Night School (1981 film)
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|Directed by||Ken Hughes|
|Written by||Ruth Avergon|
|Music by||Brad Fiedel|
|Edited by||Robert Reitano|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Night School (released in the United Kingdom as Terror Eyes) is a 1981 American slasher film, directed by Ken Hughes and starring Rachel Ward, in her feature film debut. The plot revolves around a series of gruesome decapitation murders targeting mostly college coeds in Boston, Massachusetts. The film was originally to be directed by Alfred Sole, but Sole passed on the project. Ken Hughes was ultimately brought in to direct, and Night School was his final film. The music score was composed by Brad Fiedel.
The film premiered at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in 1981, and was released theatrically in the United States on September 11, 1981. Night School was denounced by critics upon release, and in England became a video nasty. The film has developed a small cult following among slasher fans, and in 2011, it was given its first DVD release by Warner Archive with a remastered transfer.
Anne Barron is a teacher's aide at the Jack-N-Jill Daycare Center in Boston. It's the early evening, and the last child has been picked up by her mother. Anne is relaxing on the playground carousel when someone pulls up on a motorcycle, wearing a black motorcycle helmet. She is startled as the stranger pulls out a kukri and starts spinning the carousel. The terrified Anne goes around until the kukri hits her. Judd Austin is the cop assigned to the case. As he gets to the scene, he sees the girl decapitated with her head in a nearby bucket. The distraught director of the center tells Judd that Anne worked there during the day and was attending night classes at Wendall College.
At the hospital, Judd and his partner Taj discuss a similar case from the previous week, in which another girl was found decapitated with her head in a pond. They begin to wonder if there's any connection between the two murders. At Wendell, the administrator Ms. Helene Griffin tells Judd that Anne was close to a girl named Kim Morrison. When asked if Anne had a boyfriend, Kim tells Judd that Anne was indeed involved with someone, but she doesn't know who. She assumes the man must have been married as he was depressed. Judd enters Professor Millett's anthropology class to speak with him about his murdered student in French. The professor doesn't provide much information, but he introduces Judd to an exchange student named Eleanor Adjai. Eleanor leaves the school and goes to the local diner operated by Gus, who yells at Gary with his Greek accent to take out the garbage, but Gary is fixated on Eleanor. There, she is creeped out by Gary, the busboy who appears to have mental issues. The waitress Carol asks Eleanor if she's in Millett's class and implies that he sleeps around, irritating Eleanor and she leaves. Gary follows her home. When she realizes this, she runs the rest of the way and quickly locks the door. She gets into the shower but someone tries to break in. Frightened, she gets out of the shower, only to find that it's Professor Millett, her boyfriend who had been locked out by accident.
Kim works at the local aquarium. About to leave work, she takes off her diving suit and is decapitated. A woman who was previously looking at the turtles screams after she sees Kim's head fall into the tank.
Judd pays a visit to Professor Millett and is surprised to see Eleanor, but she explains that she is the professor's research assistant. Judd then informs Millett that a second student of his has been killed and asks him if he has had any affairs with his pupils. Annoyed by the question, Millett tells Judd to leave. Eleanor and Millett get into an argument and she goes to the diner to be alone. The professor follows her, and she tells him that she is three months pregnant. He's sympathetic, although he still manages to flirt with Carol. After the diner has closed, Carol is left to clean up. When the power goes out, she heads to the basement to investigate. The killer appears and attacks her. Carol escapes, but then gets caught in an alley and killed. When one of the workers shows up the next day, he thinks someone has broken into the diner. A customer finds hair in his bowl of stew, Carol's head in a water-filled sink and her body in a dumpster. Judd and Taj go to Gus' house since he is now considered a prime suspect, but Judd doesn't believe he was involved.
When Judd goes to Professor Millett's home again, he finds a collection of skulls taken from tribal headhunters from around the world. Oddly, Eleanor doesn't see anything wrong with the collection. At Wendell, Ms. Griffin tells Millett to stop sleeping around with his students and counsels Kathy, who confesses that she too has been intimate with the professor. However, Ms. Griffin seems to have her own ideas about Kathy and she invites the girl to spend the night at her house, resulting in the two sleeping together. Though not entirely comfortable, Kathy is enjoying the company. Ms. Griffin is killed when she gets up to answer the phone, and Kathy is killed shortly after discovering Ms. Griffin's head in the toilet.
Judd is on his way to speak to Ms. Griffin when he sees the killer fleeing. He chases the killer to Professor Millett's apartment. Inside, the killer is revealed to be Eleanor. She confesses the killings to her boyfriend and justifies the crimes by comparing them to tribal rituals he teaches in his courses. As the police are approaching, Millett puts on the helmet and flees on his motorcycle to divert the suspicion from his girlfriend. During a chase with Judd and Taj, Millett is struck by a car and dies. Eleanor attends his burial and the police believe the case has been solved. It is implied that Judd suspects that the killer was Eleanor and Millett sacrificed his life to protect her. However, as the case is dropped, Judd lets Eleanor go without arresting her.
- Leonard Mann as Lt. Judd Austin
- Rachel Ward as Eleanor Adjai
- Drew Snyder as Vincent Millett
- Joseph R. Sicari as Taj
- Nicholas Cairis as Gus
- Karen MacDonald as Carol
- Annette Miller as Helene Griffin
- Bill McCann as Gary
- Margo Skinner as Stevie Cabot
- Kevin Fennessy as Harry The Janitor
- Elizabeth Barnitz as Kim Morrison
- Holly Hardman as Kathy
- Meb Boden as Anne Barron
- Leonard Corman as Priest
- Belle McDonald as Marjorie Armand
- Ed Higgins as Coroner (as Ed Higgins)
Night School was shot on location in Boston, Massachusetts, largely in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, in the spring of 1980 on a budget of $1.2 million. It was the second feature film to be near-exclusively shot in Boston, after The Brink's Job. The final sequence however, tacked on after principal photography, was filmed in New York City.
Producer Ruth Avergon recalled of working with director Ken Hughes: "Ken had enormous energy ... I just loved working with him. He was a joy to work with. He really knew what he was doing. There wasn't a lot of second guessing. He knew what shots had to be taken for our budget. The production value that he gave us, along with Mark Irwin [cinematographer], was wonderful. I thought they really captured a nice look for the film."
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Retrospective assessment has noted the film's mixture of slasher films with Italian gialli films and police procedurals. Film scholar Adam Rockoff deemed the film "grim" and one of the "slickest-looking slasher" films.
Night School was released on DVD-R through the Warner Archive Collection on November 2, 2011. On October 24, 2017, Warner Archive released the film for the first time on Blu-ray in a remastered transfer.
- "Night School". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- Canby, Vincent. "Terror Eyes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- Sipos 2010, p. 20.
- IMDB - Night School - Alternate Versions
- Blowen, Michael (April 24, 1980). "Filming on a low budget in Boston". The Boston Globe. p. 42 – via Newspapers.com.
- Rockoff 2002, p. 125.
- Anderson, George (September 30, 1981). "'Breaker Morant' bursts fourth best movie of the month". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 34 – via Newspapers.com.
- Gambin, Lee (September 12, 2017). "Remembering 1981's Night School (Part One)". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- Rockoff 2002, pp. 125, 127.
- "Night School (DVD)". Amazon. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
- "Night School (Blu-ray)". Amazon. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- Rockoff, Adam (2002). Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. ISBN 0-7864-1227-5.
- Sipos, Thomas S. (2010). Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-45834-9.