There’s at least one inspired element in “Bad Kids Go to Hell,’ the teen horror-thriller from filmmakers Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick. But the movie isn’t scary enough for horror fans, gruesome enough for the slasher crowd, or campy enough to be funny, so it falls into something of a cinematic purgatory.
“Bad Kids” riffs on the ‘80s film “The Breakfast Club” with six kids bonding through the drudgery of all-day detention. Whereas the “Club” kids got in touch with their inner humanity, their more shallow, 21st-century counterparts — bratty students at a prestigious private school — only want to get in touch with their inner jerks. So it’s no big surprise when they start disappearing. And it just so happens that the building they’re locked inside of is built on sacred American Indian ground. That might have something to do with it, too.
Cameron Deane Stewart (“Justice for Natalee Holloway”) is Matt Clark, a troublemaker who finds himself having to spend a Saturday with mean girl Tricia (Ali Faulkner, “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1”), bullied smart kid Tarek (Marc Donato, “Degrassi: The Next Generation”), exhibitionist Megan (Amanda Alch), womanizing Craig (Roger Edwards, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World”), and goth girl Augie (Veronica Harmon).
When school psychologist Dr. Day (Jeffrey Schmidt) has to leave the students by themselves due to illness, strange things start to happen.
What’s behind the strange goings-on? Is it the kids? The Indians? That strange maintenance man, Max (Ben Browder, “Stargate: SG-1”)? The fact that each of the actors looks five to 10 years beyond their high-school prom?
Or maybe it’s the hole in the universe created by the film’s best moment: when you realize that the humorless Headmaster Nash is played by “Breakfast Club” bad boy Judd Nelson.
Despite a couple of twists at the end, it’s hard to care too much about what’s happening. “Bad Kids Go to Hell” doesn’t do enough with the cliches it’s juggling to make them any less tiring. On top of that, the film — which was shot in Austin and Dallas — uses mostly interiors, so Texas viewers can’t even distract themselves by counting local landmarks.
But Spradlin (who directed and co-wrote) and Wernick (who co-wrote) do show a certain amount of assurance behind the camera, which bodes well for future endeavors. As a feature-film debut, they certainly could have done worse.
BAD KIDS GO TO HELL
2 stars (out of 5)
Directors: Matthew Spradlin, Barry Wernick
Cast: Cameron Deane Stewart, Ali Faulkner
Rated: R (violence, strong language, sexual content, some drug use)
Running time: 91 min.
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