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Simon Read [Celluloid 07.03.17] action comedy thriller

Really, within minutes of this film starting, I began to regret my decision. I could have been in another screening, watching a film starring Toby Jones, but I thought this looked like a fun flick. The Bad Kids of Crestview Academy boasts that it is a delirious mash-up of The Breakfast Club and Heathers, a gory romp surrounding a group of misfit rich kids facing off against a serial killer during a Saturday detention at an elite private school. Yeah, it really sounded like it could be good...

We're introduced to our characters through snappy pop-punk visual profiles as they exit their expensive cars and head to detention. This is, without doubt, the laziest way to establish character, directly breaking the show-don't-tell rule while assaulting us with 'favourites' and 'hashtags' to sum up each character's personality, simultaneously assuring that we won't care one jot about them. Urgh. These nasty little kids include a rich, bratty young man named Blaine (Colby Arps); a flamboyantly gay, Latino coke-head, Brian (Matthew Frias); bitchy Asian chick Sara (Erika Daly); and dimwitted cheerleader Faith (Sophia Taylor Ali). A late addition to the group is a girl named Siouxie, played by Sammi Hanratty, who has deliberately engineered a place in detention for her own mysterious reasons.

We then learn that the new school counselor, Dr. Knight (Sufe Bradshaw) has assumed a softer approach to discipline ever since a killing took place at the school several years previously, and now many of the pupils and staff believe the place is haunted. High-tech security and passcodes ensure total and complete safety for all staff and pupils, so now of course, nothing can possibly go worng...

The kids bicker and snap at one another, eventually settling in a lecture theatre to brood and watch cat videos on Youtube, but it's not long before they start getting bumped-off in increasingly horrible and unpleasant ways. Everyone is a suspect, including the creepy janitor, Max (played by the film's director, Farcape's Ben Browder), who skulks around he corridors with his mop and bucket. The kids need to work together to discover the killer's identity as the school spontaneously goes into total lockdown, and the good counselor disappears.

What follows is a series of bloody murders, somewhat neutered by their bizarre transition into comic-style cartoons at the moment of death (the film is based on a graphic novel by Barry Wernick) which I guess was meant to look cool, or to save the film from an R-rating. Eventually, a conspiracy is revealed, connecting to the suspicious suicide of Siouxie's sister at a recent party, after which Siouxie began her own investigations. The film barrels along, becoming increasingly convoluted, until a final showdown between murderer and hero takes place amidst a chaotic finale involving a government SWAT team storming the building.

The Bad Kids of Crestview Academy... is an unpleasant film. I had minor flashbacks to that time I voluntarily sat down to watch Kick-Ass 2, and felt slightly nauseous and upset. It's gratuitous, badly-written and ugly - sloppily edited with disjointed transitions, and the performances are universally bad: stilted, awkward, unconvincing. It's simply a pain to sit there and watch it, waiting, willing it to end.

There are vaguely amusing cameos from Drake Bell as a smutty hacker and Sean Austin as the school's neurotic principle, but I know they really need money now because nobody remembers them - and having former child-stars in the film must have seemed like a sly nod to something, I'm not sure what. By the time Gina Gershon's evil senator Wilkes enters the narrative and reveals her plans for world domination using genetically enhanced cockroaches, I was watching in envy as other members of the press just started leaving - their seats making that little thump as they each stood up, one by one, to exit the theatre. The audience went from ten to about six by the end, one guy had fallen asleep. I hope an usher woke him gently and told him it was all over now and he was going to be okay.

The film is ambitious, utilizing various narrative technique - flashbacks, twists, red-herrings - to tell a story which jumps way beyond the budget of the film, and (crucially) the capabilities of the director. It doesn't help that the characters have such awkward chemistry either, reading their lines as if it were first rehearsal at a summer school drama class. I understand it's a low-budget indie, but why aim for something akin to a horror blockbuster version of She's All That? Why not keep it simple. John Hughes did, and that worked.

As ever, I applaud the filmmakers, actors and all concerned for having actually made a film. It's an agonizing process. I hope their next projects are better - but I cannot recommend this film to anyone. I bet the one with Toby Jones was better...

Recommended Release: The Perfect Score

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Wumpus (3 years ago) Reply

Funny that Sean Astin has gone from drek like "Icebreaker" to the LOTR movies and back to drek like this.


johnnyblanco (3 years ago) Reply

This was a comic book series by antartic press called bad kids go to hell. There was a movie like that and this might be a sequel?

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