Friday, July 29, 2011

NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) - getting its giallo GED while getting Rachel Ward naked

It’s after hours at the "Jack ‘n Jill Daycare Center" (finally a kiddie center that gets it...break their crowns if they get out of line). A teacher is on the merry go round, probably letting off some steam after screaming at brats all day. A masked maniac gets off their motorcycle and starts spinning the merry go round to possibly dangerous levels, capping it off with a machete decapitation, rendering the danger of the out-of-control merry go round pretty moot. The scene fades to red and jump cuts to a close up of a red sweater on a roller skating girl. In the realm of the slasher film, this qualifies as a classy segue.

Our lead detective finds the girl’s head hanging out in a mop bucket, and someone mentions that there was a similar murder last week, where-in a woman’s head was found in a duck pond. The detective thinks that these two may be related, but his partner is not impressed with his mumbo jumbo factiness. Interestingly, this detective is straight out of an Italian giallo, always coming up with implausible scenarios and adding “Yes! I’m sure that’s it! I’m quite positive!”, rather than the usual forensic science approach.

These hunches lead him to an anthropology teacher and his assistant, played by Rachel Ward, of all people. The dead girl was an anthropology student, and Watson-lite senses some shenanigans involving these two. The retard bus boy at the diner begs to differ, and he creepily hits on Rachel whenever she comes in. However, this really just proves he has a penis. More importantly, the waitress suggests that the teacher likes to finagle and/or molest “horny coeds”. I can’t blame him, but that’s beside the point. It casts doubtful shadows upon his character, and this is necessary to the plot.

Someone appears to be stalking Rachel, so she hurriedly heads to her apartment. Once she thinks the coast is clear, she does the only sensible, lady-like thing, taking her clothes off and sticking her ass into the camera. Oh no, she’s just taking a shower to help relieve her nerves. It’s nice to see a slasher go out of its way to develop its characters, providing some psychological shading amidst the usual decapitated heads and beaver shots and what have you. Well, the mysterious stalker sneaks in, and we get an imaginative twist on the shower scene from Psycho. Instead of a mad slasher transvestite granny, we get the professor showing up for some shower nookie, and instead of blood pouring from butcher knife wounds, there is what looks like strawberry jam, which the professor rubs all over Rachel's body (especially her ass). Naturally, this blood red sex jelly swirls down the drain.

Meanwhile, at the local aquarium, one of those old ass snapping turtles (those things are awesome, by the way) is having lunch. The diver feeding the fish turns out to be a girl from earlier, a friend of one the decapitated lasses. Well, the killer shows up and starts slashing at her in the locker room, before throwing a fishing net on her and slashing some more. He tosses her decapitated head in the fish tank, much to the horror of the paying customers, and merely to the mild chagrin of the snapping turtle. He’s trying to enjoy some calamari, and some lady’s freshly decapitated head smacks him in the noggin. I guess if you live to be 300 years old, you’re gonna see all kinds of crazy shit.

The inspector eventually visits Rachel and the prof, but she doesn't want to let him in. He explains that, because he has a badge, he can disturb anyone, anytime he wants to (as I said, he was transplanted from an Italian giallo, and apparently, this is how the fuzz rolls in Milan). This is good enough for Rachel, as she's British and isn't totally informed about how search warrants work in the U.S.. The professor is not surprised to learn that there was another murder, as "man is the only animal that kills for pleasure", which is actually incorrect anyway (wolverines asshole).

The investigators find the head of one of the diner waitresses in the sink, so they head over to the bus boy’s apartment, which is in a neighborhood so shitty that "ghetto ghouls" is spray painted in the hallway of his building. Inside, they find nude photos on the walls, a hockey mask on the dresser, women's underwear, and the bus boy himself. They try to get a confession, but he isn't biting. The investigator immediately dismisses him as a suspect because he finds a pair of binoculars, and, despite the other alarming discoveries, concludes that he cannot possibly have committed the murders because peeping toms don't kill people (!?). I guess he’s never seen that Michael Powell movie where a peeping tom runs around killing people. I think it’s called…oh yeah, Peeping Tom. Dumbass.

The inspector heads back to the professor’s place and waltzes right in, finding books about New Guinea headshrinkers and photos of skulls and the like. Rachel pops in, and she has apparently since Googled the whole “search warrant” deal, as she asks him to leave, remarking "isn’t breaking and entering a crime, even for a police man?". He retorts, with the investigative acumen of a wily cat, "isn't headhunting a crime, even for an anthropologist?”. Rachel explains that headhunters chopped off people’s noggins to cleanse their spirits, which sounds like important plot minutia, albeit of the obtuse variety.

Well, the female principal finally fires the prof for screwing several students, so he naturally accuses her of being a lesbian. He then gets on his lame moped and peppily mopes away. The principal, no doubt upset over the rug munching allegations, blows off some steam by seducing a female student, and the bus boys peeps through the window at this hot lesbo action. This loving act between two consenting adults (assuming she’s 18) is cut short when the principal is impaled through a door. The camera pans down the door to a pool of blood forming underneath, a trick I never get tired of. The student wakes up to the sound of the faucet running, ultimately finding a lesbian principal head in the toilet before being hacked up herself.


The detective makes his way into the principal’s apartment, when suddenly, someone just off camera throws a dummy of the killer onto the cop, and they tumble down the stairs together. The killer escapes just as the second cop is arresting the bus boy, falling prey once again to the “red herring syndrome”. The killer shows up at the prof’s place and takes off his helmet,’s a she! More to the point, it’s Rachel Ward, just like the detective insinuated, despite the lack of any kind of evidence. She admits to the professor that she murdered the girls to “protect” their relationship, killing off any women he lusted after. It’s safe to say their relationship is built on a house of cards.

Somehow, Rachel convinces the prof to don the killer motorcycle suit and lead the cops on a high speed motorcycle chase. Like an incompetent Evel Knievel, he slams into a cop car at 700 miles per hour, doing a complete black flip onto another car, promptly sending him to the poseur stunt ramp in the sky. Later, the detective, satisfied that justice was served, heads for his car in the garage. Just then, the headhunter shows up in his backseat, and grabs the cop by the throat...oh no, it's his partner. They giggle like schoolgirls, but the real killer (Rachel) is still walking the streets. I’m sure she doesn’t want another gigolo boyfriend, as that would lead her to decapitate more young females, but who is going to rub jam all over her buttock region? Me thinks it would take a ladies man to manage that kind of thing. Maybe Rachel should start learning to take the good with the bad.

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