REVIEW: SCHOOL SPIRIT’s take on high school slasher films is trope-heavy without adding a lot of originality to the genre.


Director Mike Gan lends some additional diversity to Blumhouse’s INTO THE DARK line-up, but the story by writers Gan, Josh Miller, and Patrick Casey serves up a largely lazy pastiche of highly recognizable past slasher film tropes with little new to add to the equation.

Teen slasher films are the prototypical horror film that most are first exposed to when entering genre film fandom. From Friday the 13th, Happy Birthday to Me, to Black Christmas, all the way through the 80’s slashers like Freddy and Jason to the meta deconstruction of this theme in Wes Craven’s Scream films and later in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens TV series, it;s no question that most horror fans know the ins and outs of what makes a good slasher film tick. I’d have to imagine so does the writing team of Mike Gan, Josh Miller and Patrick Casey and that they firmly had these influences in mind when penning the teleplay for this month’s entry into Blumhouse’s monthly horror film series, Into The Dark. Their entry, School Spirit, channels the back to school mindset of August but does so in a very contrived and, unfortunately, very forgettable entry into the series’ oeuvre.

School Spirit largely follows around Erica Yang (Annie Q.), the golden girl of Helbrook High. She’s the class president, valedictorian and has angled her life to get herself into Harvard at the end. At the start of the film, it almost comes across like this might be the horror film take on Booksmart, which excited me for a second. Alas, it’s largely lip service. The film largely plays out like The Breakfast Club meets Scream for the bulk of its running time. Erica ends up with Saturday detention for an infraction that Vice Principal Armstrong (Hugo Armstrong) states she should have been suspended for. At the detention room, she meets fellow rulebreakers Lizzy (Jesse Case), Russ (Philip Labes), Vic (Julian Works), and Brett (Corey Fogelmanis). While the bulk of the kids are hardened detention veterans who despise authority and seem to know entirely too much about the Vice Principals’ personal demons to not have escaped the swift touch of suspension or expulsion, Brett is taken with Erica as something of a school spirit fanboy. But all are tied in a lockdown due to the recent disappearance of a pair of former students and the belief that the culprit is an urban legend known as the School Spirit, something of a zombified witch version of the school’s mascot, The Admiral. This legend becomes real when one-by-one, the students start to meet their demise at the hands of the Admiral. This raises the question, is it one of the students themselves, or is there actually a malevolent school spirit?

That question is about as compelling as the uninspired cinematography behind the film. Directed with all the style of a security camera, there isn’t much suspense in the film, save the mystery of what got Erica into detention. The paint by numbers feeling of the film is only magnified by the familiarity of this conceit overall. We’ve just gotten two great slasher films with masked school mascots from Blumhouse in back to back years with Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2 U. It’s very bizarre to think they themselves would go mine that vein again with such an uninspired retread minus the high concept of Happy Death Day. The film plays largely like a bad Scream ripoff with the School Spirit also coming off as a retread of the villain from the TV show Scream Queens. The film’s closing setpiece is also largely cribbed from Happy Birthday to Me and Psycho by way of The Loved Ones. The killer’s identity is fairly predictable from the get-go. Sadly, the movie’s treatment of the other big reveal of Erica’s detention causing issue is also in this vein, playing off of the ending of the Nicole Kidman vehicle To Die For.

School Spirit is largely a lethargic entry into this oeuvre of high school slasher films. Every movie it reminds you of is a better affair than this outing. If you’re looking for a unique spin on this identical concept, I’d recommend the criminally underrated 2011 Joseph Kahn film, Detention. Until then, I’d risk suspension to avoid School Spirit and check out some of the earlier entries in this year’s Into The Dark, largely defined by the excellent All That We Destroy by Chelsea Stardust.