How far would you go to uncover the truth? Would you, say, do anything you could to get into a detention session? Would you brave potentially murderous forces, including massive political cover-ups and the threat of a supernatural curse? These questions are asked by the heroine of Bad Kids of Crestview Academy, the directorial debut of sci-fi great Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate: SG-1).
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy is the sequel to 2012’s Bad Kids Go to Hell, itself a fun romp into high school angst that straddles the line between horror and comedy with as much gallows humor and honesty as the graphic novel of the same name. Bad Kids of Crestview Academy picks up four years after its predecessor, right on time in the real world. Our final girl (or guy, in this case), Matt (Cameron Deane Stewart, of iCarly and Pitch Perfect), now resides in a mental institution, proclaiming innocence in the massacre that left the kids of Bad Kids Go to Hell dead. Echoes of Matt’s experience abound throughout the film: as he’s not around to endure another detention session with the obnoxious and wealthy, we get to follow the adventures of rebellious sophomore Siouxsie (Sammi Hanratty, of Mom’s Night Out and Pushing Daisies). Siouxsie needs to figure out if her fellow priviledged classmates had anything to do with the death of her sister Alyson (Ashlyn McEvers), a budding reporter. Was it really just an accident, or is there foul play afoot? Can this Breakfast Club survive detention and get to the truth?
The good news: Bad Kids of Crestview Academy features a cast with bite. Hanratty is a more than believable lead: she shifts from angry rebel to sensitive younger sister to take-charge warrior with ease. Her performance is definitely a highlight, and I can see where she’s got the potential to go far in the future, as her line delivery and mannerisms didn’t have to reach into the overwrought school of acting. Also as good in this department were Colby Arps (Men, Women & Children) as senator’s son Blaine and Erika Daly (Culpability) as naive, cat-obsessed Sara. Both stood out as having truly thought out their characters, which made their screentime enjoyable and easy to watch. Even the time spent with Gina Gershon (Bound, Showgirls) as a calculating senator provides fun and social commentary. Sweetly, we even get to see some moments between veteran actor Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, The Goonies, Rudy) and his daughter, Ali Astin, in her debut. Watching this team will leave you with a sense of comfort and ease; these two belong in front of a camera together, as their dynamic is, dare I say, soothing. I also would love to see the elder Astin do more comedy as he ages, as his Headmaster Nash has moments that seemingly channel Ray Walston’s Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Sidenote: Ali Astin provides some of the music in the soundtrack. Girlfriend has some impressive pipes. Keep an eye and an ear on this one.)
Now for the not-so-good news: the film stumbles a little bit once we get to the 45-minute mark. First-time director Browder starts off strong, with a comic book edge in both visuals and tone that respectfully and deftly work in the influence of the original work of the graphic novel penned by screenwriter original author Barry Wernick. Browder has a great sense of when to use gore and when to look away, which is both refreshing and stylish in an era of filmmaking that prides itself on extremes. However, the plot goes a little Scooby Doo after a certain point, and even then, it piles on reveal after reveal to the point of bypassing commentary in order to go straight for camp. This beeline, while fun for a shlock fan like me, feels out of line with the overall tone of the first half of the film. Less would have been more in this instance.
Overall, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy starts off with a stylish bang, but loses steam around the halfway point. Still, I’m not so fast to discredit Browder and his cast. Clearly, they’re bound to go on for things that are both large and as-yet-to-be-seen. You will come away feeling as though you’ve watched the early work of people who are going places, from an acting, directing and writing perspective. This would be a good place to watch that evolution begin.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy: (3 / 5)
will be released on January 13, 2017 by Momentum Pictures in select theaters and on demand / digital HD.