Filmed during 2019 and uncannily featuring a global pandemic, people panic-buying loo rolls and once busy motorways and towns now reduced to eerily deserted wastelands, Rebellion Films have unleashed their debut feature, School's Out Forever, inspired by Scott K. Andrews' book.
When a prank backfires, rebellious 15-year-old Lee Keegan (Oscar Kennedy) finds himself expelled from the prestigious St Mark's School for Boys. As an unspecified virus takes hold around the world and his father passes away leaving him alone, Lee discovers he and others with O negative blood are immune to the illness. Taking shelter with a small group of fellow pupils and teachers back at St Mark's, events take a sinister turn as the group attempt to adjust to their dangerous new surroundings.
When the local Parish Council implement Martial Law and attempt to hijack the school's supplies, things go from bad to worse. Leader of the militia (Samantha Bond) is searching for her missing daughter and is convinced she's being held captive in the school. The boys must deal with this unpredictable small army as well as the mental toll their required lockdown is causing. Comparisons to William Golding's Lord of the Flies are inevitable and there are many similarities. The school-kids face numerous choices as they wrestle with dilemmas both forced upon them and of their own making in this new dystopian world.
School's Out Forever has an awful lot going for it, particularly when you consider the relatively small budget of just over £1,000,000. The cast is excellent, the action scenes impressive and the last third is explosive. If only the final acts energy were maintained throughout. Occasionally, the narrative is a little too pedestrian and the humour doesn't always hit the mark. Yes, there are funny moments, but these are few and far between.
Oscar Kennedy solidly leads the film, but it's Liam Lau Fernandez as his best friend Sean that will be remembered. His descent from privileged joker to sadistic bully is the more interesting journey and it's a memorable turn, even more so as this is his feature debut. Anthony Head fans, don't get your hopes up. His presence is fleeting, but Samantha Bond has slightly more to do and brings her class to the camera, as usual.
Director Oliver Milburn along with cinematographer Thomas Hole has produced some wonderful imagery. Mass graves next to luxurious outdoor swimming pools and sweeping drone shots showcasing rotting corpses randomly strewn about the streets next to wheelie bins make for grim viewing. School's Out Forever doesn't earn an A*, but it's a prime example of a film with a low budget producing something of high value. Well worth watching.
Dir: Oliver Milburn
Scr: Oliver Milburn & Scott Keegan Andrews (author)
Prd: Emma Biggins, Chris Kingsley, Jason Kingsley, Ben Smith & Andy Thompson
DOP: Thomas Hole
Music: Angus MacRae
Runtime: 105 mins
School's Out Forever releases on digital download from February 15th and Blu-Ray and DVD on April 12th 2021.