Oliver Milburn’s ‘Schools out Forever’ is an exhilarating and gruesome thrill ride from start to finish, supported by a talented ensemble cast and likeable characters. This off-brand British action thriller offers up a small glimpse at what life could look like post pandemic. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t turn out well for us.
What started out as a faithful retelling of Scott K Andrews young adult book series, The Afterblight Chronicles, back in 2019, ‘Schools out Forever’ has ultimately become a timely thought piece about Britain’s fall to the rise of a global pandemic. What makes matters worse is societies inability to get along during a time where the world couldn’t be further apart, leading to a cross generational war, more akin to William Golding’s ‘Lord of The Flies’ with a hint of 2000s ‘Battle Royale’ for good measure.
The film opens up within the halls of ‘Saint Marks Boarding School’, our battlefield for the majority of the story, as we are introduced to our unlikely hero Lee (Oscar Kennedy) a rebellious young teen with a strong perspective on what’s right and wrong. From the outset Lee’s goals are deemed ‘noble’ and just. That is until he gets expelled for hiding illegal substances in his dorm and is booted off campus.
We follow Lee as he watches society quickly descend into madness when a new virus sweeps the nation, killing anyone unfortunate enough not to be O- in blood type. It’s not before long when Lee decides to head back to the school and wait for his military mother to save him.
However, when he arrives, the school is anything but what he expected. The once prestigious boarding school for boys now stands as a safe haven for the remnants of its staff and students who are barely holding it together. Lee’s best friend and full time narcissist, ‘Mack’, (Liam Lau Fernandez) acts as one the schools few guardians left to defend it from the chaos happening outside its gates.
Milburn kicks the movie into high gear with the introduction of Parish city council, a group devoted to upholding the law, who chase one of the students into the school after he stole a tin of beans from them. What makes the group a threat to the school is their access to high grade weaponry and tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. After a quick back and forth, Lee and Mack manage to dispatch one of the council members with some creative use of a chair which ends with a brutal neck snap. The students are then given 24 hours to release the other council member who they hold captive in the basement, before the council force their way into the school and take them back by force.
What makes Schools out forever stand above most post pandemic movies in recent memory, is the time it spends delving into the consequences of its characters actions. Every kill in this movie has weight to it and irreversibly changes them forever. It’s fascinating to watch these characters change and as the movie breaks into its third act it becomes clear that the group we started with no longer resemble the characters we watch on screen.
As the hours tick away closer to the councils deadline, we watch as the school is transformed into a death trap, imagine home alone but replace the toy cars and hot door handles with corrosive acid and children holding sniper-rifles perched along the roof tops ready to fire at the first sign of entry. From here the story twists and turns in many unexpected ways, and as the action ramps up, Milburn‘s affinity for vividly grotesque action set pieces are on full display. Heads explode with bloody finesse and characters are unexpectedly killed off without a seconds thought. It’s a real joy to watch unfold, and leads to some of the movies greatest moments.
Schools out Forever is a fun movie with beautiful visuals and a strong statement on mankind’s resolve during a global pandemic, with everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s nice to see a filmmaker showcasing the resilience of the human spirit, even if that spirit is drenched in blood.
sci-fi, Drama | UK, 2021 | 15 | DVD | 12th April 2021 (UK) | Rebellion |Dir.Oliver Milburn | Oscar Kennedy, Liam Lau Fernandez, Alex Macqueen, Samantha Bond, Jasmine Blackborow, Steve Oram, Anthony Head