While a film about a deadly virus rampaging through the UK’s society might not seem like the perfect choice of subject matter at present, the film adaptation of School’s Out Forever by Scott K Andrews isn’t about our current climate, although there are moments where it is quite on the nose. The film focused on a British private school situated in the countryside and its response to a virus outbreak plays almost as a hybrid of Shaun Of The Dead and Lord Of The Flies with the staff and students of the school having to fend for themselves and fight off unsavoury characters, particularly from the local parish council of all places.
Lee our central protagonist who had recently been expelled from St Mark’s returns to escape the outside world. Soon after however the school is faced by outside groups and much of the film is focused on the school trying to prevent assailants from overrunning the grounds. The cast is full of notable stars of British Film and Television with a brief cameo from Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and more prominent roles for Thick Of It and Inbetweeners star Alex Macqueen and Bond alumnus Samantha Bond. The main stars of the show however are the young cast led by Oscar Kennedy who is a believable lead and one audiences can sympathise with and root for throughout.
The tone of the film is a difficult balancing act as this could have gone overboard with Shaun Of The Dead style humour and while there are some action gags peppered throughout, the tone is quite sombre and bleak and this is to its credit. There is a brooding and chilly atmosphere to proceedings and we really feel the hopelessness of the situation and subsequently root for the school staff and students to come out unscathed.
The commitment to the often gory action sequences is another strength and while it could perhaps be argued that this comes at the expense of the story, the unpredictable nature of the film works in its favour as we are not sure when a confrontation might erupt into a bloody tussle. We do see a tonal shift somewhat in the film’s second half as it descends into greater levels of chaos but the film builds to this in an impressive manner and director Oliver Milburn shows a clear aptitude for both character development and set pieces.
While its subject matter is most certainly not the most timely, once that is moved beyond audiences will have a lot of fun with School’s Out Forever as a riff on both horror comedies and films about boarding schools. The performances from an eclectic cast make the premise seem believable and while the action sequences can stretch belief somewhat the character development and world building really create an immersive feel to proceedings. It is to the film’s credit that it doesn’t take the easy route out and play the scenario for cheap laughs while also not descending into the bleakness of some post-apocalyptic films. It will be intriguing to see which direction Oliver Milburn and Rebellion Studios pursue next with this marking Rebellion’s first foray into the world of filmmaking.
School’s Out Forever is released in the UK on Digital Download on 15th February and Blu-Ray & DVD from 12th April 2021