Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Cinema File #130: "Bad Kids Go To Hell" Review

I've never read the comic upon which this movie is based, and the only reason I heard about it in the first place is because I periodically check Ben Browder's upcoming filmography in the vain hopes of a Farscape reunion movie. He's got a small but still significant role in Bad Kids Go To Hell, an unsubtle attempt to remake The Breakfast Club for the horror set, and while it is often too stylish for its own good and has quite possibly the stupidest twist ending in recent memory, I found myself still mostly enjoying a good 75-80% of it.

Bad Kids Go To Hell follows a group of juvenile delinquents at an elite private school who find themselves locked in a library for detention, only to be picked off one by one by a mysterious force that may be one of them, or may be the ghost of a dead Native American haunting the grounds. The first ten minutes or so seems like it was deliberately shot and edited in such a way as to make me want to stop the movie, but once we get into the main set piece of the film and the kids are left alone, it begins to get incrementally more enjoyable, that is until the final reveal, which is incredibly stupid, then kind of cool again, and then even more stupid thanks to a mid credit sequence.

This is the kind of movie that demands a little more effort to get into it, because the characters are as the title suggests, assholes that aren't supposed to be lovable or easy to engage with. You shouldn't like them, but rather love to hate them, which I often find is a harder thing to do in movies. The only redeemable one is the main protagonist, a kid on parole said to be the worst among them, but who as we learn in a series of flashbacks is more misunderstood, while the others only get more despicable as the movie goes on. These interludes revealing why each kid was in detention are easily the best part of the movie, and are each punctuated by a cameo from Brat Pack alum Judd Nelson as an increasingly hilarious no-nonsense principal.

As for the main action of the film, anymore I find myself tuning out of horror movies when it become apparent that the only thing left to do is run down the body count (which is a strange thing to say considering how many horror movies start at that point). To its credit, Bad Kids Go To Hell never quite gets so redundant and intersperses the death and destruction with an interesting mystery that is at least fun to experience as its unfurling, even if as I mentioned it is not resolved well. The deaths are also a bit more fun and sometimes more creative than usual, and in the midst of the terrible twist, there's a certain nihilistic glee to the last shot that I could still enjoy even as I was rolling my eyes.

Bad Kids Go To Hell is by the end a bit of a mixed bag, but I'd say that overall there is at least as much to love as there is to hate. I certainly don't regret the time I spent watching it, and as much as I think it was a story that had a lot more potential than its execution suggests, what we get is enough to justify the expense. Maybe just try to imagine a better ending about ten minutes before it wraps up. It couldn't be that hard to do.
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