An exercise in pain and torture which is wholly lacking in purpose, depth or value…
Maybe, just maybe The Lesson started out in life as a project with a purpose. I feel that I’m being rather overly kind when I say that though because just about any semblance of that has been since lost in a swamp of ill-defined scripting, hateful characters and indulgent nihilistic tendencies. The film initially appears to have some greater purpose, constantly drawing (admittedly ill-advised) comparisons between itself and literary works such as Lord of the Flies and Paradise Lost. But it becomes clear very early on that these are nothing more than hollow and unachievable pretensions as we struggle to stave off the tedium which is so cruelly inflicted upon us.
To its credit The Lesson does come up with a concept for a torture porn movie that feels a little more imaginative than your average entry into the genre. It chooses to make its sadistic killer a put upon teacher who, ground down by twenty years of dealing with kids from hell, snaps and kidnaps two of them and proceeds to try and teach them an important lesson in human sin and our inherently evil nature. How does he reinforce his lessons and make sure they hit home? Well with all manner of tools like hammers, nails, nail guns… you get the idea. Here the film makes two critical errors in judgement; the first being that it doesn’t give us anyone to root for after giving us extremely unsympathetic leads and not building enough empathy for the teacher either before he looses control. The second error is that it then just sticks with an endless repetition of the teacher (played quite well by Robert Hands) berating his students, delivering monologues on morality and art and then hammering nails into various places on the kids bodies. It’s just that scene over and over (save for one unengaging and superfluous sub-plot) for what feels like hours.
Don’t mistake this review to be a negative reflex response by a critic who was deeply sickened by the ultraviolence on display here, the film doesn’t even hit all that hard. The torture scenes, for all that the film is enamoured with them, fail to have any real impact if its audience have any experience in the genre whatsoever. Even they fail to hold our attention. Unfortunately there is very little to recommend here; the film’s one positive is Hand’s performance but even that never truly rises above the script which makes a cartoon villain out of a potentially quite interesting character. Take my advice and avoid this one entirely, there are plenty of more impactful torture flicks out there if that’s your thing, and if you’re looking for a new horror movie to watch the much more interesting Last Girl Standing has also just hit VOD, take a look at that instead.
The Lesson has been released on VOD in the UK since February 29th through FrightfestPresents. Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!