When Mrs. Tingle unfairly downgrades a top-notch history project, three of her pupils join forces to ensure justice is done. Soon, we're pitched into a hostage situation as Tingle is bound and gagged in her own home while Holmes, Coughlan and Watson engineer a wicked reversal of fortune.
Originally titled Killing Mrs. Tingle (remamed after the Columbine High School atrocity), Williamson's script and direction draws, by turn, heavily and lightly on horror cinema, combining genuinely suspenseful sequences with tongue-in- cheek references to olders-and-betters. Featuring home-truths, half-truths, sex, downright lies and disposable cameras, Teaching Mrs. Tingle is razor sharp in its execution but occasionally disappoints in the cast department
Its three youthful protagonists simply aren't strong enough to make us love 'em or hate 'em, but this is made up for with some marvellous peripheral characters: Molly Ringwald's appropriately unconventional substitute teacher; Michael McKean's alcoholic Principal; and do watch out for the amorous gym coach (Jeffrey Tambor) who (briefly) anticipates Jim Broadbent's memorable turn in Moulin Rouge.
With nods to The Exorcist, Psycho, Fawlty Towers(!) and a host of other faves, Williamson has delivered probably the cruelest slice of teenage angst since Muriel's Wedding, though it's Helen Mirren who earns highest marks as the terrible Mrs. T. An excellent performance, and isn't it gratifying to witness a British actress playing an American character who really does get to grips with the concept of irony? B+