Review: ‘Bad Kids Go to Hell’

Mix "The Breakfast Club" with "Ten Little Indians," then sprinkle with suggestions of supernatural influence, and you have "Bad Kids Go to Hell," a slickly produced and brazenly clever piece of work that could attract a cult by sheer dint of its ingenious nastiness and self-aware snark

Mix “The Breakfast Club” with “Ten Little Indians,” then sprinkle with suggestions of supernatural influence, and you have “Bad Kids Go to Hell,” a slickly produced and brazenly clever piece of work that could attract a cult by sheer dint of its ingenious nastiness and self-aware snark. Traditional multiplex bookings likely won’t work well for a guilty pleasure so obviously designed for consumption during midnight screenings at niche fests and similar genre-friendly venues. But this polished indie thriller could raise some hell as a homevid item after limited theatrical exposure.

Working from their own graphic novel, scripters Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick have concocted a smartly seriocomic scenario that is both twisty and twisted. Doubling as director, Spradlin aptly accelerates the pic’s pacing with the aid of fluid camera movement by lenser David Blood and propulsive cutting by editor Justin Wilson. The briskness of the storytelling is especially effective in the many flashbacks introduced during the time-tripping storyline, as Spradlin gradually reveals motives and backstories of his central characters — and gives his audience an ever-increasing number of reasons not to wish them well.

It’s a dark and stormy Saturday at Crestview Academy, a private high school where counselor Dr. Day (Jeffrey Schmidt) has summoned five students — spoiled Tricia (Ali Faulkner), high-strung Megan (Amanda Alch), nerdy Tarek (Marc Donato), jock Craig (Roger Edwards) and goth-chick Veronica (Augie Duke) — for eight hours of detention. A sixth student, bad boy Matt (Cameron Deane Stewart), more or less gate-crashes the detention session, just in time to be locked inside the school’s allegedly haunted library.

Veronica thinks the place is the perfect setting for a seance. Unfortunately, other students soon start dying “accidentally,” and there’s no way for the survivors to escape until Dr. Day returns and unlocks the inexplicably fortified doors.

The casting of “Breakfast Club” vet Judd Nelson in an extended cameo as the school’s officious headmaster is only one of the pic’s several wink-wink allusions to John Hughes’ 1985 teen classic. But the movie quoting doesn’t end there; visual and verbal references to everything from “Carrie” to “Twilight” to “Scooby-Doo” are scattered about like so much confetti.

For all its jokiness, however, “Bad Kids Go to Hell” generates a surprising amount of suspense, with teasing hints that the carnage is being caused by (what else?) the vengeful spirit of a Native American artist whose land was nefariously seized by school officials. The well-cast players — especially Duke and Stewart — offer performances that neatly balance sincerity and exaggeration, in keeping with the pic’s overall semi-satirical tone.

There’s at least one twist too many during the rapid-fire wrap-up — one that, it should be noted, doesn’t appear in the original graphic novel. But it’s sprung too late to do any real damage, or dampen the manic high spirits.

Bad Kids Go to Hell

Production

A BKGTH Prods. release and production. Produced by Barry Wernick, Brad Keller. Executive producers, Lori Madrid, James R. Hallam, David Genecov, Camrin Agin, Tommy G. Warren, Stuart Wernick. Directed by Matthew Spradlin. Screenplay, Barry Wernick, Spradlin, based on the graphic novel by Spradlin, Wernick.

Crew

Camera (color), David Blood; editor, Justin Wilson; music, Brain Flores; music supervisor, Jennifer Smith; production designer, Jason Hammond; set designers, John Parker, Winina Yu; art director, Marcus Laporte; sound, Scott Reynolds; casting, Katrina Cook; assistant director, Andrew James Clemons. Reviewed online, Houston, Dec. 14, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Judd Nelson, Ben Browder, Cameron Deane Stewart, Ali Faulkner, Roger Edwards, Marc Donato, Augie Duke, Amanda Alch, Jeffrey Schmidt, Chanel Ryan.

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  1. Zed says:

    I can’t work out if you’re being sarcastic or not in this review… Polished?! What on earth was polished about the film? I can’t quite even understand how anyone can make a feature-length film and let it be that sloppy and poorly written. Everything from the total lack of continuity, relevance or even understandability in the storyline and character motives, to the soul-crushingly low end CGI and effects that never fail to grate horribly, to the sheer nonsensical or impossible actions and events in the film…

    The film is quite literally an utter mess. The only thing that kept me watching it was that the actors were hot (and actually decent at acting – shame about the atrocious script though) – but they even managed to screw up the sex scene, which felt squeezed and unnecessary, and highly glossed over considering the amount of time they spend hinting that it was going to happen.

    This film makes me sad, because it could have been a really fun guilty pleasure flick if done even mediocrely. But instead the sheer number of lazy mistakes, totally impossible occurrences and massive overuse of inane disco remixes for the plethora of appalling slo-mo sequences annoyed me far too much to let me overlook them and enjoy the film for what it was trying to be.

    I can only assume this review is written as a joke, because no-one in their right mind would call the film ‘clever’, ‘slick’ or ‘effective’.

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