1988’s ‘The Stay Awake’ is Entertaining and Somewhat Original (review)

The film opens with the death of Brown, murderer of eleven women, who vows revenge on his executioners. Cut to St. Mary’s School for Girls, where eight students and their den mother Miss Walton are raising money by staying awake at the school all night (hence the title). Brown decides to give them a visit, picking them off one by one. The girls and Miss Walton must band together to stop his supernatural killing spree.

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I first stumbled upon this movie while browsing through Netflix’s streaming selection; it caught my eye because it was classified as African; I’d never seen an African horror movie. While filmed in South Africa, it actually takes place in Europe, with actors who sound English and are for the most part white. It’s still exotic in its own way, like when Brown manifests himself as a creature that looks like a giant bush baby.

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I kill you with my adorbableness!

Also a little different is this slasher’s depiction of women, at least Miss Walton. The girls get slaughtered for breaking rules and for wandering off by themselves and they tend to cower. But Miss Walton never falters. She oozes confidence with lines like, “If you want a fight, dammit, you’re going to get one!” and “If I have to kill whatever it is with my bare hands, I will,” and “If you want me, well, just try it.” She encourages the girls to keep fighting the ghostly invader, even throwing javelins at it.

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Unlike other slashers, there is no nudity or large amounts of gore (I’m not sure why it’s rated R). It’s also slow-paced, with the first murder happening forty-one minutes into the film (unless you count a rat or a cassette player). Not that that time is spent on character development; the eight girls are fairly interchangeable throughout. I think of them as Naughty, Handsome, Ponytail, Mousy, Flat-top, Mean, Crisps (because she eats a lot of them), and French Braid. I don’t have any major gripes about the movie. I do get tired of the overuse of cross-cutting and point-of-view shots. The acting isn’t great, but it’s not painfully bad. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for legwarmers, leotards, and murder.

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*Normally I’d put a trailer here, but I seriously couldn’t find one.

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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