Teenage horror had a big year in 2016 with the releases of Yoga Hosers, Nerve and, if you’re across the pond in the UK, the terrific The Final Girls. This trend looks set to continue with Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy, the lively, colourful, balls-to-the-wall crazy sequel (though familiarity with its predecessor is not a prerequisite) to 2012’s Bad Kids Go To Hell.
Both are loosely based on popular graphic novels by Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick. The pair co-wrote the screenplay for the first movie, with Spradlin also helming the feature, but this time around only Wernick gets a writing credit, while the reins are handed over to first-timer, and Bad Kids 1 survivor Ben Browder, who also has a supporting role.
If it all sounds a bit manic and confusing, well, it is. The two films begin in much the same way, with an unconvincingly-attired, but committed, SWAT team descending on the titular school, where one, surviving students appears to have gone on a rampage, killing those who were unlucky enough to serve detention with her (the “bad kids” of the title).
Last time around, the mood was Breakfast Club goes horror. This time, the kids never even make it to the library. Instead, the carnage takes place in several other rooms on the sprawling campus where Siouxsie (Sammi Hanratty, wearing too much eyeliner–so we know she’s bad) plans to take revenge on those she feels were responsible for her sister’s death.
We know right off the bat that Siouxsie is going to survive, because she’s the first character we meet, brandishing a shoddy-looking flamethrower and facing down a whole team of federal agents. Although the central mystery isn’t terribly captivating (or plausible) Hanratty is a likeable screen presence with enough moxie and spunk to make us believe in her plight.
The rest of the cast fare less well, positioned as they are as caricatures including the bitchy gay who says “wink wink” after every sentence instead of just, you know, winking. This at least makes them more fun to pick off, which the movie delights in doing in escalatingly gory fashion. At the same time, it’s goofy as hell, which makes the thing more than slightly tonally awkward.
Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy at least keeps Siouxsie’s motivations satisfyingly unclear throughout. Even when she seems like a ballsy heroine, she also has a crazy glint in her eyes that could spell trouble. And, in spite of the fact she looks like she’s been assaulted by a Mac store, at least Hanratty and the rest of her cohorts appear to be playing near enough their own ages.
The flick has a number of glorified cameos from stars with name recognition including, inexplicably, Gina Gershon (“and Gina Gershon”) and, in a role clearly positioned to give him a bit more edge, Drake Bell (“with Drake Bell”) as a hacker with zero morals. Both are passable, neither overly invested nor obviously bored.
The standout, in a so-called “special appearance” is Sean Astin, stepping into the shoes of Judd Nelson, who has serious fun as the fuddy-duddy principal with a wickedly daft false moustache. Espousing lines such as “take his cock out of your mouth!” (a line a lot of fan-boys were likely waiting to hear come out of Sam’s mouth) with absolute gusto, Astin is a delight to watch.
He’s also representative of the movie’s surprisingly smart sense of humour. The kids are completely obnoxious, glued to their phones and narcissistic to a fault. One giddily takes selfies with a corpse, another suggests “350 likes can’t be wrong!”. Rather than glorifying this behaviour, Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy leaves us in no doubt the joke is on them.
It’s loaded with snarky, self-referential teenage bullshit to compliment its funky, comic book interludes (which also help to mask the dodgy SFX–seriously, you’ve never seen fire look this unconvincing in a movie before) while Jeff Gardini’s score hurtles along at a breakneck pace, ensuring the energy never sags.
Browder clearly has a handle on how this material should look, and how despicably these characters should be to keep us interested. He’s essentially created the deformed cousin of Yoga Hosers and Detention, which will either fill you with dread or glee depending on your predilection for teenage slang and schlocky gore.
The director has a good time, too, as a creepy janitor whose look appears to have been based on WWE wrestler Dean Ambrose. In reality, Browder has appeared in everything from Stargate to Doctor Who, so one could reasonably assume he knows exactly how to pitch his bizarre performance which, naturally, fits in perfectly with the chaos of his movie.
Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy is bright, obnoxious, over the top and super silly but it’s far from the worst way to spend a couple of hours. It’s easy to imagine this showing up on Mystery Science Theater in about twenty years time, and the ending suggests there may even be more to come from the series, so best get on board this crazy train now.
WICKED RATING: 5/10
Director(s): Ben Browder
Writer(s): Barry Wernick, James R. Hallam
Stars: Sean Astin, Drake Bell, Gina Gershon, Sammi Hanratty
Release: January 13, 2017 (VOD and limited theatrical release)
Studio/ Production Co: BKG2H Productions
Length: 100 minutes
Sub-Genre: Revenge, horror-comedy