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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Night School (Blu-ray)
Night School (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // October 24, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 23, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movie

The final film directed by Kenneth Hughes, 1981's Night School centers around Wendell College, a woman's school located in Boston, Massachusetts. But before we get to that, there's the opening scene: Anne Barron (Meb Boden), a teacher's aide, has just been decapitated by a killer wearing a motorcycle helmet and wielding an odd knife called a kukri. Detective Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) and partner Taj (Joseph Sicari) are on the scene, the second such killing this month. It turns out that she was enrolled at Wendell College, so they head over there and dig for clues. It's here that they meet Kim (Elizabeth Barnitz) who tells the two cops that Anne was seeing someone, but that she was never told specifically who. Her suspicions, however, are that she was fooling around with her anthropology professor Vincent Millet (Drew Synder). It seems that Millet has a reputation for getting to know his students on a more intimate level than most of his colleagues.

It turns out that Millet is also dating Eleanor Adjai (Rachel Ward), a beautiful British exchange student in Boston to further her education. As the killer makes his way from one victim to the next, our cops start to realize that the motive seems tied to Millet and his transgressions. Of course, with Eleanor having had her own encounter with the man, it looks like she's on the list too… and then she finds out that she's pregnant with Millet's child. Meanwhile, a dishwasher at the local diner named Gary (Bill McCann) shows some suspicious behavior and lands himself on the cops' radar, the philandering lesbian department head Helene Griffin (Annette Miller) starts to act strange and one of Millet's jaded former lovers, Carol (Karen MacDonald), could also prove to be the culprit. With too many suspects and too few clues, Austin and Taj find themselves in a race against time, hoping to stop this so called ‘headhunter' before someone else winds up dead.

Quick in its pacing and fairly nasty with its kill scenes, Night School is a pretty solid slasher film that hits pretty much all the right notes. The murder set pieces are tense and gritty, gory enough to pack a punch and quite creative in their execution. The killer has a rather cool, mysterious look, decked out all in black with helmet obscuring his or her identity. There are definitely some memorable moments here, that'll happen when someone is running around chopping peoples' heads off, and while isn't the flat out sleaze fest that other slashers were around the same time, the picture handily earns its R-rating thanks not just to the violence and bloodshed but some completely unnecessary nudity as well.

The Boston locations work well here. We get to see the city's fancier side as well as its seedier side as we accompany Austin and Taj in their pursuit of the killer. This helps to give the movie an interesting urban look similar to the type of vibe you'd get by setting a film in New York City in the early eighties. As to the cast, performances are pretty strong here. Leonard Mann and Joseph Sicari are well cast as the cops in the film. They have a good camaraderie here that makes them likeable even if their characters are not all that well defined. Drew Synder is quite good as the philandering professor only too happy to take advantage of his situation. There's something sleazy about the guy that suits the part well. Rachel Ward, who would later go on to fame in The Thorn Birds, is not only quite fetching but also a solid actress. Her character is interesting, and her performance here just fine.

Throw some nice cinematography from Mark Irwin into the mix as well as a strong score from composer Brad Fiedel and Night School turns out to be very much worth your time if you've got an affinity for eighties slashers. It might not be as well-known as some of its counterparts but it delivers the goods.

Video:

Night School makes its Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. While there is a bit of minor print damage evident throughout and a few scratches here and there, if the image isn't pristine it's still pretty solid. Grain appears throughout the film but it looks natural and there are no issues with any compression artifacts. The image is free of noise reduction and edge enhancement, the picture is quite film-like, while detail is generally really strong throughout. Some scenes do look soft and were clearly shot that way but for the most part the picture here is really good. Color reproduction seems spot on, skin tones look lifelike and natural and black levels are deep.

Audio

The only audio option for this release is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. No problems to report here. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced throughout. The score has good depth to it and some of the genuinely disturbing sound effects come through with good presence. Optional subtitles THAT ARE FOR SOME REASON IN ALL CAPS are provided in English only.

Extras:

Extras are slim, limited to a full frame trailer taken from a tape source, menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Night School is a solid slasher with some memorable scenes, a few good performances, a decent story and some impressive moments of tension. The Blu-ray release from Warner Archive is disappointingly light on extras but it does look and sound pretty decent. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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