Night School (1981) (AKA "Terror Eyes")
starring: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward and Drew Snyder
Pass the Brooklyn Bridge and into the depths of the slums of New York, a city where in darkness a "head hunter" began decapitating women with a kukri, a Nepalese curved machete, and conceiving their identity with a full black biker's bodysuit and a biker's helm to match. On the case is Police Lieutenant Judd Anderson, and his less than serious partner, who began to link some of the murders to an Anthropology professor working at Wendell College for Women, where said prof had a bit of controversy for having an affair with one of his students, who so happens to be one of the victim as well. Right now, he seems to had persuaded the board to keep his job, educating bright minds to be with the fascinating world of headhunters from New Guinea.
Not the best lesson to share if you're trying to avoid suspicion for murder to be honest, and if that's not suspicious enough, they also had to deal with a skulky looking feller and a lesbian headmistress, two possible suspects, and a suspicious connection with all the murdered bodies, as they all appeared to have their misplaced heads dunked in water, a "purifying" ritual commonly found in the headhunter tribes. Could it be that the professor had lost sight between giving lessons on human headhunters and actually partaking it? Or could the killer be among the red herrings obscured by the investigation?
Night School is a tough movie to review as you can't really decide if it's an underrated masterpiece or a trashy exploitative romp. Mixing traditional Gialli visual style and storyline with American slasher stalkings and brutality, Night School actually tries to be serious, it really does, but there's often those little hints of obscurities that makes this movie laughable; let's put the opening scene for example, as a preschool teacher bids goodbye to her students, she decided to wait around in the dark sitting in a child's merry-go-round. When the killer appears and began spinning the set, rather than jump off or duck, she decided to stay on the playground ride and just begged the killer to stop spinning. Then comes in the machete and off goes her head. Then comes in the silly sets of possible red herrings, including a Peeping simpleton and a lesbian headmistress, none of which coming close to even being suspicious.
And yet, quip enough, the lack of extreme gore also works. May it be the realism of the kills or the stylish editing and camera work, the bloodlessness somehow gave way to gripping scenes instead as our victims begged, scream and cower helplessly as a vicious killer mercilessly attack them. Perhaps the winning factor of Night School is its gritty, relentless and controversially misogynistic tone of the attacks and the murders, going side by side with a story that actually works most of the time looking pass the comical bits. Told true, the killer in this movie even gave one interesting modus that's often tackled but never stretched and twisted as this movie did.
Ultimately flawed, but a rent-worthy slasher title, Night School's thriller set-piece may fail to do what it's meant to do, but as a cult fave, it's worth a good shot.
1 female decapitated with kukri, head found in a bucket
1 female mentioned beheaded, head found in duck pond
1 female slashed repeatedly with kukri and decapitated, head found in aquarium
1 female slashed repeatedly with kukri and decapitated, head found in sink
1 female slashed to death with kukri and decapitated, head found in toilet
1 female beheaded with kukri offscreen
1 male pummels to pavement, broke his neck