School’s Out Forever
Oliver Milburn’s School’s Out Forever begins with a steady shot into a white hallway, slowly moving towards two students who are setting up a prank. This establishing moment would lull watchers into a sense of mundane comfort, of school boys misbehaving and making mischief, if not for the astounding, almost operatic music accompanying it. This shaky sort of unease lingers throughout the rest of the film, the story of students at Saint Mark School as it spirals into chaos amidst a deadly pandemic.
Gruesome and perfectly exhilarating, the production provides heart-pounding suspense in several aspects. The camerawork, using a variety of focused shots and angles to foreshadow events, shifts into fast and frantic movements during moments of intense action and fight scenes. The use of audio and sound effects is also striking, presenting plenty of quiet, awkward moments, filled only with the semi-white noise of objects moving. This effect suggests an unbearable, disorienting, and agonising anxiety, and serves to emphasise the loud ring of gun shots and blood squelching.
There is a broad range of themes explored, which leaves the overall message confused. Film staples such as parallelism and irony are present to over-accentuate contrast and morality, and while these particular tropes are handled well, there is tendency to overuse them, which greatly reduces their impact. The juxtaposition of elements is a particularly constant presence that becomes less and less significant as the film goes on. The movie’s conclusion is a little rushed and leaves a lot of untied loose ends, culminating in a lacklustre denouement.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to appreciate about School’s Out Forever. For one, though there is little comedy, the timing of the few comedic moments is quite impeccable. The soundtrack’s rock and punk influence enhances the eeriness of the film: Summer Day, Lucky Day by Jay Ramsey is used cleverly, recalling the scene from James Mangold’s Girl Interrupted where The End of the World by Skeeter Davis is soundtracked to great effect. Of course, the odd parallels with the current state of reality are hard to forget, especially when lines such as, “can everyone please stop pretending that things are going back to normal,” are constantly echoed.
School’s Out Forever is released digitally on demand on 15th February 2021, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 12th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for School’s Out Forever here: