Night School (Ken Hughes, 1981)

posted in: Duane, Jocelyn, Joint Review, Review | 0
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A leather-clad, helmeted maniac is beheading female students in and around a local Boston college campus with a kukri.  Could it be the shifty anthropology professor with a penchant for banging his students? What about the sex-crazed retard that works at the diner? Perhaps it’s the professor’s increasingly jealous and erratic girlfriend?
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Duane:  I was expecting your typical cheap 80s slasher, complete with masked crazy and naked slutty co-eds showering / having pillow fights. What I got was something far less sleazy… and far better made. What Night School lacks in sleaze and gore it makes up for in style and cinematography. I can’t recall the last time I viddied a slasher film and thought to myself “Holy fuck, the guy filming this REALLY knows what he’s doing”. Some of the shots of the Boston streets at night were downright breathtaking. And I have to mention the opening scene – this is nothing short of brilliant. That creepy motherfucker walking up to the day care worker at night, terrorizing her before that knife comes down… I was really digging that… until the cut away. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine but I cannot STAND it when films do this. What’s the fucking point of all that build-up when you’re not even treated to a money shot? That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Night School… Hell, It’s actually a very good film. I just think it wasted a lot of potential by shying away from the violence as much as it did. To be fair there are a couple really cool kill scenes but even they could have been a lot more graphic (the shower scene in particular).
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Jocelyn: Yes, I was pleasantly surprised with this one as well. Ken Hughes is actually a pretty well-known and acclaimed director although I’ve never seen any of his films. It doesn’t look like horror was his forte, but he certainly did this film justice. I didn’t mind so much the restraint shown in regards to the violence/gore; it was nice to have to imagine what the heads looked like in their respective containers vs. seeing a poorly done, cheapo severed prop-head with a bad wig on it. Once you *know* what/where it is, there’s no artist that can make a head look any more shocking than what my mind can conjure. The sleaze could’ve been amped up but that’s a typical complaint from me. I did like the headmistress being just as lecherous as the professor; that was a nice bonus. It was a shame that it was pretty obvious who the killer was. They try setting up a few red herrings but some things you just can’t hide, ya know? I’m not what you would call a Rachel Ward fan so not getting her naughty bits shoved in my face didn’t really hurt too much. The cast was certainly competent and I even kinda enjoyed the comic relief from veteran character actor Joe Sicari as the lieutenant’s right hand man.
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D: Ok so shitty severed heads aside there should have been more blood, in my opinion. The red herrings were certainly prevalent and ineffective considering I figured out who the culprit was almost straight away… this is surprising considering the rest of the film is so solid otherwise. There are a few pretty suspenseful scenes that had me guessing once or twice – not a lot of films manage to do that very effectively. Joe Sicari was such a lovable dick in this, he was awesome. That ending is totally the sort of thing I’d do. I’m not much of a fan of Ward either, but you gotta admit she’s a lot better looking than the cooze the professor was tutoring on the side. One thing I found annoying in this was the killer’s ability to inexplicably appear out of nowhere right in front of the poor slut that was trying to escape. Something that became a sort of tradition in later (and less serious) slashers like the Friday the 13th series just doesn’t wash with a more sober effort such as this. I loved the look of the murderer though, it reminded me of the antagonist in Andrea Bianchi’s classic sleazefest Strip Nude For Your Killer.
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J: That was going to be my very next complaint! It completely took me out of the moment when the killer moved supernaturally. One moment they’re outside of a locked room, the next moment they’re busting out of a closet inside the room. It totally ruins a perfectly good *real* killer when you start pulling out that slasher formula staple. It works on characters like Jason Voorhees because he can live through anything & he’s an unstoppable force of murder; not just anyone can fill those shoes. Agreed, there’s definitely some Strip Nude For Your Killer influence here, although God knows it’s not in the form of nudity or gore. I have no idea how this ended up on the Video Nasty list!
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D/J: All things considered this is definitely worthy of a watch, it’s refreshing to see a “slasher” with a more-than-capable director at the helm; not to mention with solid performances by the cast (even with this  being Rachel Ward’s first film) throughout.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.

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