Horror 101 (2001)
WRITER: Daniel Miller, Valorie Conally, and Jenny McPhee
DIRECTOR: James Dudelson
STARRING: Brigitta Dau as Tiffany
Lisa Gordon as Allison
Josh Holland as Mark
Paityn James as Lisa
Michael Moon as Jake
Scott Rinker as Carl
Justin Urich as Brian
Jason Wolk as Floyd
Bo Derek as Miss James
QUICK CUT: A group of college students get caught up in a killing spree by a missing killer on the eve of their final exam. OR DO THEY?
Allison - The star pupil of the class, loves horror movies, and really the only character anyone should bother to care about.
Brian - Brian is at least interesting. He's almost the kinda guy I would've been, if I wasn't so nice. He loves movies, but he's also a bit of a snob about them, and he has the whole moody, disaffected loner vibe too.
Tiffany - The class bimbo, who has more interest in boys and clothes than the actual class.
Miss James - The teacher of this ill-defined, pretty random class of weirdos, and more notable for being Bo Derek, than anything else.
THE GUTS: Well, after the site has gone off the rails with too much science fiction, too many robots, humourous movies like Buffy, and fucking Birdemic being way too new, not to mention getting sucked into a crossover, it has been decided that I need to go back to school. Triskaidekafiles needs to get back to basics. I need to relearn what this site is all about. Just in time for Trisk's third anniversary. It is time to watch Horror 101. Its vintage may be on the newer side, with a freshness date of 2001, but that's at least within my original goals.
Class begins with a pretty decent opening credit sequence. Nothing special about the credits themselves, but they are cut between images of some really weird, complex, original art pieces, and strange things scrawled on birch trees. Definitely gives you an off-putting vibe that I like. That's a good way to set the tone, at least.
But then the movie actually begins, and we get to watch a woman running around an empty school, trying to escape from an axe wielding maniac whom we see only as a shadow. She hides in a science lab filled with all kinds of creepy crawly things in tanks, and it's a good sequence. Even though she's arguably safe, she's still surrounded by more mundane horrors that could strike at any second.
The killer breaks in though, and cleaves her head with the axe. Sadly, we then pull back to find out this was all a film student's final project. So the death was fake, but at least it set a tone for the movie. And didn't take thirty minutes to get to that reveal, unlike some other movie I watched recently...
The class critiques Allison's project. Miss James seems to like it, but there's one cinema snob in the class that finds fault with everything, and not just in the movie. In fact, Brian is really just a douche. He doesn't find the killer scary, and would have just shot the guy. Oh, I smell comeuppance.
I am also amused that they rag a little on Blair Witch Project, because I despised that film.
We get some surprising characterisation as three of the guys, including Brian, get assigned to work together on their own project. They'd rather not, since Brian is a giant douche, and go their seperate ways. But we find out a little more about Carl, and his love of criminal psychology, and how he likes to study the way the a dark mind works. Yeah, that's not a red herring...
Naturally, Carl heads back to Miss James and asks to work alone, but stupidly acts all arrogant about the project easy for someone with his skills. So Miss James gives him a challenge if he wants to go his own way. She hands him some research she's working on for a book, to get his insights on the subject.
This sets up a killer on the loose, who has already killed two groups of eight before him, and escaped thanks to bad policework. And hey! There are exactly eight students in the film class! How convenient! With the added bonus of a mother missing from the victims, whom some think is dead, but could be an accomplice. And look at that, the class is lead by a female teacher...
Miss James goes to try and talk Brian into being more sociable, and she says something...interesting. She tries to turn this dark, moody kid around, and says that even though she mutilated animals as a kid, she never told anyone, and turned out fine. Naturally, this raises an eyebrow OR TWELVE. She then brushes it off as just being a figure of speech. It most certainly is not!!
Carl gives his presentation on psycho killers, but the teacher cuts him short once he starts analysing the mother. Hmmm! Mark finally decides to show up as class is ending, and gets more crap from Brian. He even goes so far as to threaten Mark, and Miss James gives the handy advice to take away from the class; make sure there aren't any witnesses!!
