Amongst the creepy-crawlies, bumps-in-the-night and creatures of lore forever inducing fear and panic into the hearts of youngsters everywhere, there is one foul beast more terrifying than any spook the imagination could conjure: Academia. The nauseous menu of the school cafeteria, the stacks upon stacks of homework, the varicose veins of your crusty math teacher, Ms. Fitzwilliams (ugh, Ms. Fitzwilliams...) We at FEARnet understand both the necessity and the unpleasantry of scholastics. And in order to celebrate the return of students to their respective educational institutions, we'd like to point out that, hey, it could be worse - ALOT worse. Below, we've compiled ten of horror's scariest schools - believe us, by the time you're done reading, you'll be running back to yours!
(directed by Richard Kelly)
The privilege, the prestige, the uppity noses... Yes, who wouldn't want to spend their education hiding skeletons in the closets of the seemingly tidy halls of suburban Catholic School couture. Well, if it's any Catholic school like the one Donnie Darko attends, you can count me out. While normal suburban filmic towns harbor catty secrets like what husband is cheating with what wife and whose son is actually in rehab as opposed to vacationing in Turks and Caicos, Donnie's harbors pedophiles, time-space continuum, and ominous, six-foot-tall skeleton bunnies that tell you to flood your school and burn people's houses down. That's some freaky shit. And if you're not totally creeped out by apocalyptic hallucinations wearing your sister's boyfriend's Halloween costume or Grandma Death, (the mute, batshit-crazy neighborhood bag of bones that makes Carol Kane in The Princess Bride look like Cindy Crawford), then think about what it?d be like to attend a school where your teachers - the people responsible for your growth and academic well-being - are Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore. SHRIEK!!
(directed by Kinji Fukasaku)
Sometimes going back to school is better than not. Especially when instead of returning to your high school you're taken to a remote island in the Pacific, where your teachers help curb the overpopulation of their country by pitting you and your fellow students against one another in a no-rules death match. (Whew, that was a mouthful...) Unfortunately, for the students forced to play the deadly game of Battle Royale, their new school has become a case of last man standing - which of course drives all of their fragile minds completely insane subsequent to turning them into blood-thirsty, axe-wielding (or, as one student finds out, garbage-can-lid-wielding) maniacs. So why not just revolt? Oh, that might be because if the students have failed to produce a singular champion in twenty-four hours, the collars each of them wears around their neck will explode, killing them instantly (and you thought detention sucked). I think any student would agree that they'd rather be inside studying Home Ec and Algebra II than outside hunting one another. Or would they?
Hostel: Part II
(directed by Eli Roth)
Every student dreams of escaping to an exotic haven where they can enjoy fine art, beautiful weather... and a semester laden with frequent trips to the Eastern European underground rave scene! But not every student gets tricked by hottie Vera Jordanova (who, for the record, can trick me any day she likes) into leaving said rave to check out a charming little fall festival in Bratislava where the student and her friends are mysteriously abducted one by one, only to be tortured by rich, sociopathic businessmen from all around the world. (But mainly America - because what every other country believes about us is correct!) Yes, the second installment of the Hostel series definitely stopped some students from scheduling semesters abroad. But don't worry: Eli Roth didn't create that film series out of an actual website he found on the net. Oh wait... Perhaps it's best for the student body to stay safe and grounded.
Night of the Creeps
(directed by Fred Dekker)
The part of the college experience of most interest to high school meatheads, cheerleaders, and preps of late is Greek Life (and no, we are not talking about the exploits of a diner owner). Fraternities and sororities have been homes to generations of scared freshmen desperately seeking immediate acceptance and that oh-so-special brand of "brotherhood" that only a true "brother" can dish out. Unfortunately, the kids pledging Phi Omega Gamma in Fred Dekker's 1986 B-movie masterpiece Night of the Creeps experience a unique brand of hazing. One where your "loser" self and your "loser" friend must unthaw a cadaver which in turn will unleash a legion of alien slugs intent on taking over the planet by nesting themselves in the brains of the entire student bodies. Looks like it's time for a new kind of class: Flamethrower 101. Send those parasitic demons you reactivated back to whatever planet they flew in from! Then celebrate after the demons possess and destroy the brain of your cruel pledgemaster, who also serves the role of the crappy boyfriend to the way-out-of-your-league girl you've been chasing! Hooray for murderous alien slugs come classmates!
(directed by Robert Rodriguez)
Before the graphic violence (no pun intended) of Sin City or the eye-gouging antics of Once Upon a Time In Mexico, and long before the terror of, er, Planet Terror came this blissful confection from Robert Rodriguez about a group of disparate and conveniently good-looking (with the obvious omission of Clea Duvall... poor, poor Clea Duvall...) students who must stop a bunch of body-snatching aliens from taking over their high school. Note: If movies have reinforced any stereotype about high schoolers that is completely and utterly wrong, it's that during a hostile world takeover a high schooler's first concern would be saving their high school (because life just wouldn't be bearable if you didn?t have a place to go back to and get bullied on Monday). El Robo-Rod gets an A+ here for making kids afraid of going to the principal's office (or as the case may be, the nurse's office) as The Faculty really does make you wonder if your high school hasn't already been taken over by creatures who are in no way from a 1956 Don Siegel sci-fi classic. And if for some reason that doesn't freak you out you can at least get skeeved over Shaun Hatosy peeling off that old lady's scalp in the shower...
(directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Time for a horror history lesson. Back in 1955 when "The Twist" was a popular move on the dance floor and not so popular a device for giving your film's third act some much needed gusto, back when women were still trying to wriggle their way out of the kitchen, and before the Hitchcockian mind warps Psycho or Vertigo came a film by French auteur Henri-Georges Clouzot that showed us what our teachers were REALLY up to when school let out. This film centers on a brutal headmaster's wife and mistress (all three of whom, mind you, work at the same boarding school), who plot kill their shared lover. Once the deed is done, however, the pool where his body's been dumped is drained and the ladies cannot find his body! Next thing they know, people are saying they've seen the headmaster strolling down the street. And that's the LEAST complicated part of the story. But if there's one thing this beautifully paced, taut horror/psycho-thriller can do, aside from spinning your head right off your body, it's show you that while kids are indeed cruel, their teachers can be downright treacherous.
(directed Wes Craven)
I'd like to think that, by now, any seasoned horror fan knows if the name "Sidney Prescott" crops up on your class roster, you'd better skip town and get the eff out of dodge! Since 1996, when Wes "The Undisputed Master of American Filmic Horror" Craven dropped the Scream franchise on the unassuming public, countless teens have gotten their throats slit just for going to the same school as Sidney. And while we were all extremely happy to see Jamie Kennedy go, it's a scary thought to think that one of your classmate's moms has pissed off enough serial killers to fill three feature films' worth of ghost-faced serial killers - ghost-faced serial killers so blind with rage, they'll kill anyone boppin' around Woodsboro High to exact their revenge. But you know what Sidney's dead old mum's hallucination says to her in part three: "Everything you touch dies, Sid?" Yeah, maybe mommy zombie should update that to "Everyone you may or may not have ever touched dies" - or maybe when the recently announced Scream 4 drops, the killers will start cross-referencing their targets with a list of people Sidney ACTUALLY KNOWS.
(directed by Michael Lehmann)
Reader, I know you... like me you most likely attended a high school run by a clique of popular, identically-named girls - until Winona Ryder and her rebel boyfriend Christian Slater started dropping them like flies with drain cleaner and semi-automatic hand guns! Okay, so maybe we weren't all lucky enough to be characters in Michael Lehmann's dark and wildly irreverent send-up of high school culture and hierarchy, but it definitely made a few of us think twice before jumping head first into the latest tweeny trends. Yes, while, at most schools, kids are suckers for ever-changing fashion lines and the need for the latest and greatest technologies, the kids at Westerburg High have all gone crazy for the new fad of killing themselves! That's right, once a few murdered popular kids' deaths are framed up as suicides, all of their peons and subordinate classmates begin to try and off themselves in the same "totally tubular" way. Crazy kids and their crazy trends...
(directed by Brian De Palma)
Quick - what's the scariest thing about Carrie? Sissy Spacek's face? I mean, yeah, she's a Sarah Plain and Tall alright - but no that's not what I'm thinking of... Sissy Spacek's telekinetic abilities and mismanaged inner rage? Well yeah, I mean that's scary, but I'm looking at this from a strictly psychiatric point of view. I'm talkin' about Carrie's classmates: They SLAUGHTERED A PIG AND DRAINED ITS BLOOD INTO A BUCKET in order to embarrass Carrie at the prom. Killing a small animal - isn't that the first sign you're a serial killer? Why wasn't their first idea to use red paint or a pitcher of Kool-Aid? They just start killing a defenseless farm animal, right off the bat? That was the only option? The way I see it, Carrie went to a school with a bunch of homicidal maniacs and was only protecting herself when she blew up half the student body with her mind. Now if only we could go school shopping for telekinetic powers, we'd all feel a little safer about the psychological shortcomings of our fellow students!
(directed by Dario Argento)
Who knew that ballet school, with all of its tutus and pas-de-bourres, would be the scariest f***in' institution on the planet?! Amongst the silky, salmon-colored horrors of the Freiberg Dance Academy are an unexplained/uninvestigated series of heinous murders, maggots pouring from the ceilings of the dormitories, and unmitigated, heart pounding terror drenched in blood (reminding us once again that people in art school are least safe of all). Sounds great, right? Well sure, if you're watching a film directed by Dario "The Undisputed Master of Filmic Horror in General" Argento. But if you happen to be one of the doomed dancers of Freiberg, it's enough to make you jump out of your skin. The moody, atmospheric nature of this school-set slasher is unrivaled not only by the other entries on this list but most every other horror film ever made. Argento not only succeeds in flipping your stomach over like he's making a pizza crust, but he succeeds in making sure you never trust anyone EVER AGAIN. Especially cruel-and-unusual instructor Ms. Tanner (or, as I lovingly refer to her, Nurse Ratchett's bitchy sister). Believe me when I say that after watching this movie, you'll think you go to the best damn school there ever was - no matter what your school might be!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(created by Joss Whedon)
Okay, still not convinced that the schools listed above don't suck as much as yours? Well, let me ask you this - is your high school literally the gateway to hell? Okay, well if your name is Buffy Summers then you answered, "Yes" - and if you're Buffy Summers you also probably answered "Yes" to the question "Are you the incumbent guardian in an ongoing, centuries-old-line of demon/vampire/supernatural phenomena slayers?" Sure, we all know TV's Buffy and her high-school chums definitely earn an honorable mention for bringing the terror of school to the idiot box (though she did, in all her Kristy Swanson glory, bring it to the big screen in the early 90s). Buffy definitely reaffirms the old adage that "life sucks - then you find out you've been born and bred to slay demons..." Okay, I just made that up, but it's true regardless.