October 29, 2013

Horror-A-Day: The Expelled

The frost is back. I am not sure I like getting ice on my skull while walking from the front door to the car. See? It's happening already, I went from complaining about the lack of brisk air to complaining about that persistent chill. Granted, by midday it is still a bit more temperate, the complaint stands. I am so glad that horror films will always be waiting to welcome me no matter how cold it is or how bad the day has gone. There is nothing like finishing the day with a little bit of terror. Right?

This month started with a great selection of older horror and exploitation, primarily from the 1970s, before moving onto some more modern releases. I was doing better with the older stuff... Still, I did discover something, among the movies of a more recent vintage, the British exports have fared the best. The Expelled is a 2010 release that may be a bit lacking in overall plotting, still manages to pack a punch and proves to be well worth the time.

The movie opens in a classroom, Mr. Anderson (David Schofield) is giving back some papers to the students. One of them has a red F (coincidentally, F is the original title) emblazoned on it. He then goes on to say some disparaging remarks about the student in question. The young man doesn't like it, gets up and punches Anderson right in the face. I cannot imagine that ever happening.

Rather than the student getting in trouble, Mr. Anderson is lectured about not making fun of the students or making hem feel inadequate. They also make a deal with the boy's family to prevent any legal action. I actually see this as a pretty ringing indictment of the modern school. It may not be true everywhere, but when did it become wrong to ail a student? When did it become all right to let students skate on terrible work? Much less, when did it become all right to assault a teacher and not be held accountable?

Anyway, the tale jumps ahead nearly a year. Mr. Anderson is a shell of a man. He has lost control of the class, is scared to discipline his students, is divorced from his wife, and his estranged daughter is a rebellious student in his class. In order to spend time with her, he gives her detention. Doesn't really sound like a horror movie, does it?

Before long, the school is closed and there are scant few people left on the school. Among those there at Mr. Anderson and his daughter, Kate (Eliza Bennett). Things begin to happen. The phones go dead, Anderson hears things, and we see hooded figures enter the school. Faceless thugs enter the school and begin to wreak havoc on those still inside. Mr. Anderson then must step up and try to survive and save his daughter.

The Expelled (I prefer F) is a tight little thriller that has little padding and wastes no time on where these hooded, teen-like thugs came from or their nature (we never see faces and they do not seem to be completely human). It is not necessary. I kind of see this as a mix of Spielberg's War of the Worlds blended with John Carpenter's Halloween, while being nothing like either one of them.

Like War of the Worlds, this movie has a damaged man at its center. Anderson is a broken man, crumbling around the edges, losing his grip on his family, his job, his own identity. The evening with his daughter in detention brings him to the brink, he realizes he is losing her forever. The hooded nightmares can be seen as the manifestation of his fears, forcing him to stand up and rediscover the man, father, and teacher inside of him. It is kind of like the aliens in War of the Worlds. It also really works due to a good performance from David Schofield.

As for the Halloween side of it, the hood wearing hooligans are silent killers who can be very sneaky and very determined, not unlike one Michael Myers. Granted, there are a bunch of them, but it still works. These guys have some very sneaky, Michael-like moments.

This is a good movie. It knows that it isn't about the threat, it is about the man and the man reconnecting with himself. It is a father's nightmare manifested through these nasty little faceless thugs in hoods. Fear brought to life in the form of something sprung from his subconscious.

The Expelled is an example of what I have just learned is called hoodie horror. Other examples are Citadel and Attack the Block. I am not sure the origin of this sub genre, but I am intrigued. Whatever it's true origins are, I recommend this movie.


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