After he has a little chat with the teacher about his tardiness, and making sure Brian doesn't go all Columbine before the final, Carl goes missing. Maybe. Tiffany isn't exactly the one to remain patient when he's only been missing a few hours.
It takes Miss James all of five seconds to convince Tiffany that Mark is cheating on her. She again tries to brush it aside, but this teacher is good with messing with other kid's heads. Especially when she follows up cheating with vague statements of Brian killing her boyfriend.
The movie then indluges in the worst jump scare possible, as Brian shows up, slams his food tray down on the table, and they put in a sound like someone just hit a bad gong. I gotta say, I hate how they're making it so damned obvious that Brian should be your prime suspect. Oh look, he's the creepy guy in the trenchcoat! Look, that's my schtick, and I hate that 'trenchcoat' is shorthand for 'bad guy'. Especially as a red herring. It is the easy thing to do, and just plain lazy.
Most of the class gathers for the final, although Mark is still missing, Brian's doing whatever he does to get extra douchey before class, and the teacher hasn't arrived yet. Tiff is still freaking out about Mark maybe cheating on her, and Carl acts like an ass and tells the girls that guys always go out with other girls while they're dating. Nice, real comforting.
Fortunately, the plot takes back over when Brian arrives, and the lights go out. The mystery madman shows us his true evilness when he starts a Powerpoint presentation to display a series of candid photos of the class. Probably the most these actors have been treated like paparazzi victims.
In true horror movie fashion, the class splits up, some staying to watch the show, others looking for the janitor to get the lights back on. They try to shut down the projector, but can't manage it. The buttons are there, but they clearly miss them when trying to push them, like an invisible force field is stopping their efforts. They even jiggle the easily removable power cord, but don't yank it. At the very least, if they wanted, they could cover it with a jacket to stop it. Block the lens. Move the projector cart. Pick the damned thing up and smash it. Not the brightest college students here.
Carl and Allison find the janitor's room, and see all the power switches are off...need I mention the projector running, so SOME power must be on? Ehh, fuck it. Anyways, they get scared from behind, but it's only Brian, also looking for the janitor. They ask why he has a crowbar, but that's the most sensible thing anyone has done all movie.
The class reunites, and just as quickly splits back up to go searching for Miss James, and the now-missing Tiffany. On the one hand, it's a good thing to keep things moving. On the other, they just got back! Pick a spot!
One of the groups finds themselves in the only unlocked room, the reptile lab. And yes, because Lisa is scared of reptiles, she is in that group. Most astoundingly, she literally pushes one of the tanks with a giant lizard in it on the ground. I am just...astounded. Who does that? It can't even be accidental. She visibly shoves it! This is so forced as to just be...mind boggling. I... Brain hurts. This is dumber than throwing your map in the river.
And cue the freakout. At least it came back as some payoff, even if it was lame, staged, fake, and short. After that, everyone goes back off in search of teacher and Tiffany. Oh, except for Brian, who wanders off elsewhere. So, sticking together lasted all of two minutes.
Brian heads to chemistry, and lights all the Bunsen burners, for reasons that...are never explained. Ever. Never. The rest of the group splits up further with most of them going to the theatre to look for Tiffany, and Carl going alone to the parking lot to see if there's any cars for the people they're looking for. Someone points out that isn't it better to stick together, which Carl just shrugs off and says he can take care of himself.
Now, my problem here is, HE IS THE ONE WHO SAID TO STICK TOGETHER!!
Get back in the house, Carl!!
Carl heads outside, but is greeted by a pack of dogs. Well, that's random. And before you think this is part of the killer's master plan...nope! We find out shortly these are just normal guard dogs, released and doing their job.
Meanwhile, in the theatre, that group doesn't see anyone immediately, so head back behind the stage for a shortcut back to the classroom. Why didn't they take that way first, if it was shorter? And for someone saying they know all the nooks and crannies a person can hide in, they sure didn't do much more than a cursory glance around.
Then, Lisa falls down through a trapdoor and injures her leg. As some of the rest go to try and find a way down to her, the lurker in the shadows turns on the hydraulic lift she's on. Floyd scrambles to try and find the controls to make it stop and...um...
