Plot: Anne has just watched the last of her students get picked up, so she chills on a merry-go-round and prepares to head home herself. But then a mysterious person in a leather jumpsuit arrives and with a helmet on, it is impossible to tell who this person is, so Anne is nervous. Then the stranger begins to spin the carousel at a rapid rate and soon, a knife is visible, coming close to Anne with each passing spin. After a bit, the unknown person lets the blade strike Anne and she is left dead, with a grisly scene left behind. As she was decapitated, police are certain is the latest in a spree of violent crimes that have left several women dead. Judd (Leonard Mann) is assigned to the case and while clues have been sparse, a pattern seems to be falling into place within the various victims. As the killer continues to rack up brutal murders, who is under that helmet and can Judd finally put an end to this wave of horrific violence?
Entertainment Value: An often overlooked slice of 80s horror, Night School hits the right buttons as a genre picture, but has more style and atmosphere than your usual slasher movie. So this isn’t a supernatural madman on a rampage, but more like a giallo inspired horror/thriller with some slasher elements. The silent, unknown killer makes a great antagonist, while the movie steers us toward obvious suspects then tosses out plenty of red herrings. In other words, this one isn’t just about who survives, but who is behind the killings and the motivation behind the violence. Leonard Mann is fine as the lawman hunting the killer through a dank, grime soaked version of Boston, desperate to find some actual evidence. But then we have Rachel Ward, who is hilariously bad in her role and adds so much unintentional humor. Some might find her presence distracting, but I appreciated the ridiculous performance. The tension is solid throughout and I think the gritty atmosphere works wonders for the movie. So while not heralded as one of the 80s genre masterworks, I think Night School is a fun giallo/slasher romp that includes some odd, memorable moments.
A few teases in shower scenes, but the only real nudity comes during a strange blood ritual inspired sequence. As a red substance is rubbed all over a woman’s body, the camera glimpses her bare ass. A good amount of blood, as our killer is quite vicious, but don’t expect graphic gore from these scenes. The knife slashes, we see the blood from the wound, but not the actual cuts involved. When someone’s head is lopped off, we just hear the blade pierce, but it all happens off screen. While some wild bloodshed is always fun, at least the killer here is a cruel customer, slashing with lethal intentions that add some real tension to the scenes. In any event, the scenes are far from clean and the walls, victims, and floors are treated to gushes of the red stuff. The dialogue is pretty serious for the most part, though Ward’s performance does make some lines seem much more dramatic than they were likely intended. So I do think one point is needed for her wooden style, but otherwise this one is well written, just lacking the lunacy or quotable lines we look for. On the craziness end of things, we have Ward’s strange performance, a headhunting thread, and a bizarre ritualistic shower scene. So not totally bananas, but some solid wackiness can be mined here.
Overall Insanity: 2/10