Study Hell 2004 Review
Study Hell 2004
Directed by: Mark McNabb
Starring: Brian Austin JR, Randy Cunnigham, Lindsey Day
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The screen lights up very suddenly with no credits or text introduction. A petrified girl runs in to a school gymnasium and sees a pile of corpses on the floor. She sprints off in to the locker room and begins looking for a place to hide. “This is interesting”, I thought to myself. “We’ve cut out absolutely everything else and just headed straight to the final chase sequence. Is this a slasher short?” My question was quickly answered when the fleeing bunny finally bumped into the unseen maniac and the title ‘Study Hell’ burst on to the screen.
Being a fan of slasher, or in fact any budget movies, is cool because alongside the satisfaction of enjoying the films, there’s also the challenge of hunting them down. I get message upon message asking me to rip Cards of Death, Savage Vows, Early Frost and the like for some of you folk; and even if I certainly would love to, these studios have much better lawyers than little old me. Piracy is a crime and all that.
Anyway I can understand that it’s hard to uncover some of these oldies, especially if they’re not on DVD. But when I got a message asking if I could direct someone towards a copy of Study Hell I was actually fairly surprised. You see this one’s not even that ancient, so why has it disappeared?
A teacher with personal issues is asked to look after a gang of kids who have detention. The teens begin to abuse him, without knowing the fact that he is a Vietnam veteran with a questionable record. Before long he locks the doors and begins to stalk and slaughter the kids one by one.
Back in 1987 there was an Australian film released called Dangerous Game. It put a teenage cast up against a deranged loon in a setting very similar to the same year’s Hide and Go Shriek. If you check my A-Z listings page, you’ll see that I haven’t included it, because for me, it’s not a slasher film. Instead I’d call it something of a cat and mouse thriller. Study Hell really reminded me of that picture in the way that it doesn’t really follow the normal concrete approach for slasher movies. The killer here is a normal guy and he never stalks through Michael Myers-alike POV with heavy breath. In fact, this entry excludes many of the genre’s trappings, but I posted it here because unlike the Ozploitation picture that I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t fit anywhere else.
It’s from director Mark McNabb and he has been fairly prolific in the DTV market since he shot his first picture, Dark Fields in 2003. He began work on this project straight after but both titles took longer than he’d anticipated to secure distribution and sat on the shelf for three years. Study Hell doesn’t hang around to let you know the reasons why no one was in a rush to package and ship it to unsuspecting audiences, because it’s amateur night right from the off.
Now there are different kinds of bad actors that you can find in the movies. There are those that have studied the art of drama and are just not very good at it, even thought they do try. Then there are those that are just normal people. I mean, like you and I. People like doctors, students, bricklayers, salesmen or cleaners who may well be superb in their chosen profession, but when it comes to portraying emotion in front of a camera, they just don’t have a scooby doo. Here we have a feature that’s crammed with that level of dramatics and it is extremely difficult to watch.
Every conversation is marred by heinous acting and it looks as if McNabb wasn’t even trying to aim for realism. The characters tick every known stereotype but look to have been cast by José Feliciano. We’ve got a junkie thug played by a dweeby guy with glasses, a flirtatious hottie played by a plump non-actress and the ‘maniac’ stalks around with a receding side parting, spectacles, white shirt and an awful tie. The expression on the faces of the ‘actors’ never changes no matter whether they stumble across the corpse of their best friend or are fighting for their lives and the dialogue is just ridiculous.
There are a few unintentional lol moments like the Vietnam war scenes (filmed in the producer’s back garden?) and a hilarious part where a fleeing bunny choses to hide underwater in a swimming pool from the marauding maniac – and he doesn’t see her! Those looking for a hearty slasher though will come away disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, Study Hell is bad, excruciatingly so, but somehow I wanted to see it to the end. It even has a WTF twist that comes out of nowhere and adds to the paroxysms of laughter. I tried to find out a bit of info about the film’s author James Mcarthur, because I really wanted to understand how old he was when he penciled this. There’s a final confrontation when our hero (another dweeb in specs) finally comes up against the nut job, and the dialogue and set-up would shame an eighties Van-Damme movie. The script comes across like a twelve-year old’s wet dream and it’s tough to believe that an adult would be behind this work. It’s just embarrassing. I wondered after the final credits had rolled, what on earth McNabb thought he was doing when he launched this project ? What was going through his mind? If I ever get the chance to speak with him, I’ll make sure to ask where a teacher managed to find hunting knives and a bow with deadly arrows in a locked school. Any ideas?
I was on something of a roll having watched Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine 3D and Cassandra back to back; and with so much ‘four-star’ action, I was missing the usual junk that I have to sit through to write a review for you peeps. Study Hell came along and changed all that and it’s the first rubbish feature that I’ve sat through in 2013. That my friends is why it has disappeared…
¡Viva El Cinematic Trash!
Final Girl √