She fell down a hole. Used by the lift. And is now rising towards it. She is rising...towards a hole. Why the panic over being squished? Even if she's too big for the hole laying down, it's easy enough, even with a hurt leg, to manuever through the hole or scrunch up into a smaller shape. Surely in the time it takes someone to run around and try and find the controls to stop it, if it's that slow moving... Seriously, if you couldn't move a foot to a hole, you deserve to die.
They finally get the lift to stop, but in the time it took them to turn their backs on the hole, somehow Lisa has disappeared completely. But she was too slow to get out of the way of being crushed..
Allison and Jake find a hidden doorway, and somehow, the guy dislocates his arm just trying to open it?! This movie has left all sense and reason behind by this point. And to top it off, the door is locked, so they head back to class anyways.
Bad editing alert! Allison and Jake find Carl, catch each other up on what passes for a plot, and they figure Lisa must have ended up in one of the many utility tunnels under the school. Carl says she could be anywhere, they cut to another angle, and he says it again! Brilliant!
Since he hasn't shown up for awhile, Brian breezes through the scene to be menacing and mysterious, and then just as quickly he wanders back off down the hall. Nice of him to continue to be a douche, and remind us he's a red herring. At least he also places suspicion on Carl for being alone and out of sight when things were happening, as well.
Back to Floyd, still wandering the dark school aimlessly, trying to find Lisa, anyone else, a light switch, a way out, or the plot. Instead, he finds a flying pig head, and gets entangled in a rope.
Damnit, movie. I was just about to make pinata jokes at Floyd's expense, but then Brian shows up and makes them for me. Grrr.
The plot actually thickens a bit when Brian goes off to find a ladder so he can cut his friend down. Because he notices that on the rope, starting to play with Floyd's foot, is a snake. Where did THAT come from, praytell? And where does it go? Yet another thing that is never mentioned again.
People in this movie keep talking about Brian's bag for his project that's gone missing. They keep saying it was dripping red. I've rewatched the brief scene in which we see it, and it most certainly is not, well maybe just a hair. It's just a burlap sack. Now that's low budget!
Allison remembers that this all seems very similar to another horror movie from the 60s, where a guy had to prove he killed someone, by bringing the severed head back in a burlap sack, just like maybe Brian did, with his non dripping bag!
Brian breaks into Miss James' office, and sees the place has already been ransacked. He skims through some of the stuff, but since this scene is pointless, other than having him walk right by his bloody bag. He almost gets caught when the others try the door, but fortunately Brian locked it behind him.
The trio continue to wander around, and find the rope Floyd was hanging by, and a stepstool used by whomever cut him down. Okay, where's the snake? Where did it come from? What was the point of it?
I will give the movie this: at least it is not filled with people running through the hallways yelling, "FLOYD!" "LISA!" "TIFFANY!!" for half the movie, like so many others.
They decide to do something semi-intelligent and get the hell out of there before they end up dead or missing too. They swing by the classroom to get their bags, and Allison discovers a note, guiding them to one of their missing classmates.
Figuring that the clue means either the audio/video club or the astronomy class, they split up again to see which is which. Allison opts to stay in case anyone else shows up. But she was going to leave a note... And again we split up into smaller groups! After saying not to!
Damnit, for a movie called Horror 101, they sure do not know the basics.
And to make it *even worse* Allison stares at the clue some more, and realises a third place to check and wanders off. At least this time she bothered to leave a note.
The two guys check the rooms remarkably fast and find nothing, even to the point they don't bother showing Jake going to the video lab. More wasted time!
Allison heads up to the roof, her idea from solving the riddle, but still doesn't find anyone there to save. But she does find that infamous bloody sack, and tries to get it back. Oh, and she gets grabbed almost instantly.
Carl and Jake find Allison's pepper spray when they go looking for her on the roof. Then Brian finds them. He also finds a punch to the face, but admittedly he deserved it.
They decide, again, that it's time to get the fuck out of town, and Carl actually has a clever idea to trap the dogs inside one of the classrooms with two doors. Hey, some brains! Was that so hard??
