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Adapted from a trilogy of young adult books by Scott K Andrews, that forms part of the “shared world” Afterblight Chronicles series, this gory British boys’ school-set sci-fi posits a deadly virus that swiftly kills almost everyone everywhere except those with a particular blood type. If The Lord of the Flies crossed with The Road and a dash of Tom Brown’s School Days sounds like your bag of blood, than this ruthless romp will be a kick in the head.
Director Oliver Milburn, who has made a bunch of horror-themed shorts and one feature (The Harsh Light of Day), has a real knack for staging action and coaxing sincere, punchy performances from his mostly young cast. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Lee (Oscar Kennedy, actually 22 but babyfaced enough to pass for a teenager), one of the few scholarship boys at St Mark’s, a posh all-male school deep in the English countryside. Busted by the headmaster (Anthony Head, forever Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) for a silly prank, he gets expelled on the same day the UK government starts talking about closing the border to prevent the spread of a deadly virus.
Naturally, this fictional UK being true to form, it is already too late; when Lee is left alone he has nowhere else to go but back to St Mark’s. There he finds a few survivors, including his best buddy Mac (Liam Lau Fernandez), a matron not much older than the boys (Jasmine Blackborow) and a few teachers. The survivors start scavenging for food but before long they run afoul of the townies from the well-heeled suburb nearby.
Milburn’s screenplay has a streak of dry wit but it never goes for cheap laughs. Instead, it’s a surprisingly bleak and merciless work, judiciously killing off both sympathetic and unlikable characters, including some of the kids and even an unfortunate pet, a line most films are too timid to cross but one that is entirely plausible given the circumstances. Expect more instalments in the franchise if this one takes off.
• Available from 15 February on digital platforms.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: School’s Out Forever review – gloriously gory YA sci-fi horror | Film