[review by JA Kerswell]
|There's a killer nun with a bad habit on the lose in SCHOOL'S OUT 2.
A solid direct sequel to the German-made-for-TV movie SCHOOL’S OUT (1999), which mixes slasher action with a quirky fairy tale ambience. Nina (Katharina Wackernagel) - the Final Girl from the first film - has been committed to a sanatorium for treatment for her PTSD at an ex-convent on a remote island. But it’s not what the doctor ordered when she - and the other residents - find themselves stalked and hunted by a murderous masked nun. What it lacks in onscreen violence, SCHOOL’S OUT 2 makes up for in some nail-biting suspense. Unlike its predecessor, this superior sequel still - at the time of writing - languishes without an English language-friendly release.
Nina is a reluctant guest at the retreat for troubled girls, run by wheelchair-bound Professor Meyrink (Annette Kreft). The professor specialises in controversial confrontation therapy; where victims have to relive their past traumas. Nina has been at the facility for six weeks and is upset at being denied permission to leave to meet her boyfriend Niklas (Barnaby Metschurat) for her birthday; whom she met during her initial therapy sessions after the events of the first film. Niklas, determined not to be separated from Nina, takes a boat to the island in the hopes of being reunited with her. He shares the ride with child psychologist Anna Tiber (Karin Giegerich), who has come to confront Professor Meyrink about her unconventional methods. With Nina’s help, Niklas hides in the basement of the mansion to avoid discovery.
|SCHOOL'S OUT 2 once again takes its cues from slasher films - both old and new.
Some of the other girls tell Nina about the dark history of the island. At one end lays an abandoned army fortress and the grand, baroque house where they live used to be a convent. Legend has it that many years ago, the people on the mainland suspected the nuns of wrongdoing, but when they arrived they found the place deserted. It is said that every ten years on the Festival of Beltane (the pagan celebration of fertility and the arrival of summer), the Mother Superior returns to stalk the halls of the facility. Thirty years previously, one of the nuns had a baby that the other nuns - possessed by an evil - killed and buried in the woods. The grieving mother dug up her child only to find the eyes had been eaten by worms. Across the sprawling building are dolls with their eyes poked out. Tomorrow is Beltane and someone dressed as a nun, with a white veil covering their face is already waiting and watching from the woods …
Director Sigl was reunited with screenwriter Kai Meyer for this sequel. One of the main inspirations for the first film was Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (1977) and that influence looms large here, too. The film has a fairytale-like feel to it, with the island and its strange carvings into the cliffs and woods full of trees twisted into gnarled and fantastic shapes. As in Argento’s film, the teenagers here - apart from Nina herself - present as almost childlike in their behaviour. There are extreme close-ups of eyeballs that reveal hidden danger reflected in them and, of course, that obsession with creepy dolls. The dark folklore and the strange ornamental house all add to the fairytale vibe that Meyer infuses the screenplay with - and he does it much more successfully here than with the first film. Although, the concept of evil being infectious is tantalising, but is never really fully explored.
SCHOOL’S OUT 2 benefits from a genuinely creepy villain. The nun stalks the halls with an antique harpoon (helpfully taken from a display in the sanatorium’s dining room!). The identity of the killer is obscured by a white veil and they switch from ferocious aggression to sly stalking. It may especially resonate with me because I went to a Catholic School where legend had it that a faceless nun haunted the classrooms after dark!
|Nina (Katharina Wackernagel) battles a different psycho in Robert Sigl's sequel to his 1999 hit.
The film once again takes its cues from popular slasher movies. Specifically, I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1998), with Niklas crossing the water to be reunited with Nina. The killer also scratches out the faces of the girls and staff on a photograph with a knife; which brings to mind many previous slasher films including PROM NIGHT (1980). It plays as a whodunit (although the identity of the killer is fairly easy to guess - and is again lifted from a previous slasher movie). Nina is initially convinced that Hagen Dorn - the serial killer from the first film who was framed for the murders - has escaped once again from an asylum and is after her. Something not helped by the fact that Professor Meyrink has ordered a replica of the Harlequin outfit the real killer used as part of her confrontation therapy.
Although the original SCHOOL’S OUT was one of the most-watched TV movies in Germany the year it was released it attracted a fair bit of controversy - even though the version shown on the small screen was two minutes shorter than the version released to video. Sigl predicted that any sequel would be toned down and he was right. SCHOOL’S OUT 2 shows little on-screen blood (with most of the deaths being off-screen). Ultimately, it could pass for what is termed ‘Young Adult Horror’ today. However, the stalking scenes are often intense (including a recreation of the scene from the first film where Nina is only protected from the mad killer’s blade by a metal gate). The confrontation with the killer is skillfully set up - although how they are dispatched is ultimately a little underwhelming.
SCHOOL’S OUT 2 was shot for $1.2 million in 2000 on location in Brittany, France - and was shown on the RTL network in Germany in February 2001.
Whilst missing some of the more exploitative elements of SCHOOL’S OUT, the sequel is a better film overall. Both would be well served with decent high-definition and English language-friendly releases.
female: 5 / male: 2
1) Female drowns in a bog
2) Female stabbed with a harpoon
3) Male found impaled on a spear
4) Male found dead (method unseen)
5) Female harpooned
6) Female found dead (method unseen)
7) Female falls through floorboards
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