Directed by Storm Ashwood [Other horror films: N/A]
Maybe I’m becoming quite bitter and cynical in my old age (27 is now old age, alas), because I found very little in this Australian film to be worth it. Maybe it’s just my mood, but this struck me as utterly abysmal, and if I rate it above a 0/10, that should be seen as a mercy.
From the very first time I heard about this one, I was expecting to dislike it. When I started the movie, it only took a minute for my preconceptions to be confirmed, because the film starts with a woman waking up in a bathtub in a dark and ominous room. I said aloud, “She’s dead, I’m calling it.” Well, she wasn’t dead, but I was still pretty close to being entirely correct, as it’s revealed an hour into the movie that she had slit her wrists, and it revealed this as though it wasn’t obvious from the very beginning of the fucking movie.
Maybe that’s just a small thing. In truth, it’s not as though this movie couldn’t have been okay, in a dark-fantasy-dealing-with-grief type way. Perhaps that’s even what they were aiming for, and the story of the obvious purgatory could have been one that at least held some mild interest. Instead, I just got a headache, what with the Hungries, the tribe of dead kids, the dead kids who weren’t in the tribe, the Wall-Walker, and the Weepers. The Weepers were dead bodies, the Hungries were ghosts in pipes or something like that, but it doesn’t matter, because it was all shit.
As always, I give credit where credit is due, and in this instance, I wanted to commend Will McDonald’s performance. I don’t get his character whatsoever, but he was having a fun time, and came across, more often than not, much like Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey – he has that manic, playful energy that suits him. The only other performance I wanted to mention was that of Milly Alcock’s, not that her character got a lot to do, but at least she stood out more than pretty much anyone else, including the central actress (Megan Drury).
It’s also worth mentioning that a rather beautiful song plays during the credits, titled “Better in the Dark” (which may be sung by Australian musician Brooke Addamo, also known under the moniker Owl Eyes). I think it was supposed to add emotional resonance to the end of the film, which didn’t work, given the film itself was utter shit, but the song in of itself is quite nice, and unlike The School, pleasing to the senses.
I also wanted to touch on the purgatory setting, which possessed some elements I sort of liked (such as some underground stream-type thing). The school is quite dark, dingy, and sometimes spooky at times, but from the very beginning, I got the sense that they tried way too hard. It just felt fake most of the time, as opposed to organically creepy (in a similar way that the dingy house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt too glossy to be authentic). I don’t think that this hurt the film that much (and certainly not as much as the pitiful story), but it was definitely noticeable.
Right now, at the time of this writing, The School sports a 3.9/10 on IMDb (with 610 votes), and I can understand that, though I think it’s actually worse. Of course, I can sometimes be a dick, but that’s what comes with watching a lot of films, some of which turn out to be quite terrible (immediately coming to mind are films like I Think We’re Alone Now and Toyko Stay Home Massacre). In a better mindframe, maybe a movie like this would work better, but I can only be honest, and say that I rather hated this one.