Halloween Endurance Test: the Substitute (1996)

Now many people will probably complain that the Substitute is not an actual horror movie.  That’s one contention that even I can partially agree with.  Unfortunately for me, and you(!), I still have a burning desire to watch Class of 1999 left over from last year.  I just refuse to pay twenty bucks for the privilege.  Last year I watched Class of Nuke ‘Em High instead, this year the Substitute acts as …1999‘s surrogate.  So it’s inclusion here is inspired by a “real” horror film, even if it doesn’t quite reach that level itself.

[A connection that’s actually no joke! Type “the Substitute movie pics” into Google and look through the resulting gallery. Class of 1999’s poster makes a couple of appearances!]

(That’s just common, economic sense.  Why pay twenty dollars for a film starring murderous, robotic teachers when for five bucks I can get two films with equally murderous teachers who even act robotically?  It’s a no-brainer!)

Plus this film certainly is horrible.  The hand-to-hand combat sequences are horrendous.  Just check those roots out.  The horror is there in grammar if not in label.

If you’re making a (ultimately scary) “topical action-thriller” wouldn’t you make sure your combat sequences are top-notch?  Or as top-notch as your budget allows?  If this is as top-notch as your budget allows your film’s fights to get, then maybe you should turn the script into a romantic comedy or something.  Not to second guess Robert Mandel or anything, but I’m just saying.

Of course getting decent, let alone top-notch, action out of “star” Tom Berenger must have been quite a challenge in and of itself.  How many middle-aged mercenaries do you know?  I guess being a paid killer doesn’t come with a company backed retirement plan.  Live by the sword, die by the number two pencil indeed.

Shockingly enough, when I mentioned this film (and its sequel, to be discussed later) to my brother he immediately asked if Tom Berenger starred in both!  Craig actually knew, right off the top of his head, not only who Berenger was, but that he was in the Substitute!  Perhaps my obsessions aren’t quite so strange anymore.

I was just as shocked to find the film’s theatrical trailer included on the disc.  They played this in theaters?  No wonder the world has abandoned the movie industry.  The trend started right here folks.  

The Marc Anthony also stars in it!  Looking as skeletally gaunt as he does now.  Ever want to hear Mr. J-Lo say, “fuck you, you bitch-ass fuck!?!”  To a woman no less?  

I did!  And now I actually have!  Robert Mandel, you’ve just redeemed yourself in my book.

Many (famous) actors have tried to branch out into singing and failed.  But how many (failed) actors have gone on to a successful singing career?  This is bizarre.  (That last question doesn’t take Shaq account; since he cut a record with the Fu-Schnickens and starred in both Kazaam and Steel while maintaining his basketball superstar status.)

The film, for those of you who don’t watch it everyday as one of the many duties of running the web’s top Tom Berenger fan site as my brother apparently does, involves a soldier involved in attempting another clandestine coup in Cuba.  Just like the first Bay of Pigs, this one fails too.  So Berenger becomes a substitute teacher to avenge his “bitch-ass fuck” girlfriend who was hospitalized by her students.

Now I don’t like to brag [editor’s note: I love to brag!], but I was slugged when breaking up fights as a teacher up North.  Ain’t no big.  I certainly didn’t end up shooting the principal over it.  Take that Berenger!

(This is where I ended up getting punched.  Standing in just about the same spot where I was standing to take this photo.  It’s alright though, I really liked those little hellions at that school.  I ended up subbing there quite often.)

The Substitute might illustrate a teacher’s worst nightmare.  Berenger’s girlfriend gets beat up; takes her (deserved) medical leave to recover.  Her (way too) amped up boyfriend, trying to prove he’s still got what it takes after failing to overthrow Castro twenty years too late, lies in order to get a teaching position at her school.  So that he can take the law into his own hands, as he has done so frequently in his sad shame of a life.  

The nightmare part comes in when the hospitalized teacher then finds out that not only is her mercenary boyfriend kicking the crap out of her students, but they like him better than her for doing it!  Not only does she get physically beat down, but everything she’s worked her whole life for is just ignored.  She risks her life and they respond by respecting her corporal punishment-happy boyfriend.  She’s trapped living in Berenger’s world.

A fate scarier than any Rage-induced plague.


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