Thursday, November 16, 2023

Breaking The Breakfast Clubs: Study Hell (2007) and Getting Schooled (2017) Double Bill Review

If I had a nickel for every time we get a slasher movie about combat shocked army veterans-turned-terror teachers losing it on problem students and going mad with murder, I'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice! By different writers and directors!

Study Hell (Canada, 2007)
Rating: **
Starring: Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Stephen McDougall

Donald Keller (Stephen McDougall) is a teacher with issues; he doesn't appear to be that motivated to teach, a lot of the other staff is creeped out by him, he once showed up in a pep rally drunk and, oh, he appears to be suffering from PTSD after witnessing the horrors of the Vietnam war as a Black-Ops army captain! But the school principal he works under is willing to give him another chance to better himself and it just so happens there's a handful of troublemakers attending afterschool detention who needs a teacher to keep an eye out on them. 

The wannabe-Breakfast Club gets a small taste of Keller's overly strict disciplining as he orders them to write an essay as to why they deserve their punishment while he takes care of some personal matters, though what the gang doesn't know is that their night's about to become deadly when the school janitor decided to confront Keller about a wrongfully accused man and the massacre of an entire cheerleading team that the teacher may have been involved in. This snaps Keller's already fragile psyche, sending him down to a murderous streak as he now sees everyone who defies him as enemy combatants punishable by death!

This being a shot-on-video production, it comes to almost no surprise that Study Hell (2007) has all the trademarks of a low budget do-it-yourself horror film; the casts juggle from underacting to overacting their roles and the direction tries too hard to build its characters for depth that it occasionally winds down to drag out an insipid sentimental scene or two, only to succeed very little for how forced it all feels, as well as how low-grade cheesy the scripting it is. (John Hughes, writer Jeff McArthur ain't)  Cinematography is done through a cheap camera with little to no regards on lighting or style and the lack of editing in its audio means it hardly syncs, so the volume fluctuates from loud to low and back time to time. 

There is no denying that this here is a rubbish film, a bottom scrap from a barrel of terrible shlock, but frankly, it's not without its good points; I do like the idea of Study Hell (2007)'s concept of a madman teacher going psycho on the high school brat pack, forcing these misfits to band together in order to survive. It's a plot that has great horror potential and this movie could've done a well enough job on that front if only the execution had more effort put into it. Still, its amateurish cheesiness at least got me chuckling as much as I am groaning from its questionable production values, especially on how over-the-top our villain is once he goes into full post-war trauma triggered and dishing out dumb quirky one-liners. If only the murders were anywhere interesting, though, as the budget restrains limited a good dose of the killings to be done offcamera and those that happened onscreen barely showed any form of creativity or thrill to them. (Save, maybe, one involving a locker rigged with projecting daggers?) By the hour mark, most of the casts are dead and we're left with our final girl and final boy wandering around air vents and secret tunnels trying to find a way out, only to end up fending off Mr. Keller from one awkwardly staged fight choreography to the next, which is nothing but bad yet hilarious popcorn moments! 

Study Hell (2007)
is a difficult film to defend at the end. There's just too much from it missing to be considered a workable movie, but the corny results and the unintentional hilarity earned the pic a bit of a soft spot from me so I cannot completely diss it. If you like bad slashers (like, really REALLY like them), or if you are simply curious to see how much of a train wreck this bodycounter is for yourself, then I say give it at least a go. But if you think you could do better then, yes, you could certainly do better. Way better.

