Written by: Josh Hancock
Director: Ben Browder
Cast: Sean Astin, Gina Gershon, Sammi Hanratty, Drake Bell, Matthew Frias, Sophia Taylor Ali, Sufe Bradshaw, Cameron Deane Stewart
Director Ben Browder’s new film, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy, plays like a deranged version of The Breakfast Club mixed with traces of the Final Destination series–and for audiences that know what to expect from this satirical sequel to 2012’s Bad Kids Go to Hell, there is definitely enough here for an entertaining night at the movies. While the off-color jokes often fall flat and the attempts at clever dialogue don’t always work, the actors perform their roles with vigor and give the film a boost where other elements are lacking. The picture presents a compelling mystery about a young girl’s violent death and the cast of suspicious characters who linger about her circle.
Tough-girl Siouxsie (Sammi Hanratty) intends to investigate the circumstances surrounding her sister’s suicide by infiltrating a group of kids forced to serve detention at an illustrious private school. Siouxsie believes someone murdered her sister and that the killer hides among the group of generally obnoxious teens, including gay drug dealer Brian (Matthew Frias), sultry pretty-girl Faith (Sophia Taylor Ali), and smooth-talker Matt (Cameron Deane Stewart). While most of the characters are unmemorable and unlikable (intentionally so), Hanratty portrays Siouxsie with dark determination; she’s a spunky heroine unafraid of resorting to desperate measures in order to flush out the bad guy. Meanwhile, Sean Astin gets the most laughs as the school’s bumbling headmaster and Gina Gershon is coolly sinister as a senator whose role in the film grows more prominent as the story reaches its climax. Though some of the writing and character depictions may be flawed, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy functions well as a campy thriller that satisfies in the blood-and-guts department.
Browder’s film succeeds as an entertaining slasher, and many of the kill sequences, especially one inside the school’s machine shop, are over-the-top and delightfully gory. The special and visual effects match the story’s comic-book origins and there’s great enjoyment to be had in watching the more vile characters come to their brutal deaths. Director Browder and screenwriters Barry Wernick and James R. Hallam clearly embrace the exaggerated and comedic plot, and by the time the climax rolls around the film becomes action-driven and darkly absurd. At the same time, the story does include some subtle and serious motifs, including suicide, bullying, and sexual harassment, all of which are significant in the real world of teens and high school culture.
Musically, Browder juxtaposes traditionally “beautiful” songs, such as “What a Wonderful World,” with carnage and bloodshed–it’s a crafty technique that works. Visually, the film looks fantastic: cinematography by Charles Schner captures perfectly the academic setting and the fast-paced action while the animated sequences explode with rich and evocative colors. Though Bad Kids of Crestview Academy struggles to transcend a typical high school horror movie, many scenes are fun to watch and the black comedy elicits a few laughs. Go into the film expecting a guilty pleasure, some raunchy comedy, and a plenty of gruesome blood splatter and you’ll have a good time.