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‘School’s Out Forever’ review: Horror comedy has the right idea

What could have been.

School’s Out Forever is a horror comedy that thankfully has little to do with Alice Cooper. In fact, the film looks like it was ripped straight out of today’s headlines. In order to take refuge from a pandemic, a group of students and some teachers hide out in a school. But when the local parish council imposes martial law, things get even worse.

The film’s tone can be confusing. The title alone hints at something sinister with a heavy dose of comedy. This is evident in the first half of School’s Out Forever. Things are closer to a teen comedy than a full blown horror. The second half becomes darker and more violent. The light heartedness of the beginning is completely removed.

School’s Out Forever is almost like two disconnected movies. This is a shame since it brings up many interesting themes. Privilege, violence, and toxic masculinity are all prevalent. Nothing is adequately explored since the story is so all over the place. It is either the fodder for jokes or the set up for a bloody payoff. Essentially, the film refuses to go all in on any issue.

There are strong performances from the cast. There is great chemistry among everyone and the relationships that begin to form are believable. This does have the dual effect of saving some of School’s Out Forever’s more dour scenes while also pointing out the lackluster plot. It is an odd situation where the acting may be too good.

This does not mean it is completely unwatchable, however. Consequences and character arcs are conveyed very well. School’s Out Forever gives weight to pretty much every kill in the film. With each action there is a reaction and people go through noticeable changes as the plot progresses. There is a surprising gravity to everything that is happening.

The movie is unintentionally topical.

The most obvious analogy to the film is Covid-19. School’s Out Forever is one of the movies that has become an unintentional commentary on the past eighteen months. The movie is adapted from a book released almost fifteen years ago and was completed before the pandemic. It was never meant to be a parable and yet is accidentally topical.

Somehow it manages to be more relatable than the glut of films that have been made about the coronavirus post-lockdown. Obviously, it is over the top and outrageous, but characters are more true to life. Their attitudes mirror what happened in 2020 bringing a surprising authenticity to School’s Out Forever. It may be flawed, but it is watchable.

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