I kept thinking about that show while I was watching the Video Nasty known as Terror Eyes (Night School in the USA). Actually, some days it's difficult for me to think of anything BUT Happy Days... or really, seventies sitcoms in general. This one time, in College, I somehow managed to convince myself that I was Hawkeye from M*A*S*H, and that I was in Korea with the whole gang from the 4077th. This is in spite of the fact that I wasn't in Korea, but Louisiana, and I wasn't working in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, but a Movie Theatre. I was like "Splicing Tape, Film Cut... New Reel... Nurse Kylie, wipe my brow..." Then I made some Mooshine in the Swamp (Projection Booth #2, actually) and we had a pretty major explosion and suddenly nobody thought my fixation on seventies sitcoms was all that funny anymore.
But back to Happy Days. The reason Night School makes me think of that episode is that the killer in this Slasher Thriller isn't wearing a Hockey Guard, Fedora or Bill Shatner Mask, but a motorcycle helmet while dispatching unsuspecting co-eds. But if that's Richie Cunningham under that helmet this time, he's not letting Fonzie do the fencing. He's carrying his own blade and doing his own Chop Chops.
It isn't Richie, though.
In fact, just who the killer is behind the darkened windshield is the interesting part of this film. Or... was, seeing as how by mid-way through the film, anybody who hasn't figured it out is most assuredly a rotten egg! Another interesting thing here is that the chick from The Thorn Birds gets naked in the course of the film. Ask me how offended I was... just ask!
We begin as the helmeted slasher spins a part time child care worker and part time student right 'round, baby right 'round like a record, baby, right 'round, 'round, 'round on one of those Playground Merry-Go-Rounds and then decapitates her without even getting her phone number. This causes the Harvard Educated Boston Cop Lt. Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) to have to actually do his job and investigate why a college co-ed's head was found in a bucket after said bucket was kicked by said co-ed. The easy part comes as Judd and his bumbling partner Taj (Joseph R. Sicari) begin to investigate the Women's College that she goes to, hoping to prevent more of the same.
But more of the same is what they get. While the slasher keeps slashin' and splashin', Mutt and Jeff... I mean Taj and Judd... are trailing every lead they can find from the officious Professor Vincent Millett (Drew Snyder), who treats the place less like a Women's College and more like a Harem, to the Lesbian Headmistress Helene Griffin (Annette Miller), who would like to treat the place like a Harem, to the local village idiot Gus (Nicholas Cairis) who hoards his own harem of dirty pictures. It's all about protecting the young ladies in Night School, of course, especially the lovely, oft-unclothed exchange student named Eleanor Adjai (Rachel Ward), a friend of some of the victims who just might be next.
Director Ken Hughes and Writer Ruth Avergon clearly worked toward making something new and different from the same old slasher flicks out there by infusing some connections to strange rituals and a police mystery to overlay the thing. This is part of why Night School becomes so disappointing when it collapses toward the final act. Sure Night School can be scary and bloody, but it relies a tad too much on anticipation of gross outs and a surprise, twist ending that, while twisted, won't surprise very many attentive viewers out there. Much of the promise shown in the first half amounts to very little as Night School devolves into a pretty standard serial killer flick that borderlines on TV Movie of the Week territory.
This one wouldn't be shown on TV very easily though. While the nudity is somewhat brief and careful and the tease of a Lesbian Romance scene amounts to nil, Night School isn't light on the violence and gore. The killer seems to enjoy playing with the prey with each kill and Hughes seems to enjoy pushing each kill further and further into the realm of bad taste (see the aquarium scene). Still, this doesn't seem to qualify to any great degree as "obscene", making one wonder why that Minute and Sixteen Seconds had to be cut before the BBFC would allow this flick to escape the Video Nasty List. This one isn't as bad as some films that never made the list, but is still worse than a few that did. In short, while it might not be the pinnacle of horror, terror, blood or any of the other gruesome ingredients one finds in the Video Nasty Cookbook, it's still "bad" enough to have earned the name, and its place in Banned Film History.
Still, if not for a lack of truly quality character development, they might have been able to convert this one into an Early '80's sitcom. I mean, why not? They made Delta House out of the ashes of Animal House! I can see it now... "Terror Eyes: THE SERIES"! We can start off with a little Neon in Downtown Boston spelling out the title of the show as a Doo-Wop band sings:
"Sunday, Monday TERROR EYES! Tuesday, Wednesday TERROR EYES! Thursday, Friday TERROR EYES!
Then for Season Two, if we make it that far, we can change the lyrics slightly to:
"Saturday, no Night School today, I'm coming to decapitate yooooooooooooooou!"
Either that or some Bill Haley and the Comets number. Your call, kids, your call!
Two Stars out of Five for Night School AKA Terror Eyes, the slasher thriller that reminds us that they're not all Happy Days! It does, however, make my desire to know what the hell happened to Richie and Joanie's older brother Chuck all that much more pronounced. He was off at college... I wonder if maybe he visited Boston and... Nah! Too gruesome to even consider. So, until we find out that the whole time it really was Richie under that helmet, I'll see you in the next reel! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
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