viewer will find himself checking his watch instead of his heart rate.

The only thing that comes close to redeeming these bad performances is Morgan Layne’s hilariously over-the-top Brooklyn-cum-N’Orleans accent. Even her flat delivery of a cliché like, “I think I’m just gonna, like, go for it — grab his dick, suck him off,” turns the scene into an instant camp classic, especially acting opposite Ramon Nomar’s played-up Spanish accent. Not even the poor delivery, stilted pacing and dull staging of the sex scenes can ruin the hilarity of this pair, but of course the comedy is of the unintentional variety.

A final note on the directing/acting: Holmes’ spanking fetish, and the hilariously dainty manner in which he carries it out, provides both the most intriguing and the most frustrating moment in the film. Holmes participates in two scenes — first, he’s a stern lecturer at what is said to be a public high school (even though the outside looks like a house in Pasadena and the inside has an aesthetic sensibility that resembles a mid-’70s grindhouse lobby more than a high school — see what I mean about embarrassing production design?), then he’s a private tutor of German. These appear, at first, to be two separate characters… And then he starts in on the spanking again.

If you like boring, uninspired scenes that go nowhere, give Fresh Outta High School 9 a try. If not, try checking out 10 or 11 — Lansky is bound to bounce back. I hope.

Posted by D. B. Bates on August 15, 2008 12:00 AM