School Killer (2001)

a.k.a. - El vigilante (ESP)

Paul Naschy plays the villain in a surprisingly effective modern Spanish slasher film. Venevision US R0 DVD.

The Film

In contemporary Spain a group of students decide to spend an evening in a long abandoned school. Arriving at the school, strange things start to happen, a disconnected telephone rings, there are sounds of a party and a strange man (Paul Naschy) is seen standing at a lit window, even though the power has been off for years. They start to get really scared when members of the group start to disappear and Ramón the leader of the group confesses the real story behind what happened at the school and his reason for coming...

The screenplay does not waste any time getting us into the action, with the students arriving at the school within in the first minute of the film, but the opening scenes are not too positive with the characters name dropping horror titles like Blair Witch Project (1999) and the film seemingly building up to be yet another self-reflexive Scream-style teen slasher.

Fortunately the film takes an unexpected turn after a few minutes as it becomes clear that something genuinely supernatural is going on - from here the script becomes surprisingly effective with some detailed storyline that helps to build up real tension and atmosphere, particularly in a lengthy flashback sequence. Betraying its European roots, the film becomes increasingly strange in the final chapters, building up to an ending that although not really wrapping things up, is certainly a lot better than the cop-out ending that might have been anticipated.

Although one of the characters is seen putting on a head-cam and refering to Blair Witch as he does so, School Killer is actually shot quite conventionally with only one brief use of hand-held footage. The vast majority of the film is shot in the dark with only the character's torches for illumination, but the effective use of blue lighting allows things to be clear throughout, although the gore scenes are duly muted with the red blood not really showing up well. The soundtrack combines classic horror style themes with some very modern electronic music and is quite effective.

The cast who play the student group are all Spanish actors and otherwise unknown outside the country, but they all act well here. The biggest name in the film is the Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy as the murderous 'El vigilante', who turns what might have been a mere cameo into a very memorable role with some strong acting and a quite terrifying presence.

Although looking for all the world like yet another generic slasher film, School Killer emerges as a real Spanish horror gem with a genuinely scary atmosphere built up throughout, combined with a surprisingly clever storyline, solid direction that exploits the darkness and lonely corridors to their full and a memorable turn from Paul Naschy. This one comes recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Paul Naschy - Spanish horror icon of the 1970s and star of films like Werewolf Shadow (1971)
Directed by anyone interesting? Carlos Gil - a veteran Spanish film-maker who worked as assistant director on a number of major international films including Moustapha Akkad's Lion of the Desert (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Is it scary? No.
Any gore or violence ? Several gory scenes, but the blue night-time lighting does mean that little detail is seen.
Any sex or nudity? A brief topless sex scene although again this occurs in a night scene so there is not much seen.
Who is it for? One for modern slasher horror fans and also certainly of interest to Naschy fans as he gets much more than just a cameo here.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
Picture quality is strong with good detail despite the often very dark settings.
Audio Spanish - sounds fine.
Subtitles English - translates the Spanish with no errors.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Trailer reel - including the 'School Killer' trailer, as well as X (2002) and La balsa de piedra (2002). Spanish with English subs.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? A Spanish DVD release with English subtitles and some extras (although these are not English friendly).
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Spanish language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 13th December 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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