A group of social outcasts, stuck in weekend detention, find themselves confronted by their school’s legendary hauntings.
September’s issue of the Blumhouse produced horror-anthology series Into the Dark very much feels as if it began life purely as a concept, with that concept being that they wanted to turn The Breakfast Club into a slasher flick.
Now, as concepts go, that’s really not a bad hook. Bring in a group of dysfunctional school archetypes, put them in a room together and drama is likely to ensue. Throw a crazed killer on the loose in the school’s ventilation system with some classic red herrings, and you’ve got the making’s of a fun 90 minutes.
Does it completely ride its concept for the entire running time? Perhaps not, but I do commend this installment for having fun with its concept, and for giving you some characters worth rooting for. Yes, however, they can still be a little annoying. You’ve got your classic straight A final girl (with a twist), the school bully, the shy kid, the stoners. It’s definitely not thinking outside the box, but thanks to some better than expected acting, and a couple of small moments, there is some nice character growth that elevates the material above its rather average narrative.
If I can commend School Spirit for anything though, it’s would actually be its vibe. That may sound like an odd thing to say, but watching this installment, I couldn’t get 90’s slasher movies out of my head. It gave me so much nostalgia for the likes of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, and hell, even Urban Legend. Putting a group of characters into a closed-off environment with a masked killer really is all you need sometimes, and School Spirit makes the effort to not waste any time. Emulating those previous movies also highlights a simple enjoyment factor, as high-school set slashers aren’t so common these days.
Just like the slashers from the later part of the ’90s however, School Spirit really suffers from a lack of originality. The truth is, we’ve seen all this before. It’s actually a shame they didn’t play with the expectations of a slasher movie more, or, as much as it pains me to use the word, go a little ‘meta’ with it, because there is definitely some fun to be had with the concept. This installment actually almost feels like a better attempt at what this year’s Scream: Ressurection tried to do last month, and out of the two, I would have rather seen this stretched across four forty-minute episodes.
Acting-wise, everyone does an admiral job (sorry for that terrible pun if you’ve seen this movie), with Annie Q giving a simple and effective performance as the good girl being crushed by the expectations of her over-beading parents. It’s a small part of the movie but feels organic as a social message, rather than something you’re being beating over the head with.
Speaking of violence, the gore here does have a tendency to feel a little muted, and it’s this reviewers belief that some of it was cut, as one or two of the kills do happen off-screen. We do get two pretty decent kills though, with a tongue in cheek guillotine-style beheading, and also some feet being chopped off from under someone. It could have been amped up a little bit, but generally plays it rather safe, lending to its lack of originality.
The pirate outfit that the killer wears definitely works better on screen than what we saw in the trailers, and while not always successful, it does manage to create a menacing tone in one or two scenes to the point where it didn’t feel as silly as I had first suspected it would.
Overall, School Spirit fits into that weird grey area where it’s definitely not a bad movie, but it’s hard to recommend whole-heartedly. I’d describe it as a movie you won’t really remember a year from now, but also not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.
Into the Dark: School Spirit stars Annie Q (The Leftovers), Corey Fogelmanis (MA), Jessie Case (Mother’s Day), Philip Labes and Jordan Austin Smith.
It’s now available to stream on Hulu.