Jake rushes for his car and it won't start. He asks why he isn't surprised. BECAUSE YOU ARE IN A HORROR MOVIE! Carl soon catches up with him, after grabbing the bloody sack the dogs found once it fell off the roof. Carl runs up to the car, shaking the bloody bag, and uh...yeah, he could've thought that move out better. Jake freaks out thinking Carl's the killer, and tries to get his car running that much faster.
Once he fails to escape the garage when the doors clang down, Jake almost runs over Carl. He then leaves his car, runs back to the school, and tries to find anything handy or sane. But all he finds is Carl STILL holding the bloody sack! Drop it dude, it is making you look bad.
He does eventually run into Brian, who is still just wandering around being creepy for creepy's sake. Eventulally, Jake runs into a storage space, it looks like a freezer but there's nothing in it.
Well, nothing in it except all his tied up and gagged classmates, minus Carl. And not a single dead one amongst them.
Brian meets up with Carl, retrieves his bag, and they both investigate the noises in the freezer, reuiniting the entire class. Alive and well. A movie spinning in neutral, that's Horror 101. We also learn what's in the bag, and sadly it is not Gwynneth Paltrow's head, but instead just a side of bloody beef. Well, that's a let down. Especially after three different people look at it in disgust and horror, before they reveal it. They must be vegans.
Miss James arrives and reveals the big twist. She's the missing mother from the killings! SURPRISE! She set up Brian and Carl with their info and bloody sack to make them seem suspicious! See, it was there all along, because her name is Allison James, even though they never told us her first name. And the missing mother was named Jamie Allison...although they never told us HER name...AT ALL.
I HATE BULLSHIT TWISTS like that. Say what you will about Shayamalan, but he at least plays fair with the audience and his stories. The twists all make sense, if you look. The clues are there. I once went to a talk about writing, and surprises, and the two types. The type you set up, give clues, and play fair. And the other, which you pull out of your ass. The latter CAN work. A great example is "Luke, I am your father." NO build up, NO clues, and that is what makes Vader's reveal a great gut punch of a moment. In that instance. But if you're establishing a mystery for the fans to solve, you HAVE to give clues, for Kaufman's sake.
Oh yeah, and Carl is her son, the killer let off on a technicality. More out of nowhere BS. And finally, they lock everyone up in the freezer to die by suffocation. At this point, it's a mercy killing. I love that Carl says as they walk off, that this just gets easier and easier every time. Yes. Easier. Getting your mom a teaching job. Getting you enrolled. Getting your ritualisticly perfect eight victims after driving off the rest somehow, but not them so you have that perfect number. Spending many months teaching the actual class to some level of competence. THIS IS THE EASIEST MURDER SPREE EVER!
Capped off by a wholly unnecessary scene of the freezer unit being loaded into a truck bound for a dog food company. Wouldn't they notice? Would they just shake the thing out without looking at the contents? Wouldn't people complain about the bits of trenchcoat? I could go on!! But fuck it, class dismissed!!
Video: Looks good enough, since it was made in 2001. Nothing great, nothing brilliant, but at least you can see everything going on.
Audio: More of the same from the video. Competent enough.
1 - The most legitimate death in the movie is at 4:30, when Lisa gets killed in the film project.
No one else dies in the entire movie, that we see. Everyone just disappears until the end, when they're alive. Maybe they die in the freezer, but we never see it.
Blood Type - F-: An absolutley failing grade.
Movie Review: It starts off promising enough, but then manages to kill absolutely no one, not be very scary, not really do much with the rules of horror idea it could have used, and the story is just so basic, and so contrived. This movie looks like a student film project. The acting is at least not terrible, for this sort of thing, but there's nothing to write home about either. 2 out of 5 missing snakes.
Entertainment Value: The movie is entertaining enough in its badness to at least be watchable, and never gets so bad you want to turn the tv off. But it also doesn't get bad enough to be entertaining. Everything is just kinda there, just so shoddy, and it's all so poorly executed. There's no deaths to comment on, it's all so standard. And so meh. Avoid this class at all costs. 2 out of 5 flaming Bunsen burners.