Directed by Johannes Roberts.
Starring David Schofield, Eliza Bennett, Ruth Gemmell, Finlay Robertson, Max Fowler and Roxanne McKee.
A world-weary English teacher has to confront his demons when his comprehensive school comes under attack from a group of youths intent on spreading terror through-out the corridors.
Receiving his filmmaking education on low-budget titles such as Darkhunters (2004) and Forest of the Damned (2005), Brit director Johannes Roberts graduated from the ‘straight-to-DVD’ school in 2010 with his first theatrically-released feature F, a John Carpenter-inspired slasher set in a sprawling UK comprehensive school. Roberts takes the theme of decaying social standards and ‘Broken Britain’, throws in a little Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Halloween (1978), and delivers an interesting thriller that should appeal to fans of recent genre efforts such as Them (2006) and Eden Lake (2008).
At the forefront of the story is English teacher Robert Anderson (David Schofield), who finds himself the victim of a classroom attack after giving an unruly student an ‘F’ grade for an assignment. Naturally in this day and age blame is laid squarely at the victim’s feet, and after the school board give their backing to the pupil we fast-forward eleven months to find Mr. Anderson’s world has imploded. Burnt-out, alcohol dependent and teetering on the verge of a breakdown, Anderson is holding on to his job by a thread and his paranoia makes him a figure of fun amongst both the staff and students, including his estranged daughter Kate (Nanny McPhee’s Eliza Bennett).
After stumbling his way through a half-arsed lesson on King Lear, Anderson finally tires of the students' increasingly insolent behaviour and issues Kate with detention, leaving the rest of the pupils to filter out as the day comes to an end. With only a handful of staff remaining - including bitchy headmistress Ruth Gemmell (Fever Pitch), teacher Roxanne McKee (Hollyoaks) and cowardly security guard Finlay Robertson (Doctor Who) - Anderson’s worst fears are realised as the school comes under siege by a faceless and silent enemy, a group of murderous ‘hoodies’ who begin to their prey through the vast maze of empty classrooms and dark corridors.
British slasher films are a rare commodity (so rare in fact that I’m struggling to think of a single example), so F is certainly a welcome addition to the genre. British TV stalwart and perennial supporting player Schofield (An American Werewolf in London, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean) steps up to deliver a fine performance in the lead role, while Roberts makes great use of the school location to build tension and suspense, with events occurring pretty much in real time. His decision to leave much of the actual violence to the imagination is also a refreshing change to the gore-soaked ‘torture porn’ that horror has come to rely on in recent times, although there is still enough blood and guts to satisfy all but the most hardened of fans.
Despite being a competent thriller, one aspect of F that is bound to divide audiences is the ambiguous and all-too-abrupt ending, which for me fell completely flat. It was a bit like writing a science report and leaving out the conclusion, and while that in itself doesn’t equate to an ‘F’, it certainly stops it achieving an ‘A’.
F is released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 10th.
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