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It’s been four years since a murder at Crestview Academy and once again the troublesome school has a problem. This time, a girl named Alyson (Ashlyn McEvers) at a school-sanctioned senior party has “fallen” off a high-rise apartment and her sister Siouxsie (Sammy Hanratty) is looking to find out how and why. To do that, she gets herself in trouble with Headmaster Nash (Sean Astin) so as to get on the list for Saturday detention where four rich but obnoxious bad students who were at the party are spending the day.
They include Brian (Matthew Frias), a colorful drug addict, Blaine (Colby Arps), the corrupt son of a senator, Faith (Sophia Taylor Ali), the boy-crazy ‘sexy girl’, and Sara (Erika Daly), who is obsessed with cats. Each have the same story about the party and Siouxsie plans to spend the hours investigating them by first locking supervisor Dr. Knight (Sufe Bradshaw) in a storage room, but when one of the students ends up dead, she finds herself locked inside the school with a murderer. With creepy janitor Max (Ben Browder) tooling about the school, now she and her slowly dwindling classmates have to find a way to survive.
Directed by Browder, and based on the best-selling graphic novel Bad Kids Go 2 Hell, and a sequel to 2012’s Bad Kids Go to Hell, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy abandons most of the themes of the first and stages a film more steeped in teen social commentary via Akira Kurosawa‘s Roshomon, sort of. Siouxsie corners each of the students before they are gruesomely offed, and we see each version of the senior party in flashback, learning a bit more of the truth as we go. Told with a sharp visual style, segmented by source material-inspired animation, Browder keeps the pace fast and bloody, but without much energy, in a seen-it-all before murder spree that burns through its creative impact fairly quickly.
Subtlety is not really the name of the game in any of these films, and while Bad Kids of Crestview Academy tries to be smart, most often it’s simply too obvious. The characters are numbingly flat, with no depth, defined by a singular character trait that offers little to keep us invested in their plight. Sure, a twist in the third act is meant to be surprising, and attempts to tie into the first, but it ultimately slows what little urgency the film built up, becoming a run of exposition as one character on the outside reveals a larger scheme at play.
As for performances, Hanratty does well as the angsty teen with attitude, easily stealing the show from the others. She comes in fast and hard and full sass and never lets up, playing into the trope with a ton of commitment straight to the finish and makes it easier to follow along. Arps, on the other hand, is woefully miscast in a critical role, dull and flat throughout. Astin, filling in for Judd Nelson from the first film, is sorrowfully cast as well, too young to play the bumbling older role and too soft to be what the character demands. Gina Gershon has an extended cameo that could have been biting, but like all the adults, is left to the peripheral, trivialized for the most part. Most peculiar though is Max himself, a sinister-like man whose role in it all is at best ambiguous.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy has some potential, and should have been a lot more scathing in its satire, but instead goes halfway in two directions, with it’s gore neutralized by its comic book flairs and its commentary cut short by its refusal to develop anything beyond one-dimensional stereotypes. Mean-spirited and joyless, this is one academy to drop out of early.
Movie description: Bad Kids of Crestview Academy is a 2017 action-thriller about a revenge-ridden girl who comes to Saturday detention to seek justice for those that she feel murdered her sister.
Director(s): Ben Browder
Actor(s): Sammi Hanratty, Colby Arps, Sophia Taylor Ali
Genre: Action, Thriller