The calendar may say we still have a few weeks left of summer. But Labor Day weekend means the end of summer holidays. On Tuesday, it’s back to school for kids, big and small. And back to school for kids means navigating a world of social media, bullies, and … yes, frightening teachers, principals, and professors. Everyone remembers that teacher who centered you out in class. We all remember that college or university professor who dismissed your answer or offered glib feedback on your paper. Or maybe you dreaded your gym class where the football coach forced you into a life-and-death game of dodgeball. Regardless here’s the back-to-school edition of The Chopping Block looking at 10 of the worst educators in horror.
Mr. Fromm – Carrie (1976)
Of all the educators on this list, Mr. Fromm, played by Sydney Lassick , is arguably the least objectionable. For those who have seen Brian De Palma’s classic adaption of the Stephen King novel, Carrie, Mr. From is the high school English teacher who takes issue with Tommy Ross’ poem. Apparently, Mr. Fromm doesn’t think an athlete can put together words to form a basic poem. He also centered out poor Carrie White, humiliating her in front of the class. Wouldn’t fly today in 2023. But don’t worry, Mr. Fromm inevitably gets his comeuppance at horror’s most infamous prom.
Miss Kettlewell – Child’s Play 2 (1990)
The first of several follow-ups to the classic 80s slasher, Child’s Play 2 isn’t a school-based horror movie. Only a handful of scenes unfold in a classroom setting. Nonetheless, Beth Grant’s (Willy’s Wonderland) Miss Kettlewell stands out in the sequel, reminding us of all the worst teachers we ever experienced. Cold, stern, and disinterested in the happiness of her students, Miss Kettlewell eventually meets her demise at Chucky’s hands. And getting beaten to death with a yardstick feels appropriate. On a fun side note, Beth Grant would later play another scary version of a teacher in cult classic, Donnie Darko.
Principal Arthur Himbry – Scream (1996)
Poor Principal Arthur Himbry. Played by Happy Days and Barry alum Henry Winkler, this high school principal was actually pretty well-intentioned. Following the death of two of his student, Principal Himbry takes offense to two of his student making light of the situation. Maybe brandishing a pair of scissors was overkill. But Principal Himbry meant well – he certainly didn’t deserve the indignity of his student flocks to check out his dead body hanging from the football field goalpost. At least his death scene was among the more memorable in Wes Craven’s Scream.
Dr. Edgar Caldicott – Disturbing Behavior (1998)
School psychologist Dr. Edgar Caldicott, played by Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood, may be one the worst educators on this list. Unlike some of the other bad educators here, Dr. Caldicott is neither misguided nor overcome by some supernatural force. In a teen horror spin on The Stepford Wives, Disturbing Behavior finds Greenwood’s Dr. Caldicott experimenting with brainwashing to create the perfect, conforming students. If you’ve ever wondered if the popular clique at your high school were just a bunch mindless followers, Disturbing Behavior may confirm your suspicions.
Coach Willis – The Faculty (1998)
In high school, everyone probably had that gym teacher who bullied and harassed them that term you had had to take gym. Robert Rodriguez’s sci-fi, horror movie The Faculty – which puts a teen spin on Invasion of the Body Snatchers – finds Robert Patrick (What Josiah Saw) in fine form as a menacing football coach. In fact, you could probably include any of the educators from The Faculty, which plays on every student’s worst nightmare – what if your teachers really are out to get you. When Patrick’s Coach Willis chases down Elijah Woods’ (Maniac) class nerd, it probably sends shiver down the spine of anyone who wasn’t athletically gifted.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999)
Writer Kevin Williamson has penned the screenplays for several big horror movies including Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and Sick. Yet there’s only one instance of Williamson getting behind the camera to direct – Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Originally entitled Killing Mrs. Tingle, the teen horror flick suffered from a backlash in the wake of the Columbine shootings. Williamson’s story of an honor roll high school student and her friends caught in an escalating battle with a mean, vindictive high school teacher failed to spark much interest among critics or fans. Even Helen Mirren playing Mrs. Eve Tingle couldn’t save this late 90s teen horror. Still Mirren is a lot of fun in the role and she’ll likely remind you of that one teacher who always had it out for you.
Principal Steven Wilkins – Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Though it never earned a proper theatrical release, Trick ‘r Treat has become a Halloween classic. Amidst the anthology segments and ensemble cast, Steven Wilkins, played by Dylan Baker, initially seems like a kindly school principal imparting a valuable lesson on one his trick-or-treating student. And then he turns out to be a serial killer poisoning his student with a cyanide-laced chocolate bar. What’s worse, he appears to a single father to a precocious little boy. But don’t worry, Principal Wilkins later meets his match in a fun subversion of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.
Richard Fenton – Prom Night (2008)
University professors dating students is pretty much frowned upon today. High school teachers crushing on students is illegal. But that’s the conceit of the 2008 Prom Night remake – an obsessed teacher willing to kill to be with a former student. There’s actually a decent cast in attendance for this aughts’ slasher remake including Brittany Snow, Idris Elba (Beast), Johnathan Schaech (Jackals, Day of the Dead: Bloodline), and James Ransone (It: Chapter 2, The Black Phone). However, most of the 2000s horror remakes were pretty middling efforts, And Prom Night was among the worst.
Dr. Alan Grant – American Mary (2012)
Canadian body horror movie American Mary was released a few years before the #MeToo movement. Nonetheless, the Soska Sisters’ (Rabid) story of a young medical student performing extreme body modification to eek out a living seems almost prescient now. What sets Mary on her path – a heinous sexual assault committed by her professor, Dr. Alan Grant – touches on several issues that would finally face some public reckoning when women began sharing their stories with the #MeToo hashtag. Some of the Soska Sisters’ messaging gets lost in the uncomfortable gore. And the finale is a bit dissatisfying though it does stay true to the thriller’s bigger themes around misogyny and power. At least Dr. Grant gets some well-deserved payback for his abuse of power.
Professor Gelson – Black Christmas (2019)
When the second attempt at a Black Christmas remake was released in 2019, some horror fans were faux-outraged by its strong feminist messaging. Aside from the fact that those people clearly missed a big part of the original, the 2019 remake at least tried to do something other than rehashing what had come before it. And Carey Elwes’ (Saw, The Crush) Professor Gelson may be the most villainous educator on this list. It’s bad enough he’s a raging misogynist who refuses to teach books written by women. No, he takes it one step further. It turns out Gelson runs the campus’ fraternity as something of a cult devoted to university founder Calvin Hawthorne – a practitioner of black magic designed to control women. Not surprisingly, Elwes makes for a compelling villain and this Black Christmas is much better than reviews suggested.