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Night School (1981)
Movie Review by Professor Corpse Rot

Night School (1981) With a barrage of Slashers from the early 1980's, how could any casual horror fan keep all of them straight? Unless you're a fanatic, or have an extremely good memory - or both, then it's easy to get lost with so many titles to consider. This trend of repeating similarly-based movies isn't a foreign concept to cinema and yet the Slashers of the '80's stand out in most people's minds as an overbearing exercise. Night School, although existing on the rare side of the heap, is featured next on Corpse Rot's examining table.

Night School recounts the tale of a young teacher's aide found slain in a back alley. This vicious act featured her decapitation at the hands of an individual donning a black outfit and a darkened motorcycle helmet. Lt. Judd Austin, a scholarly and effective crime scene investigator, is called out to examine the details. He concludes that the victim was employed by a local all-girls night school. Judd broadens his investigation by interviewing several acquaintances of the deceased woman. The murders that follow thereafter all showcase the preferred method of execution - beheadings! These are tied closely together by an additional similarity; each severed head is submerged in water.

The premise of this film spells out a traditional who-dun-it. Director Ken Hughes, the creator of this project, made his debut in the early '50's and Night School would be his last piece of work in the directorial field. He is also responsible for 1968's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Ken died at the age of 79 in 2001 and was not a major player in the horror industry by any stretch of the imagination. Night School was also the debut of Rachel Ward who led a successful career as an actress after her involvement with this movie.

Right off the bat I noticed a glaring mistake in the editing. This can be the result of various practices - whether poor editing all around or a scene removal process to make the grade are viable occurrences to blame. The thing about Night School is that it's more of a cop story than your average teenage entourage ushered into slaughter. In this respect it's a breath of fresh air but with moments of cop humor thrown in for good measure it's hard to fully classify the film alongside its kin. I certainly wouldn't be able to write an in-depth essay on the articulation of the actors and actresses found within but their mannerisms and emotional output are believable enough. As far as the characters go, the masked killer is highly reminiscent of that dopey buffoon that I had the displeasure of viewing in 1985's The Nailgun Massacre (well it's a stretch I guess).

Night School's soundtrack was composed by Brad Fiedal - a young and ambitious composer at the time who would later be responsible for working on the likes of Just Before Dawn from 1981, Fright Night 1 & 2, and the Serpent and the Rainbow. Fiedal currently works on writing and arranging original musicals and holds no interest in returning to cinema. It never ceases to amaze me how so many professionals get their start doing horror films in one way or another...almost as if it's the proving ground for talent.

I think all-in-all, Ken Hughes had fun making this movie. I believe the players did too. Night School also went by the name of Terror Eyes in the UK and was denounced as a "Video Nasty" by the British Board of Film Censors in the 1980's. Like other films found on that list, the ban has since been lifted. Warner Bros currently owns the rights to Night School and fans have yet to see a DVD release as of November of 2010.

Night School is, to some extent, considered a rare Slasher in comparison to some of the other greats established in '81 (and not-so-greats, too). When we discuss a film's rarity in the horror genre one can rest assuredly that a cult following is close at hand. So where does that leave me? A film's notoriety isn't a selling point for me to own it - there has to be something more; an air of panache, a chilling soundtrack, or great set of characters. This particular title just didn't hold my interest for long. In order for someone to swallow the very large pill that Night School is, they'd have to be a die-hard Slasher film collector or a completist such as myself. Is it a rare film? It is, and if it has ever stricken your fancy to embark on a Slasher tour perhaps it's within your interest to give this title a once-over. Night School plays it too safely and by the numbers. Don't expect anything shocking or dangerous.

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