Wednesday 26 November 2008

Lessons in terror: Horror 101 & 102

You may have noticed I went AWOL for a little longer than usual last week. Well, blame the teachers – ’cuz I was in school... Horror school! I planned to watch Horror 101 and send a review your way shortly afterwards but, on completing the course, I realised that the film was just so nothingy, I didn’t have enough to say about it. The solution? Sign up for the sequel, Horror 102, of course! Surely seeing both films would give me enough ammo to fire off a spectacular double-whammy review! Ka-blammy, mofos!

Hmm... well, not quite. Horror 102 turned out to be nearly as nothingy as Horror 101. It’s not scary enough to scare, not thrilling enough to thrill, and not funny enough to, er, fun. But I’ll let you into a little secret: I liked it... and I liked Horror 101 too!

Now you’re giving me that blank stare again. I know what you’re thinking: Horrors 101 and 102 sound like a double-helping of horror dog-doo, right? Who wants to watch a pair of nothingy movies? Has Ross gone quite, quite mad? And is “nothingy” even a proper word? Well, to answer these questions, we’ll have to look at each movie’s individual report card in a little more detail...

STUDENT: Horror 101 (2000)
DESCRIPTION: A group of students attend an evening class on the “nature of fear” or something (honestly, they give degrees out for anything these days) but find themselves trapped inside the school and picked off one by one. Bo Derek, who’s quite watchable but disappears after the first 15 minutes, plays their teacher.
BEHAVIOUR: Horror 101 is a non-slasher movie. That is, it follows the structure and conventions of a slasher movie except for the fact that, instead of getting slashed, its characters simply vanish. And there aren’t any bloody bodies popping up à la April Fool’s Day, either. They just disappear. C
Something about Horror 101 works, however. It’s reasonably well made, suspenseful in a slow-burning way, and kept me entirely entertained from start to finish. Director James Glenn Dudelson apparently does nothingy quite lovingly. B+
Killer Rottweilers, snakes, spooky shadows in the hallways, and a twist ending. I'm happy. B+
ORIGINALITY: None... until the very end, which I have to admit got me. Otherwise, Horror 101 is total TV-movie territory, perfectly suitable for a Sunday afternoon screening. B-

STUDENT: Horror 102: Endgame (2004)
DESCRIPTION: No relation to 101, other than the fact that this new bunch of students appear to attend the same vaguely-referenced college, VDBU. This time, they’re trapped inside a disused mental asylum while taking part in some hazily-explained fieldwork assignment and, when the killings start, the bodies do actually pile up.
BEHAVIOUR: There’s more gore in the opening minute of Horror 102 than there is in the entirety of its predecessor. And that’s just because they write the title in red. The gory stuff here is mild but, conversely, quite strong for a PG-13. B+
APTITUDE: Horror 102 is a better film than 101, I thought, although perhaps not quite as professionally made. Building to another clever ending, you could almost make a case for this series being a Saw forerunner. (Or “Sawrunner”, if you will.) A-
Again, Horror 102 has a bland feel and mainly consists of a lot of running around searching for whoever the currently unaccounted-for character is. But scratch the surface and there’s an interesting investigation into just about every explanation for the supernatural you can think of, ranging from drugs, hallucinogens and poisons, to mental illness, paranoia and fear. A-
Is it supernatural? Is it madness? Is there an actual killer at work? You won’t find out until the end when, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be quite surprised. But, then again, I’m a sucker. A-

So, there you go. Please sign and date the above report cards and return them to me at your earliest convenience. And don’t be afraid to give these two movies a go if you like horror films but don’t want anything that might put a strain on your heart medicine. Also please note that the first film is called “Horror 101” and not “Horror LOL”, which is what I originally saw when I read the title, and am now going to rename my blog.


Anonymous said...

I met the director of the first one at Comic-con and got a free soundtrack. So yes, I'm a proud owner of the score for Horror 101 (not that I've ever actually listened to it!). I remember he was quite proud of his film and was a very nice guy. I should definitely see this.

Thanks! I'm so glad you're back!

Chimpy said...

Argh, you suffered the same DVD I did - I couldn't face 'Museum of the Dead' though, free or not!!