The Substitute (1993 film)

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The Substitute
Written by Cynthia Verlaine
Directed by Martin Donovan
Starring Amanda Donohoe
Dalton James
Natasha Gregson Wagner
Mark Wahlberg
Theme music composer Gerald Gouriet
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Matthew O'Connor
Cinematography Glen MacPherson
Editor(s) Louise Innes
Running time 86 minutes
Distributor USA Television Network
Original release September 22, 1993

The Substitute is a 1993 American television film directed by Martin Donovan, written by David S. Goyer under his pseudonym Cynthia Verlaine,[1] and is also Mark Wahlberg's first acting role and credited as "Marky Mark", due to his successful hip hop career.


High school English teacher Gayle Richardson finds out that her husband is cheating on her with one of her students. She murders both him and his mistress in an outburst of rage, sets their house on fire, and flees into the night. One year later, Gayle has moved to another town and takes a job as a substitute English teacher at another high school under the assumed name Laura Ellington. One of the students, named Josh Wyatt, becomes infatuated with "Laura" and on her first day, he gives her a ride back to her motel room where she seduces him, but discards him the following day.

As the scorned Josh seeks to find a way to get revenge against Laura for using him, she meets and begins having an affair of her own with Josh's widowed father, Ben, who is also infatuated with the mysterious and attractive teacher. While Josh seeks to keep his brief tryst with Laura a secret, he also recruits his unsuspecting girlfriend, Jenny, to help him find any evidence against Laura when she moves into the house across the street from him and his father.

However, things become more complicated when news about her past starts to re-emerge, forcing Laura to embark on yet another killing spree to protect her identity and her crimes. When Laura learns that the teacher she is substituting for will be returning early, she breaks into her house and shoves her down a staircase, causing the teacher to die from a heart attack. But Laura is witnessed entering the house by one trouble-making student, named Ryan Westerberg, who attempts to blackmail her. However, Laura kills Ryan and covers it up to make it look like a gang killing.

Convinced that Laura is responsible for the two mysterious deaths, Josh begins to uncover Laura's past by sneaking into her house one evening during a school dance and finds evidence of her former alias as Gayle Richardson. But Josh cannot convince anyone, not even his skeptic father, that Laura is not who she claims to be. When Josh inadvertently reveals his tryst with Laura to Jenny, she breaks up with him. When Jenny tells Ben about Josh's cheating on her and of his personal investigation into Laura, she walks in on them. Later, Laura follows Jenny into the school and attempts to murder her too by chasing her under the bleachers in the school gym and pushes the automatic button to make the bleachers fold up, nearly crushing Jenny to death.

Jenny survives long enough to be brought to the hospital where she tells Josh what Laura did. After looking up old newspaper records at a library, Josh finally learns of Laura's past and real identity. When Ben Wyatt confronts Laura that same evening in her classroom as she is attempting to pack up to flee town, she attacks and stabs him with a glass shard just as Josh walks in. He chases and confronts Laura on the roof of the school as the police arrive. Momentarily blinded by a police searchlight that's beamed onto her, Laura loses her balance and falls off of part of the roof to land some distance below on another part of the building. Leaving her for dead, Josh leaves the school building and is relieved to learn that his father is alive and will recover from his stab wound. But when the police venture to the roof, they find that Laura is gone.

In the final scene, Laura/Gayle is now at another high school in another state, and another a new alias, applying for a job as an English teacher at the school.



Wahlberg was at the beginning of his career, and accordingly was cast in a secondary role (as "Marky Mark"). He consequently did not feature prominently in publicity at the time. However, in recent DVD issues, he has been depicted on the front cover, as a composite image with his face clearly overlaid on a stand-in's body.


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