|Review||Night School||Director||Kenneth Hughes|
|Cast||Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald and Bill McCann|
“Our friend really has a taste for the bizarre” – Taj
Female students at a local night school in Boston are being decapitated by a black-leather clad motorcycle helmet wearing killer. Detective Judd Austin (Mann) along with his partner Taj (Sicari) are on the case. Their investigations lead them to the school’s Anthropology professor Vincent Millet (Snyder) and his girlfriend/assistant Eleanor (Ward).
“Night School” is one of those Slasher “not-quite” wannabees that wants to present a fairly straightforward mystery in the detective mould but also appeal to the gore hungry audience that were making the big companies a fortune. The film was studio financed and with a decent budget, had an old school established director in Kenneth Hughes (who’d made, among others, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Alfie Darling”) and some truly great locations in Boston mapped out for principal photography. When all is said and done there is an air of sophistication present in “Night School” but the film purposely denies gore hounds everything they’re hoping for but delivers solidly in the mood and suspense department with flashes of dark humour.
One time only screenwriter Avergon concocts a decent enough story that’s more than ripe for slasher territory. The modus operandi and dress code for the killer is certainly a clever hook-in (as well as a clever nod to the Italian giallo’s of the 70’s) and there’s even a decent amount of sleaze thrown in for good measure (as well as a not-too-subtle stab at academia) as members of the school faculty are revealed as…well…ethically questionable. The problem is that as a whodunnit “Night School” is awfully see-through with a ritualistic explanation behind the beheadings that makes the identity of the killer very easy to guess.
But the film holds up to repeat viewings thanks to it’s sheer professionalism and solid craftsmanship. The location photography really is splendid and director Hughes builds up a decent amount of atmosphere in the suspense scenes. Although, regrettably, the film never lets the red stuff flow it’s quite mean in it’s execution of the kill scenes and has quite an eye for a little dark humour. The ending also caps the film off well and, for once, there’s a funny scene just before the end credits that actually works and shows a rather depraved sense of humour for one of the characters.
Leonard Mann equips himself quite well in the lead role. He’s not a great thespian at all (and did very little noteworthy after this film) but he’s likeable and mostly convincing as a detective. Ward is certainly quite a looker but she’s very hit or miss in a tricky role, Snyder is OK and Sicari has a few choice lines that he delivers well. Bill McCann has the role of the obvious red-herring as a dumb stalker/fetish creep named Gary but he gets endless praises for openly displaying a goalie hockey mask is his apartment a full year before Jason Voorhees thought of donning one.
In conclusion; Give “Night School” the benefit of the doubt is you’re a slasher fan. It’s very competently made, has some inventive kill scenes, a killer looking head chopping villain, some good dialogue, overall solid acting performances and a polished look. The meanness of the villain and some sleaze compensate for the lack grisly gore on display.