I was really looking forward to this. It looked like schlocky b-movie fun. I didn’t expect it to be a great movie, but I expected it to be entertaining as hell, the kind of film that reminds you of a video game in the way it’s done. I was sort of disappointed by it. It’s not frantic enough, it’s too slow burning to start with. This would be forgivable if the carnage it built up to was satisfying enough, but it’s not. There’s no sense of joyful carnage to it, stuff happens, but you don’t really take it in. It’s not the sort of film that you can take great joy in watching.
That’s because it has the remnants of a much better film within it. It looks at first like the school itself is going to be heavily tied into the horror, like it’s hiding a deep secret that everybody in the school upholds. As if the school is actually a secret cult that requires human sacrifices. There are remnants that the school is somewhat evil. Particularly with the frequent cuts of a schoolmaster from centuries ago, and the current headmaster there. The camera also seems to linger on the dog in those paintings, and a dog at the school, almost suggesting they’re the same, like either the headteacher and/or the dog are immortal. This never really comes up. The horror beast doesn’t come from a deep dark secret the school is trying to hush up (or even a beast the school actually depends on, like that alien that was a spaceship in Doctor Who). As it is the school and its traditions are essentially nondescript in terms of how it affects the plot. The plot is kicked off (closer to the end than the beginning it has to be said) by a group fracking the local area. The closest it comes to that being tied into the school is that the manager of the company doing the fracking bribed the school. Really this film could have taken place anywhere. There are moments where they make the most of the school setting, but that’s at the start of the film before the horror starts. It spends the opening setting up things; the school cliques/caste system, the sadistic nature of some of the students etc. It sets up all these dominos, ready to be knocked down, and then forgets them to go get the Scalextric out instead.
The closest it comes to doing this is when one of the students (who is shown to be a sadistic bastard) goes to shoot the main character as he’s too poor and doesn’t deserve to be there. He does this in a building used by the school to train army cadets. See, THAT’S a good use, but it’s incredibly fleeting. There’s also a Margot Robbie subplot that does almost nothing. She essentially has an extended cameo, yet this somehow leads to her being the first name listed when you type the film into imdb.
I wish I could recommend this film, I really do. When it’s funny it’s funny, and there’s a lot to admire about it, but there’s just not enough to recommend. Maybe I went into it with high expectations based on the cast and the plot, but I fear it is just not good enough. Asa Butterfields entire character arc is incredibly sweet though. It’s just the film is not fun enough, or fresh enough to really recommend, and it hurts me to say that.