Review © Mandi Apple, 2003.

Directed by Yamaguchi Makoto, 2001, 90 mins. starring Oohira Natsumi, Kamiya Mami, Sudou Atsuko, Uehara Mayumi and Asami Reina.

Very little would appear to have been said on the Net about A Frightful School Horror (aka Kyoufu Gakuen, aka Terror School), and I don't really think that's a coincidence, given the quality of this movie. Clearly made in the hope of raking in the big bucks by riding in on the coat-tails of successful urban-legend tales such as Ring, and school-ghost stories such as the infinitely superior Korean duo Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori, A Frightful School Horror is without a doubt one of the limpest, most horror-free, and most boring films it's ever been my punishment to have to sit through twice.

The box of the VCD states that the film cannot be shown to anyone under 18 years of age, and this is the really confusing bit for me, because this movie was obviously targeted at an age range of 13-16 year olds, who might need some new spook-stories to scare their schoolmates with round the campfire. Gore-free, fear-free, uninspired, completely non-visual, with perhaps the cheesiest soundtrack ever (even beating Evil Dead Trap's nasty synth hell high-score by a Roland MIDI or two), this film is a complete waste of time and money. Why try to sell a teeny-screamer to over-18's? Perhaps the director's intention was to try to make the idea of the film more appealing to teenagers, that this film is something they're not allowed to see, so therefore it must be full of terrifying and hideous things, so they might want to see it really bad...? Whatever, it just doesn't work.

A Frightful School Horror is broken up into three short stories about the same school, with the 'events' all taking place on the last day of the summer holidays. The short-story format only serves to weaken the plot even further: there's no character development at all as each story only runs about half an hour per set-piece, and so the whole effect is horribly two-dimensional.

As for the quality of the acting, frankly it's more wooden than an entire lumber yard. Part of what makes this film so deathly dull is the complete inability of the actresses to convey any emotion except total apathy and the occasional fit of hysterical (and teeth-piercing) shrieks for what would on closer inspection appear to be absolutely no good reason. In that respect, it's utterly baffling: why one earth would three relatively sensible 16-year-old girls scream their heads off because they found a frog in a swimming pool? For what it's worth, so very little happens during the entire length of the movie that we found it difficult to bring you any interesting screenshots whatsoever, though we did our best...


Chapter 1: The Newcomer from Hell

The films opens with a story concerning a little girl, Kyouko, and her classmates, who receive some news about a new school transfer on the day before they're due to start the new term. However, Kyouko has seen a mysterious new girl, about the same age as her, who is totally silent and wears a rather fetching pair of orange trainers, hanging around the school grounds; so she assumes that this is the newcomer, who was supposed to have arrived yesterday. She tries to point out the new girl to her friends, who, strangely enough although not exactly unpredictably, can't see the girl, and every time Kyouko tries to make friendly contact with her, the girl runs away.

However, one time when this happens, Kyouko decides to follow her, and sees her going into an old school storage shed, with a sign on it telling her it's prohibited for students to enter the building. One of her friends tells her that the newcomer is supposedly locked up in there and if she's ever released, disaster will befall them all. (??? don't ask me, I'm just the reviewer!) Her (totally weirdo) two female teachers tell the kids that the newcomer will start tomorrow, and that she's already visited the school... and Kyouko tells them that she's already met her.

Kyouko takes absolutely no notice of that prohibited sign whatsoever though, and follows the strange girl into the shed, whereupon the door slams shut behind her. It turns out, however, that the mysterious girl doesn't appear to pose a threat to her: in fact, they become friends, playing together and generally having fun...

And yet there's something sinister going on, because during one trip to the storage shed, Kyouko finds the mysterious girl hiding up in the rafters; when she tries to follow her, she has a bizarre hallucination of the girl lying dead on the floor, and then her two teachers appear out of the shadows and start putting death-curses on her for having gone in there when she was told not to... but after this incident, the strange girl mysteriously reappears again, and the two play together again just as they had done before... but why can no-one else see her? And does she want Kyouko as her playmate... forever? (No, a correct answer to these questions does not win a prize! ;-D)

Chapter 2: The Cursed Science Room

Three friends (aged about 16 or so) named Chisato, Eriko and Haru are all members of the school swimming team, practicing for the new term as they have done every day of the summer holidays. After practice ends, they are as usual forced to stay behind and clean up the pool area. One of the girls gets a fright when she finds a frog by the side of the pool, which seems to be an escapee from the science lab, where they've all been particpating in frog dissections recently.

