Palatable: Night School
Directed by Ken Hughes
Written by Ruth Avergon
Produced by Ruth Avergon, Larry Babb, Leon Williams, Marc Gregory Comjean, Bernard Kebadjian
Starring Rachel Ward, Leonard Mann, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald, Bill McCann, Annette Miller, Nick Cairis
Their associations with a promiscuous professor of anthropology (Snyder) and his devious dean (Miller) link decapitated acquaintances and students sanguineously slain by a casqued motorcyclist armed with a kukri and familiarity with their respective schedules. This commonality and the aqueous deposition of the victims' heads are the only leads on which an incisive detective (Mann) and his paltry partner (Sicari) can rely as they investigate murders committed with unmistakable animus in observance of an initially inexplicable M.O. Gorgeous but stiff as a subsidiary and cohabitant of Snyder's instructor, Ward commenced her cinematic career where her director's ended, and her radiant screen presence barely offsets wooden delivery in contrast to her costars' charisma. Subtle suspense by misdirection was Hughes' specialty in comedies and crime dramas alike, and it's here as opulent as overlooked both by splatterhounds for whom this slasher was too moderate and cineastes seeking a serious psychological thriller. His careful composition's complemented by Mark Irwin's lambent photography, which blazons the beauty of Bostonian venues no less than the leading lady's. Screenwriter/producer Avergon's central theme -- requisite rituals transposed to civilization to rationalize madness -- is simplistically addressed, but that's just as well. Too many lightweight genre projects are incumbered with pontifical purport.
Recommended for a double feature paired with When a Stranger Calls.