By David Dent
Based on a number of interconnected books and stories, collected as the ‘Afterbright Chronicles’ (written by Scott K. Andrews and published by Rebellion, the company that also produced this movie), ‘School’s Out Forever’ takes us to St Mark’s School for Boys, where we meet Lee Keegan (Oscar Kennedy).
He’s that rare thing, a scholarship student in a posh school, who’s about to be expelled by the Headmaster (Anthony Head, blink and you’ll miss him) for being a bit lippy and anti-establishment. Driven home by his dad (the great Steve Oram, also in a cameo performance), Lee sees the signs of an imminent epidemic on the streets, with bulk buying in shops and at petrol stations.
Once home, things quickly go from bad to worse; a phone call from his mum, who’s away in the army, warns that there has indeed been a viral outbreak, and that only people with an O Negative blood group – like Lee – can survive. With his dad a victim – and buried in the garden – and the neighbourhood about to be looted, the lad’s only alternative is to return to the school for protection. Hooking up with his best mate, the resolutely middle class Sean (Liam Lau Frenandez), the school matron (Jasmine Blackborow) and one of the ineffectual teachers (Alex MacQueen), Lee, the adults and what remains of the kids must defend the school against the villagers of Worham, headed by the redoubtable Georgina (Samantha Bond), who are seeking to impose martial law.
The twin themes of Brexit and the pandemic initially loom large in the movie; “Are we closing the borders?” a politician is asked on the radio, and the signs at the petrol station and school reception knowingly and amusingly read ‘all out’ and ‘back soon.’
But any topicality is swiftly jettisoned as the action moves to the school and the collective attempts to defend it from the twinset and pitchfork village throng. As Lee, Kennedy turns in a rather confusing performance, initially ignoring the warning signs of apocalypse, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ style (a dead body in front of his house, for example), before returning to school and becoming an unwitting hero; I’m guessing the creatives behind this may have seen Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 film about warring public schoolboys, ‘If….’ a couple of times. The movie redeems itself with a rousing last half hour in which battle is waged within the school; brilliantly edited, brutal and bloody, these sequences almost make up for a plodding middle section.
I haven’t read the books on which the movie is based; I understand that they’re pretty popular with YA readership, who’ll probably get a lot out of this movie, but for me there were too many loose ends and confusing elements to make this any more than a mildly diverting if overlong watch.
SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER RELEASES IN THE UK ON VOD ON 15TH FEBRUARY AND BLU-RAY & DVD FROM 12TH APRIL.