Film Review: Bad Kids of Crestview AcademyA genuinely ugly and misguided attempt at merging dark comedy with gore.
When you try to cross The Breakfast Club with Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, there’s always some hope you’ll end up with something darkly comic like the 1988 classic Heathers. More likely, you’ll end up with something like Bad Kids of Crestview Academy.
Crestview is a sequel to the similar 2012 film Bad Kids Go to Hell—which itself was based on a comic book—but the only constant between the movies is actor Ben Browder (“Stargate SG-1”), who reprises his role as school janitor Max, while at the same time making his directorial debut.
As stated in the title, the movie takes place at the elite Crestview high school, where a SWAT team descends on a female student wielding a flame thrower, trying to get the viewer to wonder, “How did it get to this place?”
The girl is Siouxsie (sic) Hess, played by child actor Sammi Hanratty, a feisty “undercrust” student who deliberately gets herself thrown into Saturday detention with four of Crestview’s upper-crust students she suspects know something about her older sister Allison’s suicide at a party. The five of them are put into a locked room with no key, and as Siouxsie tries to figure things out, they start being picked off one by one in progressively gorier fashion.
There came a point—probably around the time of the Columbine shootings—when trying to make a dark comedy about high-school students killing one another just wasn’t funny anymore. Bad Kids of Crestview Academy goes so far beyond the point of bad taste on a regular basis, few who willingly see it will care about that obvious connection.
Even more flagrant is the parade of lazy high-school stereotypes that might have worked better if this were a television series where they could have been developed further. They’re mostly portrayed in a way that comes off as flagrantly racist. There’s Blaine Wilkes (Colby Arps), the son of a senator played by Gina Gershon, and the gay and Latino stereotype Brian (Matthrew Frias), as well as two ethnically mixed popular girls in Faith (Sophia Taylor Ali) and Sara Hasegawa (Erika Daly). At least the latter of these gets a fun dance number at the party before being killed in gory fashion.
Sean Astin, Gina Gerson and even Drake Bell are listed as “special appearances” in the opening credits, and despite playing brief supporting roles, they’re generally the best part of the movie, even if Astin tends to go overboard trying to get laughs as the school’s dorky headmaster, Mr. Nash. His daughter Ali Astin must have been hired for a small inconsequential role as part of a two-for-one deal.
Maybe we shouldn’t blame the actors as much as the inane dialogue they’re forced to say, because the film is plagued by a screenplay that doesn’t seem to understand how real people talk, let alone teenagers, throwing in as much snarky chatter as possible in an attempt at being clever. The movie consistently attempts to get a reaction by being edgy, like having the teenage Siouxsie bumping and grinding like a stripper on the roof of the headmaster’s car to insure she gets into detention.
The film borrows an overused film device of showing the same party scenes over and over from different perspectives, trying to create some sense of mystery behind who might be killing those in detention. By the third or fourth time we’ve seen some of the lame gags, we’re wondering why such an inexperienced filmmaker would bother with such an overly complex plot. (By the third time you hear dated songs like “La Bamba” playing at said party—presumably since that was the only song the producers could afford the rights to—you might be ready to rip out your own eardrums.)
The last act goes overboard on the gore, as if the movie completely forgot it started out as a comedy. If the finale isn’t crazy enough, it then randomly brings in a new group of previously unseen “undercrust” students to take Siouxsie out, which leads back to the opening scene with the SWAT team. To endure all that just to end up back at the beginning makes you feel as if you have wasted your time.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy is such an ugly, unpleasant and nearly unwatchable movie, director Browder should have stuck with his day job playing a high-school janitor.
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