9 females found slaughtered
1 female found slaughtered, body stuffed in a locker
1 female stabbed in the mouth with a pair of scissors
1 male hanged with a stage curtain's pulley rope
1 female stabbed in the back with an ice pick
1 male beaten, had his head repeatedly crushed with a door
2 males seen dead in a battlefield (flashback)
1 male shot through the neck with an arrow
1 female had her face mutilated by rigged daggers
1 male dragged away, killed offscreen
2 males seen dead in a battlefield (flashback)
1 male killed, method unknown
Total: 22


Getting Schooled (2017)
Rating: ***
Starring: Mayra Leal, Tom Long, Roland Ruiz

It's the 20th of April, 1983; troubled outcast Julie, cheerleader princess Hillary, hooligan Rusty, meathead jock Mike and bespectacled nerdette Shelley find themselves spending their Saturday in detention for various misconducts and their wheelchair-bound monitor Mr. Roker is not too pleased babysitting these delinquents. Everybody is just dying to get out and spend the weekend anywhere than an empty classroom, but this little afterschool confinement would become a fight for survival when, after a projector accidentally falls on Mr. Roker, a head trauma triggers the teacher's PTSD from his days as a Black Ops unit and is now under the delusion that the kids are trying to kill him, so he's hellbent on killing them first.

Trapped in a locked empty school with a murderous paraplegic Vietnam vet skilled and strong enough to take them down one by one, the motely crew have no choice but to work together in order to live through Mr. Roker's deadly war games, as well as find a way to kill off the maddened teacher before he ends them all!

Getting Schooled (2017) is basically the melting pot mess you would get when one would outfit John Hughes' coming-of-age teen dramedy The Breakfast Club (1985) with the sensibilities of a low-budget B-grade throwback to 80s slasher flicks. It's filled with the common clichés and trappings of a bad bodycounter pic, mainly subpar acting and sub-standard writing resulting to caricature characters and tonal shifts juggling between being funny and emotional, though the direction do feel like it knows the absurdity of the story, occasionally willing to let loose on being silly for the giggles while squeezing in some bit of hammy drama in an attempt to give the movie a bit of weight. It doesn't always work, of course, but the courtesy of being entertainingly cheesy do help lessen the corny blows, not to mention the daringness of the plot to go into mean-spirited territories when it's called for.

Frankly, they have an interesting angle here when it comes to the slasher elements; it's not very often we get physically handicapped killers in the sub-genre (though not for the lack of trying as seen with titles like Hellroller (1992) or Highwaymen (2004)) and Mr. Roker surprisingly does a pretty good job being a real menace on four wheels, sadistically enjoying torturing his victims before slaughtering them all under the trauma of post-war combat. He is terrifyingly resilient and tough enough to out-grapple those who tried to brawl with him, often resulting to refreshingly graphic kills that made good use of the budget to dish out gory splatter and bloody dismemberments through sloppy practical effects, as well as gruesome make-up work for the aftermath bodies from the movie's few offscreen slayings. 

Production-wise, Getting Schooled (2017) is far from the most polished indie slasher, but it plays nice with its camera work, giving us a good bunch of expressively creative shots and lighting for both its horror and comedic angles. Costume and design do lean heavily on the stereotypical and cartoony, making the throwback aesthetics sort of a miss unless you look at it with a joking eye. Pacing does hobble, especially whenever the movie decides to slow down for the sake of giving its characters a moment to bond cheesily or spew pointless monologues, but the film's last act sort of makes up for it as the comedic elements were almost dropped in favor of grounding how much of an actual threat Mr. Roker has become now that he nearly killed off everybody. (Including Ron Jeremy in an extended cameo as a sleazy school janitor)

As clunky as it is as a cheesy slasher riff, Getting Schooled (2017) can be a fair watch if you're not demanding a lot from it, nor try making too much sense out of the whole deal. (I mean, for one, had it ever occurred to these kids to try hurting Roker with long-ranged weapons seeing, you know, he's on a chair?) It's good enough for laugh or two and its splatter-rich kills are a welcome sight, so I'll give this deadly detention a passing grade of 'B', for B-flick.

1 female had her head repeatedly crushed with a radio
1 male stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver, fed with acid
1 male had a hand chopped off with a paper guillotine, later found slaughtered
1 male ran through and eviscerated with a wood saw
1 female found disemboweled and her eyes gouged
1 male skewered through the neck with a broken flag pole
1 female decapitated with a dropped sign
1 male dropped from a building, head splattered open
Total: 8

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