Bloody Monday is back with a ‘Back to School’ special. Celebrating the end of summer and the return to desks, smartboards, hormonal tantrums and excitement. So grab a desk as we look back at three great school-based horrors to start the new term. From The Faculty (15) to Slaughterhouse Rulz (15) and Tormented (15).
The Faculty (1998)
What do you get if you cross The Breakfast Club with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The answer is the truly underrated classic The Faculty from 1998. I say underrated as any quick internet search will instantly flag that initial reviews of Robert Rodriguez’s high school sci-fi horror were mediocre. The mix of themes and ideas injected into his film too much for many a critics brain. However, despite this, The Faculty went on to earn cult status, its delightfully different take on sci-fi horror igniting a spark in the imagination of viewers. But let me explain why The Faculty remains one of the best teen horror movies of the 90s.
School is by its very nature an alien environment for many kids and teens; the corridors adorned with love, hate, indifference and rejection. And while many young people sail through these extremes of friendship, relationships and popularity contests. For others, they never truly fit the environment around them, their daily school life one of trauma; their only desire a quiet and peaceful transition into the adult world.
Therefore the classic sci-fi horror Invasion of the Body Snatchers already has one foot in the reality of school for many kids. The personalities of their peers continually changing, as they adapt their beliefs and ideas to fit groups who offer security. With many kids genuinely not knowing who to trust or confide in during long and lonely lunch breaks. Of course, these themes have existed within the coming of age genre for decades, but rarely find a dedicated voice in science fiction horror. But The Faculty not only encapsulates the alien environment of the school but layers it with a delicious, humourous and dark take on the classic body invasion horror.
The Faculty may not have earned its stripes as a classic sci-fi horror on release. But with the help of a young cast who stormed 90s Hollywood, it has more than made up for its slow start. And today stands out as a shining gem of late 90s teen sci-fi horror, offering nothing short of a fun, lively and engaging cinematic treat. So get ready to face the alien invasion hidden in plain sight, and remember to take your illicit drugs as weapons, as who knows which teachers and students hide a swarm of flesh burrowing slugs.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Slaughterhouse Rulz (2018)
Firstly if your parents, no matter how well-meaning, decide to send you to a boarding school named ‘Slaughterhouse’ they are planning to rent out your room permanently. Secondly, if that school, no matter how posh, has a colossal fracking site next door, run!
If only someone had told young Don Wallace (Finn Cole) that, he would have never spent his term fighting monsters with a taste for human flesh. But then he also wouldn’t have met snuff loving roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield), or posh girl Clemsie (Hermione Corfield). All three going from whimsical and hormonal teens to battle-hardened monster slayers by the final act. Meanwhile, the headmaster (Michael Sheen) supplements the school’s finances with dodgy dealings and kickbacks. Just as housemaster Meredith (Simon Pegg) turns to the bottle as his love life collapses. Ultimately creating a pretty dysfunctional school environment, long before the ground gives up its hidden horrors.
Slaughterhouse Rulz wears its comedic colours with pride, lampooning the traditional British boarding school while embracing light but atmospheric horror. Its characters and monsters held within a bubble of the faintly ridiculous. However, what makes this horror/comedy shine above and beyond the British wit at its core is a young cast merely having fun. With a screenplay that does not attempt to provide deep meaning, large scale character development or shocking twists. The result of which is a joyously light affair with some cracking monster effects, engaging humour and devilish deaths. So buckle up for a night of schoolyard terrors, rotten smells, snappy monsters and bloody mortarboards. Just don’t forget the snuff, cricket bats and shin guards; the new school term was never meant to be this mad!
Director: Crispian Mills
We have already established that school can be a dark place, from isolation to bullying and peer pressure. But one horror that reflects this more than most, and yet remains hidden in the mists of early millennium horror, is Tormented. A ‘skins‘ inspired British gem from 2009, that is not only creative and bold but also uncomfortably close to the mark. Its characters embedded in an after school world of parties, music, sex and drugs. Their behaviour inside of the school gate laced with the new freedom and danger of social media, texting and instant video. As they make other kids lives a living hell through bullying and torment.
Tormented understands the darker side of school life, in a manner that is bound to bring back some long-forgotten memories for viewers. In turn, creating a strange mix of dark humour, uncomfortable truths and classic slasher horror. The sadistic pleasure many teens gain from their brief notoriety and power embodied by Alex Pettyfer’s ‘Bradley White’; his small entourage of followers lapping up the popularity he exudes. Including Alexis (Dimitri Leonidas) who, while displaying a softer side, equally plays along with the rampant toxic masculinity and bullying of his peer group. The recent suicide of fellow schoolboy Darren Mullet, sitting squarely at the feet of Bradley’s gang. His school life a rollercoaster of torment, ignored by teachers and fellow students alike.
But, in a story that firmly embodies the classic saying ‘what goes around, comes around’. Bradley’s peer group isn’t prepared for the angry and hateful return of ‘Darren Mullet’ from his shallow grave. His sole interest, taking out every teenager who made his life miserable at school. The resulting deaths drenched in blood, gore and screams as karma bites back. The film’s young cast, including Olly Alexander (Years and Years) Tuppence Middleton (The Current War)and Tom Hopper (The Umbrella Academy), shining through the blood and gore.
Meanwhile, Tormented’s slasher horror pays homage to ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer‘, ‘Friday the 13th‘ and ‘Scream‘. However, the power of Tormented also transcends the fictional zombie and supernatural horror at its core. With a screenplay that equally understands the real terror of bullying and hate taking place in many school corridors.
Director: Jon Wright