Sunday, 2 September 2012

5 Films in the School of Terror

Schools are wonderful places to set horror films.  Plenty of different people, lots of rooms and usually have a shop room with tons of potential weapons.  In high schools you can have your killer or killers fighting for identity or revenge for being persecuted or left of others reindeer games.  With such a tight knit community, rumours and heresy can create terrific red herring opportunities and can mask your otherwise obvious psychopath.  In college, it's the opposite, where your killers can be the guy/girl next to you but you've been so bogged down on work that you haven't had a chance to meet.  Large classrooms and huge institutions create anonymity for your antagonist and you can even create backgrounds that begin to boil in high school, have them over flow, when they meet your protagonist in college or university.

With that in mind here are 5 Films in the School of Terror:

5. The Dorm That Drips Blood (aka Pranks) (1982) - Joanne and her friends, Patty, Craig and Debbie are spending their Christmas break clearing out the dorms that are being demolished in a few weeks. Joanne's boyfriend Tim is going skiing but luckily there is a hunky replacement for Joanne in the way of Brian.  So they start working on the dorms when they realized that not all the students have left the dorm area.  That creepy kid, John Hemmit is still lurking about the campus and now things are disappearing! Dinners are being ruined and bodies are popping up! Can Joanne keep her team alive, finish clearing out the old dorms, deal with Tim and still have time to find the real meaning of Christmas?  The film is OK, some things seem to drag on but the gore scenes are pretty decent.  There's a part with a drill that's enjoyable and that's probably what got them on the Video Nasties list.  Acting wise, no one really went anywhere after film this except for Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs, The Sure Thing, Melrose Place) and one of directors, Stephen Carpenter is writing for Grimm.  The film can be enjoyable at times but it wouldn't be the first one on my list.  Oh shit, it is.

