Wordplay (1987)

Psychological thriller, 90 minutes. An unruly class push their teacher too far the week before the Year 12 exams. He snaps and unleashes his own diabolical programme of re-education. To ... See full synopsis »

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13 May 2005 | david-1611
| The Ultimate Bad Day At School
An unruly class push their teacher too far the week before the Year 12 exams. He snaps, pulls a gun, and unleashes his own diabolical programme of re-education. To fail is to die... A classroom "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" follows as one by one, the characters are peeled back like potatoes, revealing all their failings and hypocrisies. It's a bit like "Dead Poets' Society" done as a hostage drama.

I came across this oddly fascinating little indy feature on a website - Aussie Short Films - and found myself getting drawn in. It won awards in a couple of major film festivals when it was made, but was probably prevented from achieving a wider release by its smell-of-an-oily-rag production values, particularly the sound. Let's face it: this was essentially something produced for a budget of a few thousand bucks by a group of ambitious teenagers a year out of high school themselves. Which makes it both rough and authentic.

Jacqueline McKenzie is great fun to watch as the smart sassy bitch slut Pandora, and the other actors in it, albeit less well known, are still believable in their roles. (Richard Bootle as the snarling Sebastian, Tim Hemingway as smartarse Leo, Tina Hoffmann as ingenue Kathy, Graham Wood as big dumb picked-on Simon, and Chris Reynolds as Cassius the teacher-from-hell.) Writer-director-cameraman-editor David W. Williams might have benefited from hiring a script editor- certainly he could have used a sound recordist- but his camera-work and editing is really pretty good, and he writes and directs like someone to watch. He certainly has plenty to say.

For me, this movie swings from very good to very bad then very good again. What makes me forgive it- indeed really like it- is the way it puts you back at school, and back in that schooldaze mindset: "If I don't pass this exam my life will be over!" That's exactly how it feels to any schoolkid. Powerful stuff.

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