Directed by Storm Ashwood
Written by Storm Ashwood
Starring Megan Drury, Alexia Santosuosso, Will McDonald
Ever have someone approach you with an offer to watch a movie with a title so purely oblique that it could be just about anything? That's about what happened to me when I picked up The School, a movie that's such a big blank slate that I could have been looking at most anything. What I got, however, was a frequently baffling, frequently outlandish, and downright creepy experience.
The School follows a young surgeon who, one day, finds herself in what looks to be an abandoned school, surrounded by disturbing visions and some of the creepiest children you'll ever see. Said surgeon, Dr. Amy Wintercraig by name, has a tenuous connection to the school at best, and quickly becomes embroiled in a here-and-there battle for survival as she slips between the modern, clean hospital and the horrors of the school. The truth behind it all, however, will be something much stranger than anyone might expect.
On the surface, The School looks like it's going to be scary as all hell thanks to its heavy reliance on the killer-kids trope. Really, few things are scarier than the notion that children are trying to kill you. It doesn't take long for The School to turn scarier for a whole different reason: the sheer unknown.
Within minutes of the opening we're treated to one of the creepiest but most poorly constructed bits of poetry in horror filmmaking lately, admonishing us to watch out for the Hungries--which we see even before the poetry appears--and the Weepers.
Anyone who watches this and thinks that someone's been playing a little too much Silent Hill could be forgiven. This is a lot like the dimension-hopping, kind-of-light-versus-super-dark horror game that so dominated the late nineties-early millennium.
The problem, of course, is that it's pretty much incomprehensible. It's got a spectacular visual style to it, and on an apparently low budget too. It's amazing what can be done with some proper makeup and some surprisingly convincing child actors. Yet The School is so absolutely in love with its killer makeup and frightening mythos that it forgot to include an actual coherent narrative.
Worst yet, the last half-hour or so turns distressingly similar to Insidious, down to the "something has your son and won't let go" theme.
The ending tries frantically to introduce some semblance of order into this affair, and it will succeed, if only partially. It took an hour to get there, but it does get somewhere interesting. At least until the last 30 seconds, where I'm guessing it's trying to set up a sequel, but it's almost certainly never going to get that far.
Special features, in their entirety, are audio options and English subtitles. That's it.
The School is a visually terrifying, garbled, jumbled mess of a movie that will scare, if for no other reason than you'll have almost no idea what it's going to do next.