Sunday, August 30, 2015

Night School (1981)

Every now and then, you find a movie in which you can't believe who wrote or directed it. For example: I find it interesting that Bill Condon, who went on to direct films like "Dreamgirls" and more recently "Mr. Holmes" previously co-wrote Strange Behavior. Also: I find it interesting that Dario Argento also wrote and directed a few Spaghetti Westerns. Or in this case, I find it interesting that Ken Hughes, who directed "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Of Human Bondage" also made the 80's slasher "Night School", which was also his last movie.

Lt. Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) is on the case. The case at hand? Someone is killing college girls via decapitation. So, whose the culprit? Well, some believe it's the creepy, peeping Tom boy, but another potential killer could be a college professor (Drew Snyder), whose having an affair with student Elanor (Rachel Ward, who went on to do bigger things) and also got her pregnant. Or could it be Elanor herself, jealous of all of these women around him?

I honestly found "Night School" to be a better movie to appreciate than enjoy. On one hand, I liked the look of the killer. It's simple-black leather suit and matching motorcycle helmet-but effective, like a less cheesy version of the killer from "Nail Gun Massacre." Also, it's largely well directed, with Hughes getting away with some memorable set pieces (such as Elanor being stalked in an alley, the first murder set piece and two darkly comic bits with severed heads) that show you that this is a pro who seems to have a grip on what he's aiming for without overdoing it with the gore and nudity (though we do get that). Add a clear giallo influence and a solid score from future "Terminator" composer Brad Fiedel, and you have a winner, right?

Well, sometimes. Where the movie ultimately falters is the script. It's obvious that the film is inspired by the Italian giallo films of the time (as well as police procedural movies) but it doesn't quite know how to handle the who dunnit aspect. In fact, once the killer's identity is revealed, you realize that it can be seen a mile away, and it all leads to a rather lackluster conclusion. Also, whilst a lot of slasher movies aren't known for awards worthy performances-my God, some of the acting in here is really bad, in particular Ward. Watching this, it's kinda shocking that she went on to be in movies like "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and "Sharky's Machine".

To be fair, this isn't too bad. If you are a big fan of slasher movies and you haven't seen it, then you will more than likely get a kick out of it, and there are enough moments that warrant at least one or two viewings. Still, I couldn't help but think "Well, that wasn't bad...but it could have been better" by the time it ended.

Rating: 6/10

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