SCHOOL'S OUT

★★★

THE CHILDREN KNOW TOO MUCH

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Brent Davidson
26th May 2019

At an elite French school, in the most elite academic class, things are not quite right. After the attempted (and probable) suicide of their teacher in front of them, a group of unnervingly sure and intelligent children are given a new teacher. From their first meeting, things are tense as he becomes more and more aware of their strange rituals and learning methods.

Creepy with a capital C doesn’t even come close to describing the ensemble cast of children in ‘School’s Out.’ Think 'Children of the Corn' meets the twins from ‘The Shining’ meets a film about child geniuses, and you would almost build the eerie vibe these kids create. It’s no wonder their teacher (Laurent Lafitte) thinks he is starting to go crazy for suspecting them of calculatedly malicious wrongdoing. The rest of the teachers are blinded by their incredible academic success, and don’t look any deeper to the troubled but brilliant youths under their care.

'SCHOOL'S OUT' TRAILER

Lafitte does a brilliant job as the slightly wayward teacher who's brought to terms with his own madness in ‘School’s Out’, and the children do their creepy best too. The film has a luxuriously slow pace, but that doesn’t detract from it at all. If anything, this device heightens the tension that exists in every single scene. The wide angle shots that slowly zoom in instil a sense that we too are glimpsing something that we shouldn’t. The pace feels like a hot summer's day from childhood where the day drips by in slow, heavy drops.

The music is very 80s horror, being written by electro duo Zombie Zombie. Their score gives the film not only an almost timeless sense of belonging, but also a clear direction of whose horror we are getting a glimpse of (with Lafitte’s character claiming to be a very fit 40 - the man himself is in fact a very fit 46), his childhood in the 80s being brought through to the present with the desired unsettling effect. Very 'Stranger Things' and ‘It’. It’s interesting to muse upon the genre of the film, not quite coming of age, not quite horror, not quite thriller, but an astute mix of all and more - capturing perfectly the precipice of adulthood from adolescence.

Creepy with a capital C doesn’t even come close to describing the ensemble cast of children.

There is something so captivating about ‘School’s Out’, and it’s hard to put your finger on. Is it the impending sense of doom? Is it the nostalgia? Is it just wanting to know exactly what these kids are up to? Or are we even allowed to know? As adults, maybe we are just too far gone. If you like being slightly uncomfortable for an entire film, ‘School’s Out’ is for you - but maybe leave the kids at home.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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