A new teacher at a posh boarding school finds himself on the receiving end of a crash course in crazy when his students reveal their sinister plans in this thriller from the other side of the pond.
It begins with an excellent hand held camera sequence in which a person waking alongside a sea cliff is suddenly lifted way up in the air and twirled around for a bit before being chucked over the side. The camera does a wonderful job of establishing the victim’s perspective all the way to the jagged rocks where this journey abruptly ends.
Next we meet John Ebony. He’s a well groomed young man who is fed up with the rat race existence of life in advertising. He is more than happy to accept a mid-term position at a far away school and sees this as his chance to turn his life around. His supportive spouse, Sylvia, is happy to make the move but a little leery of fitting in with upper crust society.
Turns out he school is located right off the beach and rocks a private cottage where the couple can settle in. Sylvia is saddened to learn that John’s predecessor died in a fall from the cliffs but her husband is pretty dismissive and ready to get started.
His first day is an eye opener. His class turns out to be filled with surly snots who speak in unison, torment the weak, and proudly boast that they killed the previous instructor. They are also quite clever and inform John that no one will believe him so he better fall in line.
As it happens their deal isn’t too bad. In return for giving them just a little work and whacking goo d grades they will make sure that he gets to keep his job. All he has to do is place their bets at a local bookie where they can toss their allowances into a fool proof system to double their money.
It doesn’t take John long to realize that the only way to fight back is to find out which one is the leader and break him. Unfortunately every time he zeroes in on a suspect he finds he is barking up the wrong tree. Pretty soon the boys make it clear that Sylvie’s well being is now on the line and John better tow it.
If you thought that “The Bad Seed” was scary then you will certainly enjoy this edgy thriller that is well staged by veteran director John Mackenzie(The Long Good Friday). The class is intimidating and well played by a solid cast of young(mostly unknown) performers. Keen eyed viewers will spot Michael Kitchen (Foyle’s War)as one of the killer kids. David Hemmings (Deep Red) is good as Ebony but Carolyn Seymour steals all of her scenes as his more than capable ,and decidedly streetwise, wife.
The film manages an eerie atmosphere from the start thanks to the jarring opening and it never loses momentum. The title refers to the last three names on the roll call. Zigo is always absent(a fact reflected in the final credits as well).
Incidentally this began as a radio play and was then adapted for the stage. It is still taught in English schools and remains a favorite choice of production for school plays throughout the United Kingdom.
Best Line: “Authority is a necessary evil, and every bit as evil as it is necessary.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.