Don’t You (Forget About Her)
“Kiss goodbye to your class.”
Director/Writer: Mike Gan / Writers: Patrick Casey, Josh Miller / Cast: Annie Q, Corey Fogelmanis, Jessi Case, Julian Works, Jordan Austin Smith, Philip Labes, Hugo Armstrong.
Body Count: 11
Hulu’s horror anthology series gave us this genial little meta teen slasher pic, that pits a group of high schoolers enduring Saturday detention against a sword toting loon dressed as their school mascot.
When Helbrook High’s senior class president and all-round overachiever Erica Yang shows up for detention one week into the school year, everyone is shocked. Everyone who sees her that is, which is a group made up of substance abusers Russell, Lizzie, and Victor, shy try-hard Brett, and seconds-from-boiling-over teacher Mr Armstrong, who tells Erica he’d have seen her expelled if it were up to him. But what did she do? She ain’t about to share.
The pre-credits scene already showed us a couple of no-good-niks done away with when they snuck in the previous week to set up a digital camera in the girls’ locker room showers, and they become the two most recent additions to a growing list of missing kids from Helbrook. Stories float around of a spectral presence, a teacher who died in a prank gone wrong who eliminates all the bad kids. Weird clangs from the vents are attributed to her vengeful ghost.
School Spirit may owe a large debt to The Breakfast Club (are all-day Saturday detentions actually a thing??) by way of a grab-bag of other educational establishment slash ‘em ups, but in 2019 it’s distinguished by nicely written characters who, for a bunch of ‘bad kids’, aren’t just 1D targets for the sharp end of the killer’s weaponry: We learn about their backgrounds to a degree and even begin to care a little about their fate, something that was absent from 90% of teen horror since 2001.
Gruesome demises included a paper guillotine returned to its decapitating origins, axe to the face, screwdriver to the eye, and a cool be-feeting gag for a horny jock. There are also a couple of halfway decent chases down the empty school corridors and a hidden ‘terrible place’ a couple of the luckless detainees discover.
This may also mark the first time we’ve had an Asian final girl in an American production, which, although in the grand scheme of things is a small change, does make a difference, even if it’s to play up to stereotypes of academic excellence. This actually sets up the cheery final twist, that dares toy with the conventions of the final girl at large, but was so wacky and demented I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off.
Four stars is very possibly way too generous, but I was elated watching School Spirit: Back to basics dead-teenager goodness.