The Lesson offers an intellectual horror based on what many teachers must feel; a complete frustration at their uninterested and mediocre students. Director and Writer Ruth Platt has created a clever story filled with suspense and gore. Who said torture can’t be educational?
The film opens in a small English town filled, and the first half an hour presents its depressive atmosphere and the lonely life of our main character, Fin (Evan Bendall). After the death of his mother, Fin is acting out in delinquency with his hooligan friend, Joel (Rort Coltart), and lives with his borderline abusive brother Jake (Tom Cox), and his Polish girlfriend Mia (Michaela Prchalová), who acts as a stand in mother and is lusted over. His grim life is one to be pitied. Whilst all this is happening, his thwarted teacher Mr Gale (Robert Hands) is at his wits end with his students. Remember in school when there would be those kids who just wouldn’t shut up and listen, and sometimes a teacher would even cry because of it? This is Mr Gales life. It’s not surprising that one night he clubs them over the head with a hammer and teaches them a lesson they must pass to survive.
Mr Gale has strapped the boys to a table, in what looks like his shed, and gives them the lesson he has been dying to teach students for a lfetime. In this very demanding and gruel lesson, even the audience will learn something about English literature. Using methods of torture to motivate his students, such as nailing their hands to the desk, The Lesson is highly disturbing and perverts the sense of guardianship in a teacher-student relationship.
At the films climax, a worried Mia is out looking for Fin when she wanders upon Mr Gale’s car and is also imprisoned by the deranged teacher. A crucial character to the film, Mia offers a refreshing stance of women in horror. Rather than being saved, she is the one who saves Fin by killing Mr Gale when her hand restraints are untied. Not only filling the role of a mother, she is also a hero. After Mr Gale has been killed, Platt has created a wonderful scene of a blood covered and exhausted Mia and Fin on the sofa watching the TV with dead eyes.
Although The Lesson may not offer a traditional hack-and-slash gory experience, Platt has created a horror with a brighter plot than most horror films are capable of. With disturbing characters and a manic performance from Robert Hands, The Lesson creates a good amount of suspense with some very sophisticated dialogue. Ruth Platt is one of the few female directors to venture into horror and I applaud her for what she has created, and hope she pursues the genre in the future.
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