After Scream started the slasher resurgence at the end of the 90s, the second wave of copycats went international! And, as always, one of the easiest ways to make a formulaic slasher is to set it in a school….
SCHOOL’S OUT (1999)
I believe this German slasher was made for TV. There’s very little gore and no nudity. Still, it pretty much nails the direct-to-video low-budget slasher feel of the 80s. Hell, the first girl we see has a pile of cassette tapes in her car!
In this one, kids go to a party at their college for graduation. The school is in the middle of nowhere, and while there’s a full party going on, as in all “school” slashers, suddenly it seems that one particular group of kids is COMPLETELY alone in a big empty building.
School’s Out has all the staples: a dark and grainy atmosphere, suspense, chase scenes, an escaped maniac, killer POV, and cheap jump scares. Along with that, there are a series of creepy rooms in this school. One is loaded with nothing but freestanding maps. Another has a bunch of spiders in tanks. But the creepiest one is loaded with life-size jester dolls! So the killer slips into a jester costume with a freaky orange mask then grabs a pair of scissors….
The lame AIDS paranoia subplot aside, the slasher elements work pretty well—but then it all falls apart when, after an hour, the movie resets and switches over to a whodunit. For the last half hour, we learn the twist and everyone gets shot and stabbed in typical Scream denouement fashion, complete with excessive dialogue. So, depending on how forgiving you are, this one is either as good or as bad as all the other slashers that came out in the five year period after Scream.
SCHOOL KILLER (2001)
If you’re looking for a slasher more self-aware than all the Scream movies combined, Spanish film School Killer is it. Six kids drive to an abandoned school to stay the night, and within the ten minutes, mention Elm Street, Blair Witch Project, Friday the 13th, and Scream 3 (yes, Scream THREE). They know they are setting themselves up for a cliché horror movie situation, so you really expect this one to breathe new life into the genre. Instead, they repeatedly break the rules they know they should follow. Grrr. Argh.
However, this is actually a slasher within a slasher as we are taken back to what happened at the school three decades before. This is where the hardcore slasher comes in—blood, gore, violent kills, killer POV, and boobs. And since it is 30 years ago, before every move between Black Christmas and Scream was released, this group of kids has no fucking idea that they shouldn’t be having sex and doing drugs.
School Killer is loaded with unnecessary “flashbacks” to each kill every time the already dead are so much as mentioned. Also, one of the lead characters is named Maria, and she is the ONLY chick whose name everyone is calling constantly, so I began to feel like I was watching West Side Story.
Like School’s Out, School Killer definitely delivers suspense, jump scares, a dark atmosphere, and a creepy killer. Just know that the final moments become muddy when the characters try desperately to explain to the audience what is happening through dialogue. Even if you think you’re following it, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions in the end…