This gets them in the mood for a scary story, so Haru sits them all down and starts telling them a rumour concerning a so-called 'cursed science room' in an unnamed school which she "heard from her sister's friend" in good old-fashioned urban legend style. Apparently, the swimming team of this other school were also forced to clean up the pool after their practice, and they discuss how one of their fellow students, a beautiful girl, had disappeared after investigating the school rumour that if, during any summer period, a girl should go into the science room at 8.45 exactly, she would be set upon by a "... girl entity without a face" who would tear off the girl's face (presumably to wear it herself, although that's not outlined very clearly). The girl goes on to state that the teachers all searched for the missing beauty, but found nothing, and that the science teacher had been implicated in her disappearance because he had disappeared when the girl's corpse was eventually found.

So, in the story, the three girls decide for themselves to check out the science room curse to see if it's real. One slightly braver girl, Shiori, goes into the room by herself; but when she doesn't come out again, her friends get worried and have to go in and look for her. One girl finds a scalpel lying on the floor, while the other goes into a side-room of the lab... and finds Shiori dead on the floor, with the side of her face cut off... but who is doing the killing, and did the other two girls escape with their lives?

Chapter 3: The Crucified Girl

This is probably the worst and definitely the most confusing of the three stories, IMHO. Two more students of the school, named Kasumi and Hotaru, are on their way to practice on the last day of the summer holiday, although this time they're part of the gymnastics team, who are supposedly the worst team of all in the school. Their team leader, Marina, is a senior student and one of the strictest teachers in the clubs, particularly picking on Kasumi as she's the weakest link in the team. They meet up with two other friends on the way in, and walk to practice together. However, along the path to the school, they see a dead crow lying on the ground, with its guts hanging out. All the girls shriek (there's another surprise!) except Kasumi, who feels sorry for the bird, not disgusted by it as the others are.

But her friend Hotaru scolds her for her attitude, saying that she shouldn't feel pity for it, as it will put a curse on her and something bad will happen to her. (Editor's note: this is probably a cross-cultural reference that doesn't make much sense to Westerners; if anyone has ever heard of a Japanese superstition regarding sympathetic curses from dead animals, please let us know!) Anyway, Kasumi can't help herself thinking about the crow, even in gym club, while Marina is bawling her out yet again for being hopeless... but Marina starts to act oddly after this, and Kasumi notices blood coming out of one of her ears... she gets dizzy and sick, and runs out of the hall, much to the consternation of all the other gymnasts.

After practice, Kasumi hears Marina crying in the toilets; when she goes in to check on her, she finds her acting really strangely, and spots more blood coming out of her ear... but when she looks again, there's no blood there. And when she goes into the toilet cubicle Marina was in, she hears loud wing-flapping noises and bird-cries, which frighten her.

In the meanwhile, all the other girls are having fun and deciding to go out to a karaoke bar to celebrate being halfway exactly through their school lives, but Kasumi is distracted and upset by the strange experience she had in the toilets. On the way out of school, they discover the dead crow has vanished... so why does Kasumi still heard bird-cries, and feel drawn back to the girls' bathroom? And why is there blood coming out of her own ear, that only Hotaru can see?

Overall, I genuinely would not recommend this film to anyone, even my worst enemy. If nothing seems to be happening to people you don't care about anyway (who also let off barrages of wails at the drop of a hat), there's not really a good reason to even try and get involved with them. Not to mention the fact that the stories' plot-holes are about a mile wide, and in the main (possibly excepting the totally bewildering third story) so completely predictable that you know what's going to happen within the first five minutes of every single one. At times, I had the feeling I was watching some kind of Japanese equivalent of the old UK Children's Film Foundation movies they showed in the afternoons, and they were bad even in 1979!

As for the cinematography, it's deliberately soft-focus, overly dark and attempts to be 'abstract' and 'arty', which does not suit the teen-scream style of the film at all. The 'special effects' seem to run to one red-sky filter, one red light-bulb and a small economy-sized bucket of foam-rubber and ketchup. I can only hope that no real crows were harmed during the making of this lifeless, characterless piece of crap ;-) A Frightful School Horror would fail to scare a 6-year-old bedwetter with a nervous tic, so if you're over the age of 18 (which you're supposed to be to see it anyway, remember!), please save your cash for something much worthier of your viewing time.

An enormous Snowblood Apple thank you to the wonderful J Lopez for his totally essential help with cast and crew credits, not to mention helping us with the Japanese title of the film - make sure you drop by Ringworld at least once every single day of your entire life!

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 0/10
Bafflement: 11/10
Violence: 2/10 - some light blood and guts, that's it
Shock Factor: 0/10
Cheesy Music: 10/10. Earplugs essential, either that or turn the volume down to 0
Jump Scenes: 0.5/10
Feelings of Dread: only if you get spooked by frogs and crows
***Buy at your peril! Don't say we didn't warn you!***

Snowblood Apple Filmographies
Oohira Natsumi
Kamiya Mami
Sudou Atsuko
Uehara Mayumi
Asami Reina

Link this is a great place to find out loads of essential information, and has a page with the cast and crew details for A Frightful School Horror - in fact, this is the only link we could find for this film... ;-)

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