Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
It’s back to school for a lot of youngsters out there and for most there’s a feeling of excitement in the air. New term (or grade if you’re from the US), new gear and even new schools for those transitioning to high school or university (or college if again, you’re from the US of A). Yes, there’s a lot of excitement in the air…and even maybe a little fear?
While sadly there have been real world horrors for some when it comes to schools and I don’t want to be disrespectful in anyway and not acknowledge that, this list sticks firmly in the realm of fictional horror as we take a look at some of the scariest schools and campuses to ever grace the genre. The worst I’ve ever had to deal with is expired lunch meat in the cafeteria and an exploding fluorescent lightbulb bursting over the heads of students causing mayhem in the classroom (you know kids like to blow things out of proportion, so of course we acted like idiots). Returning from that trek down memory lane, here are my Top 5 Horror Movies Set in Schools.
There are tons of horror movie slashers out there with young co-eds being the unlucky target of some deranged killer, but not many of them take place on campus and none of the killers had a motive quite as bat-crap crazy as the one in 1982’s Pieces.
Originally poorly received, Pieces has gone on to receive cult status for its over-the-top acting, weird mix of goofy humor and laugh out loud dialogue and of course for being one of the bloodier and more gory college campus slashers of the era.
I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it but if you enjoy cheesy slashers with absurd amounts of nudity (even for the era) it’s worth a look, especially if you can get a few friends together who appreciate movies that are so bad you just can’t help enjoying them.
#4 Cry Wolf
After the mega-success of 1996’s Scream every horror loving studio out there tried their best to hack off a slice of the pie for themselves. While Cry Wolf may not have been as well received as some others, I personally found this whodunit slasher engaging and, like 2000 slasher flick Cherry Falls, think it’s deserving of more love from critics and fans alike.
Instead of a college campus, this one takes place in a private boarding school where eight high school seniors come up with a “game of lies” to break up the boredom that surely comes with being stuck at boarding school. This game of lies goes off the rails when a young woman is murdered and said students start a rumour that a serial killer called “The Wolf” is on the loose. But when real students start turning up dead no one is sure who is telling the truth and who is lying, leading to a game with terrifyingly real consequences.
At the time the movie was made instant messaging was new and the way the film utilises it does a great job to heighten the suspense. Throw in solid acting, stellar cinematography and tight editing and Cry Wolf becomes one of the best movies of the genre that somehow didn’t get the credit it deserved. Another one I’ll keep spoiler free as I’m sure it flew under a lot of radars, I’m not “crying wolf” when I say it’s worth adding to your watchlist.
#3 Urban Legend
Leaving high school behind and heading back to college, we have another movie that once again looked at Scream and decided to add its own unique spin to it. Using urban legends to kill victims was a smart choice as it allows for some unique kills, and placing that story on a college campus where a group of students are actually studying urban legends meant we had a slew of victims and suspects alike to choose from.
This movie may not have been as self-aware as Scream, but I did think the premise was quite original for the time and found it enjoyable. Most of the cast were young up and comers like Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Michael Rosenbaum and Joshua Jackson (just to name a few) and like Cry Wolf the movie looked great and had a quick pace that kept things interesting.
Urban Legend actually has a couple sequels to its name as well (the only movie on this list that does) with the second one being okay and the third being a messy s#%t storm that should be avoided at all costs. Still, the first is solid, and the college campus setting was well utilised and made for a thrilling good time.
While it doesn’t take place just at a high school, this twisted take on Freaky Friday does have its focus squarely on the highschoolers who attend Blissfield Valley High. That and I had a blast watching it, so it makes the cut!
Freaky may not have been the first movie to do the body swap in horror, but as my horror memory serves it is the first one to have a serial killer swap bodies with a sweet and unassuming high school girl. From the pacing to the smart writing everything works but the icing on the cake goes to the pitch perfect performances by leads Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton as The Butcher and Millie respectively (and vice versa).
The slasher sub-genre might be one of the oldest of horror, but it hasn’t always been the best in terms of quality. So movies like Freaky make me excited for the future, proving that’s there’s still a lot of guts (pun intended) left to eviscerate from one of the most popular sub-genres of horror.
Honourable Mention – Cooties
Zombie elementary school kids versus a group of teachers? Yes please! Any movie willing to make kids the bad guys gets points from me because little kids can be real terrors when they want to be. And who hasn’t fantasised about beaning one in the head dodgeball-style from time to time (not that you ever should).
#1 The Faculty
How this classic from Dimension Films never got a follow up is beyond me!
The Faculty is set at the fictional Herrington High School and follows a group of teens who start investigating bizarre occurrences after one of them witnesses a murder of a nurse, only to see her alive again. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Breakfast Club, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what The Faculty is like. This bizarre sci-fi horror is unlike any teen-based genre movie I can think of and plays out much like an episode of The Outer Limits but on a much larger scale.
Directed by one of my personal favourites, Robert Rodriguez, and co-written by Scream icon himself Kevin Williamson, this clever take on an alien invasion is a delight from beginning to end. I haven’t seen it in a while but just thinking about it makes me want to go check it out again. And while I’m not sure how the CGI has held up, I’m a hundred per cent certain The Faculty still holds up as one of the best high-school horror movies out there.
So, that’s list. Which of these is your favourite? Any you would add to the list? And you can check out more great horror content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge-Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes. Double Tap Baby! Read More