Night School (1981) Blu-ray Review: Maybe Some of It Will Rub Off on You

The Warner Archive Collection cordially invites you to attend the premiere of Rachel Ward's slasher movie debut in High-Definition.
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One of several kajillion slasher movies manufactured in the early '80s alone, the American-made Night School sports an oddly Canadian aura about it throughout ‒ from the British director (Ken Hughes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Internecine Project) and starlet Rachel Ward (in her film debut) to the vaguely familiar, mostly nocturnal urban New England location photography by Scanners cinematographer Mark Irwin, right down to the finale which honors the horror sub-genre's giallo roots. When viewed in this erroneous light, Night School feels like some sort of underrated cult classic.

Amusing enough, however, if you stare directly into the big face (and big hair) of this noggin' loppin' thriller knowing full well it's American in origin, it almost feels downright dull.

The final feature from director Hughes, Night School finds a motorcycle helmet-clad killer on the loose in Boston. Somehow going unnoticed walking around with a kukri in their hand, our mysterious assailant sets their unseen eyes on young nubile college girls, decapitating dumbfounded prey who seem more hapless than helpless. A prime example is the film's first victim: a blonde who discovers a harmless playground merry-go-round can be utterly inescapable when a complete stranger walks up to it and starts casually spinning it.

But then, the whole cast isn't overly bright. As a seemingly wealthy police detective (Leonard Mann) and his partner (Joseph R. Sicari) assigned to the case tries to put two and two together (which shouldn't be hard, since the killer leaves the dead girls' fingers intact), coed Rachel Ward engages in routine (and routinely boring) conversations with her philandering college professor employer (Drew Snyder), whose relations have not exactly landed him in a reputable position with the administrator (Annette Miller). This, obviously, was years before anyone started taking that whole Title IX thing seriously.

Virtually everyone ‒ right down to the yuppie detective with a bad case of apathy on his hands ‒ is a suspect in Night School. The lengthy list (well, it gets shorter as the film progresses) also includes a mentally-challenged busboy and his jerk of a cafe owner boss, and the red herring factor is pretty high throughout, right down to a memorable scene involving some tasty beef stew. Needless to say, the gruesome moments are the true highlights here (other than instances such as the sight of Rachel Ward in the shower, I mean), some of which really makes a splash in the water.

Previously rescued from home video limbo by the Warner Archive Collection for DVD-R in 2011, Night School has at last graduated to Blu-ray thanks to the WAC's efforts. Sourced from a 2K interpositive scan and meticulously restored for this BD release, the print here is definitely deserving of an A, even if the story itself still ranks something in the Cs. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack sounds quite nice (note: the score was an early effort by Brad Fiedel), and English (SDH) subtitles are included with this release.

A theatrical trailer is the only special feature, but don't let the lack of supplements deter you from giving this Warner Archive restoration a passing grade.

Recommended to slasher purists, the morbidly curious, and anyone who likes vaguely Canadian-feeling productions.

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