Release Date(s)1981 (October 24, 2017)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D-
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were a handful of horror-based thrillers being made outside of Europe that were basically giallo-inspired such as The Eyes of Laura Mars. Today’s entry, Night School (AKA Terror Eyes), also falls in with this grouping. The last film directed by Ken Hughes, who previously helmed more mainstream ventures like Casino Royale and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Night School is a tight little thriller that, while not entirely difficult to figure out if you’re familiar with genre movies, makes use of its time by involving its audience without resorting to cheap gimmicks. It definitely wears its influences on its sleeve – not just in style, but by the look of the killer, the weapon of choice, and the eventual reveal, all of which can be traced back to Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
Night School probably won’t be recognizable to many modern horror fans; mainly those who browsed their local video store aisles remember its VHS cover with some fondness. It features cinematography by frequent Cronenberg collaborator Mark Irwin and a score from Brad Fiedel, who many know doubt know as the composer of The Terminator’s and Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s scores. The basic gist of the film’s premise is that a motorcycle gear-clad killer is decapitating young women one by one, moving the heads away from the bodies and soaking them in water, almost ritualistically. On the case is a no-nonsense detective and his partner, who find themselves investigating several different suspects, including a promiscuous professor at a local college and his girlfriend and assistant (Rachel Ward).
Truth be told, it’s actually a well-made film. It’s mostly serious but it finds itself being kind of playful at times, particularly during the aftermath of one of the murders in which the audience will no doubt find itself on pins and needles. There are odd things about too, including a bizarre lovemaking shower sequence that’s less erotic than it is silly, but also the very end of the film, which attempts to cut the seriousness of everything that came before, but fails. Some of the performances are lackluster as well, mostly due to the use of overdubs (mostly). Other than that, Night School is a surprisingly enjoyable thriller with more up its sleeve than just its kooky tagline: “A is for Apple, B is for Bed, C is for Coed, D is for Dead, F is for Failing to keep your head”.
Although Lorimar produced the film and it was distributed by Paramount Pictures initially, Warner Bros. currently owns the rights to the film. As such, Warner Archive has taken it upon themselves to do a 2K scan of the film’s interpositive element. Relatively low budget in nature, the film does have plenty of cinematic value. The presentation of it is good, although not perfect. Some extremely mild instability is leftover, but is only really noticeable during static shots. There’s a mild inherent softness to the material as well, but grain levels are fairly solid throughout and are quite thick. Detail is excellent, even with occasional diffusion during scenes when brighter lights dominate the background. Colors are reproduced well, if not unremarkably due to the drabness of the urban environments that they take place in. Black levels are mostly solid with decent shadow detail while contrast and brightness levels are satisfactory. The encode is also good with a high bit rate and no obvious digital anomalies. Sporadic scratches do pop up from time to time, but they’re few and far between. The sole audio option is an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD soundtrack with optional subtitles in English SDH. Dialogue sections, including the aforementioned overdubs, are clean and clear throughout, but the track’s strongest qualities are its sound effects and score. The former doesn’t always have heft to it, but the latter is prominent and powerful in the mix without overdoing it. Some mild hiss is evident, but it’s been obviously cleaned up as much as possible. The only extra included is the film’s original theatrical trailer, presented in full screen from an HD source, although it’s a little rough around the edges.
Long-time genre fans would do well to pick up Warner Archive’s Blu-ray release of Night School and give it a spin in their respective players. It’s not some lost genre masterpiece, but it offers up enough value to make it worth their time, not to mention being presented in a highly suitable way.
- Tim Salmons