Let me start by stating for the record that I know this isn't, by definition alone, a Horror movie. It is more a dark comedy/thriller, but I thought it would make an interesting addition to Chiller's review section - not to mention I didn't want to pass up a chance to review another Kevin Williamson movie!
The movie kicks off feeling very much like an episode of Dawson's (gag!) Creek, with DC-regular Katie Holmes getting ready for school. At that point I was feeling a little worried that perhaps Williamson - who also took on role of director in this - would let me down with a boring high-school story that has been done a million times before. Luckily, ten minutes in the Dawson's (gag!) Creek elements are quickly discarded with, and things get very serious.
Helen Mirren, who I have never seen in anything before, was absolutely phenomenal in the role of Mrs. Tingle and Williamson's sharp dialogue gives the character a very dark and ominous feel. As Williamson has demonstrated in many of his movies, his strength is in his ability to create three-dimensional characters that the audience is passionate about. With Mrs. Tingle he managed to create an instantly hateable lady who is clever in her sometimes subtle, sometimes-not criticisms of other people. Mirren herself keeps the viewer constantly in the dark as to whether or not she is putting on an act, or speaking from the heart, and this adds an underlying tension to the film that is reminiscent of the more genre-oritented works from Williamson.
Katie Holmes does her usual stint as the girl-next-door, but she was impressive as she expresses subtly her character's fears of becoming her mother and never escaping her hometown (kudos here to Williamson's thoughtful direction). Also the dynamic between her character and her best-friend was an interesting departure from the traditional 'best-friend' cliche.
There are some extremely funny scenes and lines included, all delivered in a dark way. A segment in which a character re-enacts the possession scene from The Exorcist is particularly funny (in a sick, twisted sort of way) and is far more amusing than the entire movie Repossessed.
At the heart of Teaching Mrs. Tingle is an excellent little morality tale that at first is a little reminiscent of I Know What You Did Last Summer, but soon becomes very different and original - the concept of tying up your teacher and bribing her into not spilling the beans is one that is completely convention-breaking in itself! The final confrontation of the movie is a scene in which the tension is cranked up to an almost unbearable level, and it is undeniably creepy.
A taught and involving thriller with a splash of comedy that actually works surprisingly well. A well-rounded, impressive cast only add to what is definitely a must-see-movie.