Tales from Middleton High is, as you may have already guessed, an anthology film centered around a high school. Five tales of what writer/director Zach Lorkiewicz (Blood, The Knock) refers to as “pop horror” related by Principal Clemens (Roxanne Saylor, My Bloody Wedding, The Woman Without a Face) who is introduced in a spoof of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theater”.
The first segment “Pep” chronicles the battle between the Pom Poms and the Cheerleaders to win the 85th Annual Pep Rally Dance Off. The Poms have never won before but this year Penelope (Avril Dominguez, Something’s Wrong with Cameron, Screwed) has something up her sleeve.
Running just about ten minutes, “Pep” is mostly sendups of high school life building to a bloody final gag. Funny rather than scary it gets Tales from Middleton High off to a good start.
The second story, “I Love Lucy” is a tale of Lucy (Danielle Lauder, The Charnel House, The Stanford Prison Experiment) and Rex (Jacob Kogan, Star Trek, The Tomorrow People) a young couple looking to make the Valentine’s Dance their special night.
This segment is more serious although not in a horrific way. It plays like a teen drama up until the final reveal. It also gave me a major case of deja vu, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
For the third segment, “The Cheerleader Trials” Lorkiewicz takes us to Middleton High’s theater department. Greta (Anjali Nath, Two Paper Nightingales, Privacy Please) is about to give her final performance on the school’s stage. But before it can start the play’s curse strikes leaving one of the cast dead in a tragic accident involving a prop guillotine and the school on lockdown.
This one was shot as if it actually was a play, with the actresses alone in a black, featureless room. And it does resemble an extremely condensed version of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” as paranoia and suspicion overwhelm the characters.
Up next, “The Ball”, which was co-written by Michael Coe who also the next segment, “Loveless”, maintains the theatrical feel of “The Cheerleader Trials”. Two women, one alive, one dead, and both played by Avril Dominguez, verbally spar over who a young man will be taking to the ball.
All of the dialogue in this segment is in the form of Shakesperian-styled verse which goes well with the characters’ old-fashioned gown and gives an odd counterpoint to the present-day setting.
Before we get to Tales from Middleton High’s last segment, let me diverge for a moment. Remember I said “I Love Lucy” gave me a case of deja vu? Well, after a bit of digging around on IMDB, I realized why. “I Love Lucy” was shot in 2016 and I’d reviewed it for one of the sites I was contributing to back then. In fact, four of the film’s five segments were shot in 2016 or 2017. Which explains the recurring characters and performers.
The final segment “Loveless” was filmed in 2022 with new characters and performers and is only connected to the rest of Tales from Middleton High by way of being set in Middleton. It’s the story of a group of girls, Kelly (Anastasia Katarina, Demon Fighter, Cabin Stay), Fifi (Sarah O’Connor), Daphne (Lauren Elyse Buckley, 2025 Armageddon, Foursome), and Brittney (Brittany Lewis, American Zombieland, Shattered) who hold a seance in the allegedly haunted Middleton Manor. Of course, they conjure up the spirit of Mad Melinda (Sarah J. Bartholomew, Sweet Taste of Souls, Pasture) with dire results.
At twenty-five minutes, this segment takes up a third of Tales from Middleton High’s running time. Unfortunately, that extended length as well as it being the only straight-up horror story in Tales from Middleton High makes it feel very out of place. The annoyingly shrill and obnoxious characters, combined with lots of jump cuts made it a chore to sit through.
Up until then, however, Tales from Middleton High was doing a good job of keeping me entertained despite its lack of actual horror elements. It had the same vibe as those British TV shows where what appears to be a plain drama takes a macabre twist at the end. It’s too bad Lorkiewicz had to tack on such an out-of-place last segment and ruin the effect.
Whether or not the other segments make Tales from Middleton High worth watching is a bit of a toss-up and will depend on your tastes. But since it is currently available free on Tubi there’s no reason not to if it sounds like your kind of film.