man is the warmest place to hide.

eighties horror you might have missed

Night School (1981)

While Mike has this filed under "Thrillers", I would say it really belongs on the "Horror - Stalkers" shelf (that is an actual section at my video store). The opening scene starts things off nicely with a merry-go-round murder, followed by a cut to red screen. A similar device is used in The Burning, and many others since, but there's something that I really love about that simple optical effect. Anyhow, what we have here is a horror movie from a detective angle (much like Wolfen), with the main character following a trail of ritualistic murders occurring throughout Boston. One of the main suspects is a creepy and pompous professor, who is sleeping with several of his students, despite his incredibly nerdy motorcycle outfit - he is the perfect unsympathetic character. There are lots of great locations, including the women's college, the professor's brightly-carpeted office and a large scuba tank (yes, someone does die there and as their severed head floats to the bottom, a large sea turtle swims over to peck at it); all are beautifully photographed by Mark Irwin, who was the DP on all of David Cronenberg's films up until Dead Ringers.

The sound design has some interesting components, too: the scuba scene is MOS except for the sound of the bubbling tank; in the shower scene the audio cuts back and forth between the sounds of loud shower spray and a door buzzer - really tense; and high-pitched drones accent many of the killings. The score by Brad Fiedel is fantastic. His cues are short but very effective, using rapid-pulsing, arpeggiated synths and what I call "70s electronic panic" music (you'll know what I mean when you hear it). My favorite cue is towards the end of the film - as the killer strikes, the bathroom door slams shut on the camera and a synth loop begins to build into a soupy pulse. This was the second horror picture that Fiedel scored - three years later he would create the iconic score for The Terminator. Night School was the last movie that Ken Hughes made before retiring from filmmaking; in 1968 he directed Albert Broccoli's other big project, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!