School Killer (2001)

JUNE 26, 2008


With such a generic and lazy title, I wasn’t expecting much out of School Killer. I certainly didn’t expect it to be so damn convoluted and dialogue heavy. I also go to the school of “the actor listed first has the most screen time”, so I was a bit bummed to see that top-billed Paul Naschy only appears in the film for about 10 minutes total.

Before I talk about the movie itself, I want to make a few notes on the DVD itself. In addition to not providing a scene selection menu (what is this? Corpses?), the main menu is in Spanish, even though the title is English. I can sort of figure out what "Promosionales" and "Comienzo" mean, but again, this is a movie called School Killer – my brain has already been turned off. In addition, there is no subtitle menu, so if you are using a rather half-assed universal remote that doesn’t have a subtitle button, you are shit out of luck. Come on guys, little effort here.

I bring up the subs because the biggest problem with this movie is that no one ever shuts the fuck up for more than 5 seconds. Some of the dialogue is just your standard modern slasher shit, i.e. referencing other horror movies (strangely, they namecheck Scream 3, not, you know, one of the other two which actually have scenes set in schools), and assorted banter. That’s fine. But I’d say at least 2/3 of the dialogue in this movie is just explaining, overexplaining, and even RE-explaining every goddamn plot point. It’s not enough for someone to see a light and wonder how when the electricity should have been turned off (its an abandoned school). No, in School Killer, we get countless exchanges like this:

Guy: A light!
Girl: How can that be? The power has been turned off.
Guy: No, the permits haven’t gone through yet, it might still be on.
Other guy: But look, the line is cut.
Guy: That’s not the main line. The light we saw may be separate.
Other girl: No, look, the main line has been stolen! (huh?)
Guy: Maybe it was a gas or battery powered light.
Girl: No, the light was definitely from an electrical source.

I am not making this up, that is almost word for word an exchange in this movie. And we get one for just about everything that occurs in the film; a cell phone not working, how the tire got flat, why someone hasn’t come back from the bathroom yet, etc. It’s almost sort of comical how determined the screenwriters are to keep the audience from saying “Oh come on!” about any particular horror movie cliché occurring in the film – they will offer at least a half dozen explanations to choose from.

Another issue is a nearly half hour long flashback in which we see what happened to another group of kids about 30 years before, including one of our main group’s father. Apart from the ridiculous length, it’s just a giant waste of screentime, because we already know they all die except for the father. And at first it seems like we are about to watch an entire movie’s worth of their story, as we see them enter the school, joke around, etc, just like the stuff we just saw 20 minutes before with our original group. The only difference is that they don’t reference any horror movies.

Plus, it’s not really a good trade off to lose nearly a half an hour’s worth of suspense in order to provide 2-3 minutes’ worth of exposition. Also, a few of the scenes involve things that occurred where no one present has survived – how does our hero know what happened? That said, director Carlos Gil did a damn fine job casting and dressing the flashback group – they look like a traditional early 80s slasher group, and even the film stock itself seems older – you can almost imagine that this is footage from a genuine movie from the era.

And finally, the music. It is fucking terrible. It sounds like its on a loop and reminds one of the library stuff one would use in a film school project. Awful. Occasionally we get some Spanish punk music that doesn’t fit either, but at least it’s not as generic.

Otherwise it’s OK enough as a slasher. The look of the film is nice, and the cast is good (none of them are really annoying either, another plus). Naschy is a great villain in his few scenes (though he also suffers from an abundance of dialogue – before killing one girl in the flashback sequence, he asks how she was able to sneak out at night, and we are told her dad is on a business trip and her mom gave her permission to go out with her friends – all of this for a girl we already know is dead). And it’s nice to see one where they sort of know they are in danger almost all the way through, as opposed to the circular nature of some of the Friday the 13th movies, in which two kids go off, die, two more go off, die, etc, until our heroine realizes that all dozen of her friends have vanished.

So in short – the technical aspects are fine, the acting is good, but it’s all for nothing due to the overwritten script (except for the ending, which is as abrupt as any film I’ve ever seen). Here’s hoping the Gil and his crew get a better script and composer (and DVD release) next time.

What say you?


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