School of the Damned seems to want to be associated with the 1960 classic, Village of the Damned and 1964 follow-up Children of the Damned. However, misleading title, Britishness and mind-control aside, it has nothing to do with the two classic horrors.
Directed by Peter Vincent, written by Philip Dyas and starring Michael Geary, James Groom, Daisy Aitkens and Amelie Willis. School of the Damned sees a new teacher named Mr Middleton (Groom) join a new school that has some of the best-behaved students he’s ever seen. So well behaved in fact, that he finds it strange and his questions go unanswered by other teachers and the head of the school, named Abott (Geary).
Only one student stands out as a normal British teenager and that is Georgie. An angry and violent child, Mr Middleton sees the boy as a challenge and hopes to turn his behaviour round. However, someone else at the school is capable of that too. Someone with powers that can control unruly students and punish those who misbehave.
Will Mr Middleton be able to put the pieces together to find out just what is happening at this school? Will he be able to save the students, Georgie and himself? Or will be manage to change expressions from perplexed to something else?
Ok, that last one is a bit of a joke as he does a few more. However, he spends most of the movie looking perplexed. Which will match many viewers expressions too, thanks to the hap-hazard story-telling and poor pacing.
At times the movie is painfully slow to develop then at others it throws several things out at once but with nothing to connect them up. We’re asked to suddenly believe Mr Middleton had a deep bond with Georgie even though they share only a handful of scenes together. We’re asked to accept that numerous deaths at this school, those of teachers and students, are just covered up. It’s all too much to expect of a viewer, especially when not enough is done to have it all make sense.
How does someone like the mind-controlling child exist? It seemed obvious to have a cursory comment about her parents being from Midwich or something but, no. She’s just gifted and, along with a few classmates, is able to create a hive-mind. Powerful enough to crush hearts, burn a woman from inside out and control a school full of children into being obedient. The lack of a satisfying or even decent explanation is just not there.
Which is a shame because School of the Damned does some things right. It’s shot well with some great lighting touches and some eerie visuals. The soundtrack and sound effects are so well done that they almost always enhance a scene and the acting is solid across the board. Special mention has to go to Amelie Willis who plays the young ‘gifted’ child with both innocence and threat.
Where it matters is where School of the Damned fails and that is with its story. Not as interesting as it should be, slow in places, rushed elsewhere and lacking the gravitas such a tale should have.
Don’t fall for the trick with the title. Just go watch the superior 1960’s Village of the Damned if you want a well-told horror story about mind-controlling children.
School of the Damned
The Final Score - 5/10