Robert Anderson (David Schofield), a weary English teacher, hands out an F in class and belittles a thug pupil who punches him out … whereupon his headmistress (Ruth Gemmell) suspends him because the boy’s parents threaten to sue him for making their precious feel bad about his poor work and presumably cutting his knuckles on teacher’s nose. Some months later, Anderson is back at work, drinking heavily, is estranged from his wife (Juliet Aubrey), has lost the respect and affection of his daughter Kate (Eliza Bennett), is on the outs with his colleagues, can’t control his classes and doesn’t care about his job. He also obsessively collates news stories about assaults on teachers and other school staff by pupils, issues awful warning memos about such incidents and has worn out the local police with calls about loitering youths and petty vandalism. When a classroom blowout prompts him to put his own daughter in detention, he has to stay behind at school to supervise … and a group of agile figures, who seem to have black cloth masks as well as hoodies, turn up on the grounds to murder everyone they can find. As other late-stayers are murdered, with a few horrible effects to sell mostly offscreen nastiness, Anderson finds his nightmares come true – assuming that the intruders are his negative wish-fulfillment demons makes as much sense as anything else, since they have that Assault on Precinct 13 feel of being more like a supernatural force than juvenile delinquents (they never talk with each other and scurry about the pipes like indoor parkour experts or human rats).
In a run of direct-to-DVD films, writer-director Johannes Roberts has been steadily honing his skills: this is much sharper and more effective than his promising, if curate’s egg earlier works (Hellbreeder, Darkhunters, Forest of the Damned, When Evil Calls). It’s a clever move to build an entire film around a long-standing character actor, and this puts a spotlight on David Schofield, one of those you-know-the-face people who turn up as cops or dads, and lets him carry the whole movie, right down to a final tough decision which isn’t what films like this usually pay off with – will Anderson try to save a wife who will never get back with him or a daughter who’ll hate him forever if he lets her mother die? For a deserted, menaced school, this place is quite crowded with teachers, cleaners and security staff – which keeps up the body count and allows for some set-pieces – but we keep coming back to Schofield, sweating as he goes up against exactly the sort of monster kids he has imagined (his original assailant was a more credible, if no less horrible type). It seems that every room in the school – library, art-room, gym, offices, scene-dock – gets used for a murder. Neil Stemp’s score distills elements of John Carpenter and Goblin to good use, adding to the shivery feel. It’s a fun suspense-slasher horror, but Schofield roots it in a credible, cutting modern British horror of Daily Mail headlines and teachers driven to nervous breakdowns.