The longer I watched this film, the more a peculiar feeling began to overtake me. This film is…dare I say it…pretty good! Whether it’s just the law of the stopped clock, or SyFy got lucky and hired people who could write, direct and act, is as yet unclear.
I like teachers who are supposed to be teaching classes, but are really acting as info dumps for us viewers. This chap is telling his students about the supernatural and how it’s real and open your minds and blah blah blah – I’d have thought that sensible, science-based folk and religious types would have cornered the market on teaching, but it’s good to know a few real oddballs can still get through. He and the main student Quentin seem to have some sort of connection, which I thought might be a gay thing but is sort-of blackmail. No need to worry though, the teacher dies pretty quickly.
But none of you are interested in that! By now, you’ll have seen the picture above and gone “hey! Danny Trejo and MC Gainey are in this!” Trejo is the school’s janitor who clearly knows more than he’s letting on, and Gainey is…well, I don’t think I’m spoiling too much to reveal he’s the ghost of the former principal, an insane child murderer and big fan of all things occult. Thanks to a magic gold coin, he and his…wife? Daughter?…can sneak back across from the other side and resume their killing ways.
Against this fella are the sort of groups of people you get in a school long past closing time – kids who’ve broken in to hack the computer and change their grades; school band members practising for a show (with teacher Griff Furst, who eagle-eyed viewers will recognise from “Transmorphers” – thank heavens he’s learned to act since then); a librarian (an extremely short cameo from Charisma Carpenter); and the teachers and students who are helping set up the gym for the upcoming prom. So, lots of different groups, lots of different sorts of students and adults. So far, so good. And it looks like they filmed in a real school, as the sets are several orders of magnitude better than the average SyFy film.
I’m about to gush about this film, so I’ll get the negatives out of the way first. Quentin is, for the main character, a pretty weak actor, and he has zero chemistry with his love interest, Whitney (Lauren Pennington). Also, there’s no real rhyme or reason to the people who get killed – it’s nice to know the supernatural has some sort of weird moral code, but our villains just seem to want to kill everyone in no particular order. Oh, and there’s a smidgeon of “haha all our friends are dead” at the end.
But enough of negativity. This is a funny, well-made film! Gainey is clearly having the time of his life, laughing maniacally and spewing the worst, cheesiest, death one-liners imaginable. Trejo appears in one scene shirtless for no reason whatsoever, other than to show his tattoos and old-man-muscles off. Virtually anyone in this movie can act rings round the entire cast of most SyFy Channel movies. The plot moves along at a decent pace, and it’s got a good sense of humour about itself. Towards the end, the way they figure out to stop the ghosts is so wonderfully half-assed that you can’t help but laugh.
Getting a bunch of teenagers, a few adults and something evil locked in the same place is a staple of low-budget cinema, and there are no new plots under the sun, really. What we look for is films that use those standard building blocks well, to show some basic competence at the art of filmmaking, and this one nails it, I think. And I’m not sure why! Looking at the films of director Jeffery Scott Lando, it’s not a strong CV; perhaps the motivation came from writer Paul Birkett, who’s responsible for some of the SyFy Channel’s funnest films, like “Ghost Shark” and “Arachnoquake”. The other writer, Anthony C Ferrante, is much, much better known as the director of the “Sharknado” movies, so perhaps we’re witnessing the ascent of the only in-house talents SyFy has, both on the same movie.
If you see this on SyFy Channel’s schedule, clear an evening for this and you’ll have a good time.
Rating: thumbs up