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  School's Out Forever Here Endeth The Lesson
Year: 2021
Director: Oliver Milburn
Stars: Alex Macqueen, Samantha Bond, Anthony Head, Steve Oram, Oscar Kennedy, Sebastian Croft, Gordon Alexander, Max Raphael, Freya Parks, Robert Ryan, Jasmine Blackborow, Richard Elfyn, Paul O'Kelly, Ben Dilloway, Lati Gbaja, Jayden Elijah
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lee Keegan (Oscar Kennedy) has made a big mistake. He thought pranking the teachers at the private school he attends would be a good idea, and he and his best pal Pugh (Sebastian Croft) arranged one involving a locker, but now Lee is in the office of the headmaster (Anthony Head) and he is not a happy man. He gives the boy's flimsy excuses the shortest of shrift and tells him he will be suspended, but then one of the masters (Alex Macqueen) appears with Lee's bag and produces drugs from it, which means an automatic expulsion. He doesn't know what to say to his parents, but when his father (Steve Oram) arrives to pick him up and take him back home, he doesn't seem too bothered about his son's bad behaviour, he's distracted by the news on the radio...

Something about a closing of British borders against a virus? But as they drive along, Lee notices people acting aggressively and erratically at the side of the road, and begins to twig that things will never be the same again. Yes, it was watch a pandemic movie after a pandemic had hit the world time, and this little item was designed to drum up business for a series of young adult science fiction novels called The Afterblight Chronicles, which were generally regarded as some of the best around in an admittedly very crowded field. Though it was the apocalypse genre they traded in, as this film illustrated they could also take in the action, thriller and adventure modes, and to director Oliver Milburn's credit, he appeared to have the appeal of these books skilfully captured here.

Though Lee was the main character, the film cast some British thesps willing to do a few days' work on this to raise their profile among the younger viewers for whom this would be the target audience. It was true to say they lifted what could have been pretty standard material with a dose of gravitas, even if some merely showed up for a couple of short scenes, but really it was Kennedy who the bulk of the drama rested with, and he coped pretty well with the moral dilemmas the script, based on Scott K. Andrews' originals, brought up for him. The trick with these was to supply the blood and guts mayhem while bearing in mind the target were still in school, so nothing too icky could be lingered on, though nevertheless there was murder and even rape contemplated by the schoolboys, not as a celebration of anarchy, however, but as a warning of how bad events could be.

There were always consequences to whatever violence was committed, in fact there were consequences to even considering that as the virus bites and everyone with the wrong blood types expires to leave the survivors fighting for control over the remains of society. Sure, there was the issue of how that can be rebuilt, but before then we could watch the junior characters get armed and dangerous to save their school which turns into a siege situation as Samantha Bond's militia try to get back her daughter (Freya Parks) who broke in seeking a pair of looters and made her own mistake of getting too aggressive. Lee by this point has re-entered the establishment having nowhere else to go, but Pugh becomes a tinpot dictator, supplanting Macqueen's domineering but ineffectual surviving tutor and the young Matron (Jasmine Blackborow, threatening to steal the movie) who serves as what increasingly seems like a lone voice of decency. Making you think of any fiction you care to mention where the kids take over from adults, this was not quite Battle Royale with Brits, but had its uncompromising moments and all round was very effective and tense. Music by Angus MacRae.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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