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Writer’s Picks: Back to School

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Well it’s that time of year. Summer is over, the air is getting a little bit colder and the skies are becoming gray and the rumblings of kids has ceased. Children unaccompanied adults aren’t running through your stores early in the morning and making messes. College kids no longer occupy the pubs, spilling out into the street, calling everyone “bro” and have headed back to school… thank goodness! Now that classes have started for both grade schoolers and college kids, some of our writers here at iHorror have done some thinking and want to tell you a little about their favorite horror flicks that bring them back to school.

Class of 1984

Class of 1984 is about a music teacher, played by Perry King, who starts work at a rough new high school.  No sooner does the teacher meets his students than he falls out of favor with the campus drug dealers.  The punks make the poor teacher’s life a living hell, starting by vandalizing his car and escalating all the way up to going after his pregnant wife.  Released at a time when heavy metal and punk records were being censored by the PMRC, the violent film was supposed to be a grim warning of things to come.  In retrospect, it’s just a time capsule of a needlessly paranoid era.  Fun fact: also stars Planet of the Apes’ Roddy McDowall, future “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” director Timothy Van Patten and a little teenaged Michael J. Fox.  Bonus points for having a cool Lalo Schifrin score, complete with a nifty Alice Cooper theme song. – James Jay Edwards

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Death Bell (Gosa)

My favourite school themed horror movie is Death Bell (Gosa), a surprisingly entertaining South Korean horror from 2008.  The basic premise of Death Bell is that a class of 24 advanced students have gathered at their exclusive high school on a Saturday for a special prep class to help them get ready for the upcoming university entrance exams. After something of a slow build up, the students find themselves locked in their classroom, and the closed circuit television switches to an image of the classes’ top student, Hye-yeong, trapped in a large fish-tank. A mysterious voice tells the class that they must successfully complete the exam administered by said voice, and for every question answered incorrectly, one of them will be killed. What follows is a fun Saw meets Exam film, which may or may not have ties to the supernatural.  The story is fairly standard horror fair, without breaking any new or innovative ground, yet Death Bell is a film where the journey is an increasingly gory, good time, that is unfortunately let down some by its’ conclusion.

This is always the first film I think of when someone talks about school related horror movies as I was an advanced student myself (International Baccalaureate), and I definitely remember that feeling of pressure, and the stress, come the major exams.  Thankfully whenever I got a question wrong (which I definitely did), I wasn’t stuffed into a washing machine, but I digress…

If you can track Death Bell down, I do recommend it, but beware the sequel. Death Bell: Bloody Camp is just an uninspired rehash of the first film, which does suck a fair amount of the gory fun out of the premise, and really, that is what the first Death Bell really hangs its hat on. – Shaun Cordingley

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A Nightmare on Elm Street

There are a lot of great horror movies that have to do with schools. I love Carrie and Slaughter High (for very different reasons), but to me the movie that made school the scariest was the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.The hallway monitor scene is one of my favorites from any movie, and combined with Tina’s body being pulled down the hall and the creepy poetry reading in the classroom, it has to take the cake for me. Honorable mention to IT. – Chris Crum

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The Craft

When I think about what school-related horror flick best entices nostalgia, I think of The Craft.  I was a naive 10 years old when the movie came out, no where near high school aged, but it became an instant classic.  The Craft really was my introduction into all things horror, and was the cause of my subsequent love of all things scary.  From the actresses, the music, the attitude, all the way down to the clothes, I was obsessed.  I even remember briefly wishing I could be a real witch.  I own, and still frequently watch, The Craft today. – Kristen Ashley

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All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

Starring Johnny Depp’s main squeeze Amanda Heard, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is a surprisingly better than average thriller about beautiful young high school girl Mandy Lane [played by Heard] who is the desire of every male [both young and not-so] within a few hundred feet of wherever she may be. Unfortunately, beauty often has a dark side, and this film is no exception. Mandy becomes friends with the in-crowd, who invite her along for a weekend at the country home of one of the cool kids, while all the boys jostle for dibs on Mandy’s virginity.

As the kids party hard, groundsman Garth tries to keep an eye on things as best he can, yet one by one the kids go missing – only to turn up dead later.

I’ve loved this movie since the first time I saw it. We think we know people – we think we know our friends, our classmates, our peers – but do we really? We want to believe we do, but how much do we really know? One of my best friends in high school was the exact polar opposite of what people thought of her.

If I say much more, it will give the whole movie away – but the twist at the end was completely and totally unexpected! – Tina Mockmore

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

There are many horror movies I can think of that remind of the good ole days of high school, but the one that stands out to me is not the one you may have first thought of. Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. It really touched on a lot of high school style drama, issues and emotions of teenagers. I.E.: sexual awkwardness, bullies, nerds, self esteem, etc… In my own personal opinion this Elm Street is the one that showed realistic emotions when dealing with the loss of a friend. You could really tell they were torn up and it was consistent throughout the movie, whereas in many other horror films it felt like it was forgotten the day after or just wasn’t touched on as much. Being a teenager can be tough and high school doesn’t make it any easier sometimes. But on the lighter side, you can make bonds that last a lifetime. The scenarios where Alice obtains her friends powers is, for me, symbolic to that. That for me is why watching Dream Master is like revisiting high school. Well minus Robert Englund running around in my dreams trying to murder me. – Patti Pauley

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My choice for best high school horror is Scream. While it may seem like an obvious choice, it’s an obvious choice for a very simple reason: it gets everything right. While I was hardly the “big man on campus” type in high school, the general spirit of Scream is a very relatable one, and encapsulates the friendships, parties, and angst that often color the teenage experience. Of course, Scream‘s characters all look to be in at least their mid-20s, but that’s Hollywood casting for you. Aside from the high school elements being done well, the film itself is a modern classic, and I will fight anyone who disagrees in the parking lot after class. – Michael Carpenter

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Class of 1999

Although some fans don’t believe it, Class of 1999 is a follow up to the 1984 flick Class of 1984 and that’s coming right from director Mark L. Lester. In all fairness, it is hard to believe that this is a sequel, given it takes place in a semi-quasi futuristic setting of the year 1999! Schools are overrun with gangs, so much so that the Police dare not intrude, so the principal (played by Malcom McDowell) reaches for some outside help in Dr. Robert Forest (Stacey Keach in a pair of those cheap, colored contacts) who has designed androids to not only look and act human, but to teach as well. It doesn’t take long before the androids (Pam Grier, Patrick Kilpatrick and James P. Ryan) military programming kicks in and they wage an all out war against the kids. It’s up to the film’s ‘rent-a-Corey Feldman’, Cody, who wants nothing more than to quit the gang life, to band them all the gangs together and stop the androids before they are killed.

I must’ve seen this one dozens of times growing up. It was one of my favorite movies to rent when I was in high school, giving me that feeling of anarchy, against the establishment and Bradley Gregg’s character Cody always made me laugh, since he wanted to resignate Edgar Frog. I thought it was cool to see kids my age and the never aging at the time Joshua John Miller (Homer from Near Dark) be total badasses, fight some Terminator clones and get the girl. It’s one of those rare cases where making a sequel where the only connection is themed and in name only works in its advantage. If big hair, pop punk and dystopian futures are your thing, you’ll dig this, as it’s oozing with style. It did spawn direct sequel, Class of 1999 2, but you may want to skip it. – Andrew Peters

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