4. Night School (aka Terror Eyes) (1981) - Teacher's aide Ann Barron is just sending the last kid home for daycare on the darkest 6:00 pm, I've every seen.  Just before getting off the playground carousel, she is confronted by a person in a motorcycle helmet and black leather jacket.  This person mercilessly starts spinning Ann on the playground carousel at speeds unknown by man, somehow not allowing Ann to simply walk away.  Eventually after all the spinning Ann is decapitated.  The next day the police show up and find her head in a bucket of water, lead detective Judd Austin soon discovers that Ann was going to night school at Wendell College.  Judd heads over to the school and speaks with Ann's friend Kim, who says that Ann was depressed because she was dating a married man but didn't know who it was.  Judd visits the snooty, Professor Millet and meets his research assistant/Student Eleanor.   They tell him nothing.  Eleanor leaves and is followed by a creepy busboy named Gus.  She freaks out and runs home and surprise her boyfriend is Professor Millet! They have some weird blood sexy time in the tub and then we get back to the movie.  Ann's friend Kim gets axed and Judd thinks there is a connection to the school.  More heads pop up, so Judd and his partner Taj better to find out who's doing the chopping.  I really like the idea of this film and when it comes together at the end, it would be a nice twist but there was so much shit that I wasn't crazy about.  I did like the decapitation scenes, even though they weren't that gory and I like the scene in the restaurant, when you thought people were eating a soup with a head in it.  That was enjoyable but the cops were morons and I don't understand how people couldn't get away from this killer.  Maybe I missed something, this was another film on the Nasties list but this was pretty low key unless they felt bad for Rachel Ward. The killer is scary in their motorcycle gear but it seems like a lot of shit you have to wade through to get there.
3. Satan's School for Girls (1973) -When Elizabeth Sayers gets home, she discovers that her younger sister, Martha as locked herself in her home and has hung herself. Good to see you too!  The police believe that it's a suicide but Elizabeth has a feeling that there is something more to it. The police wish her luck with that and Elizabeth tracks down one of Martha's old classmates, Lucy Dembrow.  Lucy tries to be polite with Elizabeth but something slips in the conversation and Elizabeth thinks that the school is involved somehow.  Elizabeth decides it's time to go under cover and heads out to The Salem Academy of Women to pose as a student.  Under the name Elizabeth Morgan, she is greeted by Roberta, Debbie and Jody and become instant friends! Elizabeth learns that the dean is old and considered a "Dragonlady" from her new friends and gets the nickel tour around the campus.  She meets the dean, is given her class list and heads to her first class which is art with the resident hot male teacher, Dr. Joseph Clampett.  They judge the classes art, as they rightfully should, and Elizabeth discovers Debbie as painted a picture of her sister Martha screaming in a mysterious room.  When asked about it, Debbie said she knew Martha but couldn't remember the room that she was in and they head to the next class, where Professor Delacroix is torturing mice by putting them in a maze and not feeding them. Great class!  Delacroix ends up comparing Debbie with the mice and she ends up having a fainting spell.  A few hours later, she doesn't remember anything and is ready to party at Dr. Clampett's!  During the party, Jody bursts in and tells everyone that Lucy Dembrow as committed suicide! dun dun Dunnnnnnnn!  Now Elizabeth with her new besties must find out what the connection is with these suicides, that room and what the hell is going on at that school! Like any Spelling production, lots of pretty ladies and little on actual story.  What I like about this film is that it brings Satan back into the picture and they are bringing old school elements that are lacking in some of today's horror. Good cast Jo Van Fleet as the Head mistress, Kate Jackson, Cheryl Stoopelmoor (Cheryl Ladd) and Pamela Franklin (Flora from the Innocents).  It's dumb in a PG satan kind of story but it's still fun to watch and get caught up in the mystery.
2. Heathers (1988) - Veronica hates her friends and her life.  She is caught up with the most popular clique in school, the Heathers, which consist of 3 girls named Heather who are mean and shallow.  During lunch Veronica meets a Jason Dean (J.D), a new student, who just moved from Texas.  They instantly hit it off but unfortunately, she is being forced to go college party with the head Heather.  After almost being date raped and puking her guts out at the party, the furious Heather tells her that her social life is over.  She is going to tell everyone in school about the barfing situation and she will no longer be cool.  Veronica goes home and J.D shows up at her window and after little evening delight, decide to teach Heather a lesson in humility in the morning.  They go over to her house, joke about poisoning Heather instead of just grossing her out and Veronica grabs the wrong cup. They accidentally end up killing Heather.  Oops.... They panic and decide to make it look like a suicide, Veronica writes a dramatic note and they skedaddle out of there.  On Monday, the whole school is in shock and no one can believe that Heather wasn't the stuck up bitch everyone thought she was but a misunderstood beauty who was overcome by the pressures of school and society.  After the funeral, Heather number 2 begs Veronica to come on a double date with the school's popular jocks, Kurt and Ram.  Veronica caves in and spends an evening tipping cows, fending off drunk groping and eventually leaving with J.D after her date passes out in cowshit.  The next day is filled Kurt fills the school with sex rumours about him, Veronica and Kurt.  She and J.D plan a prank to get them back, however the prank goes horribly wrong and they end up killing them.  Now, her and J.D have committed three murders and she is starting to wonder if these were really accidents and is this the guy, J.D right for me? Love this movie when I was a teen and I think it still holds up.  Although deemed a comedy, I think this film fits nicely with the current blog.  We have a psychotic guy killing people and in the end wants to blow up the school. This film is a 80's version of Massacre at Central High with more laughs.  Brillaint cast with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder are at their peak and Shannon Doherty here right before she broke out on 90210.  Funny script, clean killings and tons of fun.  Must watch for any teen trying to survive high school.
1. Class of 1984 (1982) - It's Andrew Norris's first day of teaching school at an inner city school in the big city.  He notices one of his colleagues, Terry Corrigan loading a gun and asks Terry, if it was really necessary. Terry tells him that he'll see.  As they are ushered through the metal detectors in the front, Mr. Norris heads to his music class where he is first confronted with Peter Stegman and his gang.  He asks them to leave because they are being disruptive and Stegman threatens Norris.  Once they've left Norris focuses on the rest of the class and becomes friends with to of his new students Arthur and Deneen.  As the school year goes on, Mr. Norris notices Stegman and his crew run the school using violence and drugs and after a student dies from taking some Angel dust, Norris vows to stop Stegman at any costs to him and his family! However, Stegman and his gang aren't going to call it quits without a fight.  Fantastic cast, Michale J. Fox, Roddy McDowell, Al Waxman! After this film Mark L. Lester went on to direct Firestarter, Commando and other great 80's films.  What I love about the film is that it's Mr. Norris that keeps upping the ante. For a protagonist, he does a lot of antagonistic things to have this gang really start attacking him and his wife.  Lester does a nice job building the tension and it when it comes to the end of the film all bets are off on both sides.  Also, the film has a terrific soundtrack with Alice Cooper, Teenage Head and Fear.


Each of these films have different elements that make a great horror films and they used in the school context.  Whether it's alone in the school, a supernatural entity causing you pain or a group of bullies, these films show you that education can be scary and it's even more terrifying when you have a maniac with an axe chasing you! 







2 comments:

  1. Did you see Detention yet? A lot of fun but, DAMN, it throws in everything bar the kitchen sink and kinda feels like a full on assualt of references and sly nods to all kinds of movies.

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    1. Sorry, this took so long. I did see it, but unfortunately I wasn't that crazy about it. The references drove me bananas that I had to walk out, while the encode was going on. It's unfortunate it because the director did some interesting things and the story was amusing but when they started talking, it drove me up the wall. Like listening to a drunk Dennis Miller, who just had a lobotomy and believed he was still in the early 90's. I think it's one of those kind of films, where you either love it or you hate it and unfortunately, I'm the latter.

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