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'Bad Kids Go to Hell' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

By

'Bad Kids Go to Hell' movie poster
© BKGTH Productions
Movies based on comic books are a dime a dozen these days, but unlike blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight, Bad Kids Go to Hell is a small film set largely in a single location with a distinct dearth of superhero spandex.

The Plot

On the first day of winter break at the prestigious Crestview Academy, a group of six students -- meek Tarek (Marc Donato), jock Craig (Roger Edwards), goth gal Veronica (Augie Duke), nerdy brown-noser Megan (Amanda Alch), snooty cheerleader Tricia (Ali Faulkner) and resident bad boy Matt (Cameron Deane Stewart) -- gather in the newly built library to serve an eight-hour detention. Before leaving, school counselor Dr. Day assigns them the task of writing a paper on the history of the school, and in the course of their research, the kids discover that more than 100 years ago, the land on which the academy was built was stolen from a Native American tribe that was nearly exterminated. Even up to the present day, the exploitation has continued. In fact, within the past year, the school built a new library on land that was strong-armed when the elderly Native American owner died.

Veronica, convinced rumors that the dead man's ghost haunts the library are true, suggests they conduct a séance to contact the spirit. Although no one takes her seriously, they go along for kicks, and before they know it, they seem to unleash...something. The group is unsure what to make of the strange occurrences, and locked inside with no way to reach the outside world, paranoia and fear cause them to turn on one another. As bodies start to fall, this detention becomes a race against time to figure out if it's the work of a ghost or if someone has it in for these bad kids.

The End Result

Ali Faulkner in 'Bad Kids Go to Hell'.

Ali Faulkner in 'Bad Kids Go to Hell'.

© BKGTH Productions
Comparing Bad Kids Go to Hell to iconic '80s Brat Pack fare The Breakfast Club is easy -- a parallel that BKGTH itself draws by casting Judd Nelson as the Crestview headmaster -- but a more apt comparison is a much lesser-known film from earlier this year, Detention. Both are high school detention-set not-quite-horror movies with comedic streaks that strive to undermine the expectations of typical teen fare. But that's where the similarities end. While Detention is vibrant, fresh and uproarious, BKGTH is dim-witted, grating and tragically unfunny.

Everyone in the story is a crude caricature -- and while this may be by design (them being "bad kids" and all), it doesn't provide any rooting interest when all of the characters are repugnant. Making them even more unbearable is the dialogue, which amounts to them posturing and making idle threats for an hour and a half, interspersed with stabs at "witty" banter whose comedy aspirations fall flat -- as do the occasional tone-muddling, out-of-place slapstick elements.

BKGTH is so frustrating because it has a lot of promise. It has a great look, with solid production value, quirky set design and playful direction from Matthew Spradlin (who wrote the comic) that hints at being a film that could play knowingly with genre conventions -- a la The Cabin in the Woods -- but it never manages to be that ambitious or fun. The story is set up as an intriguing mystery, with character back stories that are alluded to early on and then revealed slowly throughout the movie via flashbacks. Unfortunately, since the kids are all so irritating, the flashbacks reveal details we don't really care about. The overall plot works, but the execution -- from the dialogue to the story beats to the tone, the emotion and the general logic -- stumbles, illustrating the difficulty in fleshing out a succinct comic into a more detailed movie script. As such, plot points are left hanging, and the characters' actions are consistently nonsensical throughout.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C (Broad, cartoonish performances.)
  • Direction: C+ (Attractively lensed but lacking in thrills or emotion.)
  • Script: F (Nonsensical, jumbled and full of annoying characters.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Modest gore; SyFy-level CGI.)
  • Overall: C- (Attractive and full of promise, but nothing about this movie rings true -- emotionally, logically or practically.)

Bad Kids Go to Hell is directed by Matthew Spradlin and is rated R by the MPAA for violence, language, sexual content and some drug use. Release date: December 7, 2012.

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