You all remember 2012’s comic adaptation of Bad Kids Go To Hell, right? Probably not. Most seem to have missed Matthew Spradlin’s under-the-radar private school thriller, but – nevertheless – Ben Browder makes his directorial debut with the film’s follow-up sequel, Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy. Once again, a handful of rebellious, not-so-angelic students find themselves serving a deadly detention sentence where anything goes. Sex, drugs and adorable kitten videos – these kids are anarchists to the core, soaked in spoiled-teens-so-rotten-you-want-them-dead appeal. Welcome back to creator Barry Wernick’s educational house of horrors, just don’t mind the stripped-down nature of this barebones continuation.
Sammi Hanratty stars as Siouxsie Hess, a Crestview student seeking vengeance after the death of her sister Alyson (Ashlyn McEvers). Not too long ago, the academy held a party where Siouxsie’s sister supposedly committed suicide. A handful of students corroborated the same story, all of whom were given detention for separate actions throughout their debaucherous nights. There’s Brian Marquez (Matthew Frias), the flamboyant drug addict, Blaine Wilkes (Colby Arps), a Senator’s not-so clean son, Faith Jackson (Sophia Taylor Ali), the stereotypical “slut,” and Sara Hasegawa (Erika Daly), the…well…cat lover? Siouxsie hatches a plan to invade their weekend detention and uncover the truth, but instead finds herself trapped on school grounds after one of the “bad kids” is found dead. Locked inside school? With a murderer? ON A SATURDAY?!
Most will recognize Ben Browder’s name because he also plays the role of Max, Crestview’s native-heritage janitor. You see, the original film attempts a haunted vibe by introducing an Indian burial ground backstory for Crestview’s plot of land. Seances and spooky undertones, that kind of stuff – everything Browder’s film abandons. This is more a preps-gone-postal take with social reflection and savage puppet mastery, albeit while sacrificing some of the appeal Bad Kids Go To Hell established. Sinister visuals and more cinematic definition are abandoned for pulpy comic vibes decked out in deathmatch cheapness, outlining a mystery without much reveal potential.
Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy immediately evokes a brighter, less shadowy tone, with CGI effects that warn of what’s to come. A flaming body streaks past advancing SWAT team members, tipping a hat to the indie artistry that more seasoned viewers will immediately recognize. Kill sequences *thankfully* do end up being more practical, and while hard to sell, achieve midnight grossness – yet a blazing flamethrower dares to leave the most lasting impression (lacklustre flame rendering). Not all attacks fall victim to digital blood (tool room scene/exposed cranium), but when fury goes the cost-savings route, scenes reflect examples of why movies should avoid relying only on CGI splatters.
Browder’s sensibilities favor cheeky, punk-rock edginess, but “hidden” nods and musical cues go from clever to overused simply by repetition. When one of the characters bumps poison-laced coke, he/she collapses so we can see a “drugs kill” poster hanging ominously – funny, right? Then Browder holds steady on his nod, keeping the poster in frame while [random student] continues to spew his own insides. Translation? Something dealt as a background gag becomes this obnoxious bid for creativity with deflating wit. Same for the songs that play over each violent demise, where lyrics spell out whatever visual atrocities we just endured. Songs about “losing your head” because a girl’s scalp is torn off – the art of subtlety is not strong with Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy.
Substitutions at Crestview Academy replace two of the original’s bigger players, Headmaster Nash (was Judd Nelson, now Sean Astin) and Senator Wilkes (was Eloise DeJoria, now Gina Gershon). Astin is a more bobble-headed, goofy headmaster, while Gershon is more ruthless and cold (partly due to heartless dialogue that drives home one nasty screenplay). I wonder if Ali Astin’s role as Ethel helped drag daddy into the cast? Lil’ Astin plays a new girl who spends suspicious amounts of time hanging around Headmaster Nash, who I mention only to highlight one of the film’s biggest problems – streamlined storytelling.
Ethel’s arc is horrendously explained (if at all) for those of us who haven’t read Wernick’s source material – you never truly get a sense of how the mascot-wearing girl fits into Crestview’s puzzle. Frankly, most plot mechanics suffer from a hackneyed setup that continually revisits the night of Alyson’s death (with hazier and hazier results). Cockroach cameras? Government conspiracies? Max’s role in everything? All questions with few answers, that are handled as if Crestview’s a national institution that most audiences already know inside and out.
Regarding performances, sophomore Siouxsie (omg could your name be spelled any more obnoxiously?) outshines her senior counterparts. Hanratty takes to her cherry-bomb private investigator with ample venom, and plenty of bitch-chic sass. Ali and Frias can me be mentioned in the same breath of head-biting bitchiness, although Ali’s arc is nothing but a sex-crazed preacher’s daughter who fucks just about anything that’ll ask – like Arps’ Blaine, whose go-to pickup line is “I’m really good” (also he’s a crazed, white button-up sociopath hiding behind wealth).
Then you’ve got Daly’s befuddling performance as Sara, a pussy-loving pussy-lover who just joined the LGBTQRST Club. That’s her gimmick – she’s a lesbian who likes cat videos. Characters here overplay themselves well past established stereotypes, and while someone like Frias indulges in Headmaster Nash watching as he gets blown in a men’s bathroom (real scene), Ali’s appeal is shallow and base-value to the point of non-existence. Somebody wants to be Diablo Cody really, REALLY bad.
Are you ready to hate every character in Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy? There’s a good chance you will, even though I’m sure Ben Browder hoped to garner some sympathy along the way. Alas, this is just another mean-spirited ode to Affluenza that doesn’t possess a single subtle bone in its entire body. Sammi Hanratty earns a gold star for her role as Sxixoxuxsxixe , but Browder’s vision spins a more generic beast compared to the original sins of Bad Kids Go To Hell. In comparison, this plays like an after-school special – just with some more blood-vomiting, and way less continuity.
Ben Browder's follow-up to Bad Kids Go To Hell is less stylized and more generic, even with the same private-school mean streak.