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directed by Matthew Spradlin
USA 2012

 

In this screen adaptation of the graphic novel BAD KIDS GO TO HELL, six Crestview Academy students - queen bee Tricia (Ali Faulkner, HUMANS VERSUS ZOMBIES), arrogant jock Craig (Roger Edwards, STOP-LOSS), overachiever Meghan (Amanda Alch, THIS LIFE), nerd-with-a-rich-father Tarek (Marc Donato, THE FINAL), as well as goth outsider Veronica (Augie Duke, EXTRACTED) and strangely unpopular "bad boy" Matt (Cameron Deane Stewart, PITCH PERFECT - are sentenced to serve detention on a stormy Saturday in the school's new state-of-the-art library. Despite the presence of Judd Nelson as the headmaster, Tricia makes it clear that this isn't going to be a BREAKFAST CLUB-type bonding session; and it does turn out that what ties them together isn't their mutual dysfunctions (some, though not all stemming from their relationships with their corrupt parents) but the erection of the library on the stolen land of elderly Native American Jacob Rainwater who then committed suicide. If the school's Apache mascot and all of the Native American-fetish artifacts in the library and throughout the school (including a giant bronze sculpture of a snake coiled around an Indian) were not enough to irk some long dead (and some more recent) spirits, then the kids' decision to conduct a seance to contact Rainwater seems to be the final straw as the kids begin dropping dead in a series of bizarre "accidents". As the survivors try to find a way out of the library - whose titanium alloy doors have been locked by stuffy guidance counselor Dr. Day (Jeffrey Schmidt) just before he took ill by way of his coffee being drugged by Veronica - they also have to figure out whether their enemy is a ghost or one of there own. Ben Browder (TV's FARSCAPE) also stars.

The feature debut of director Matthew Spradlin - who wrote the text of the graphic novel (illustrated by Anthony Vargas) - BAD KIDS GO TO HELL is attractively-lensed, well-scored, and has a strong setup but will offer very little of novelty to seasoned horror fans (although it may indeed be a breath of fresh air to younger fans or more casual viewers sick of the more mainstream PG-13 horror efforts of late). Most viewers will be so far ahead of the obvious plot revelations, although they may be thrown off easily guessing the identity of Rainwater's surviving heir (also cheated out of inheriting the land) for the other big plot revelation that is more blatantly telegraphed early on and even more ridiculously contrived than the flashbacks to teh intentionally entertainingly-absurd plot mechanisms that explain how each of the characters wound up in detention. Cardboard characterization may be more at fault for the false notes of the mostly good lead performances. Donato's performance is hindered just as much by the affected halting accent as it is by a lack of much to say; indeed, for a movie that wants to be edgy and whip-smart, the writers have not provided much in the way of variety in the barbs traded between characters who are deliberately sketched as rotten from the start (although their are some choice bits like "Careful lighting the fuse on her tampon"). Kudos to the film though for not expecting us to identify with them (unlike so many teen-oriented slasher and horror films of late that often make their protagonists only slightly less vile as the supporting victims), as well as a reliance more on practical effects with CGI integrated mostly where it's needed rather than simply "because they can".

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: 7 December 2012 (USA)

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DVD Review: Phase 4 Films - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Phase 4 Films

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:32:30
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.2 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English (CC), none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Phase 4 Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
•  Audio Commentary by director Matthew Spradlin and producer Barry Wernick
• Galleries:
• - Comic Book Art by Anthony Vargas
• - Behind the Scenes by Dat Mai
• - FX Make-up
• The Making of BAD KIDS GO TO HELL:
• - Kids Introductions (3:27)
• - Craig vs. Ghost (2:17)
• Visual FX Breakdowns by Element X Creative (4:10)
• Trailer (1:35)
• Start-up trailers for SASSY PANTS, BAYTOWN OUTLAWS, HICK, and ALTER EGOS

DVD Release Date: April 9th, 2013
Amaray

Chapters 16

 

Comments

Lensed in HD with Red One cameras, BAD KIDS GO TO HELL looks typically glossy and smooth without being waxy (shallow focus shots are often more distracting than filmic as a result, and may actually have been defocused in post). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very active with clear dialogue, forceful use of loud music in the front channels, and constant atmospheric effects in the rear channels (a serviceable 2.0 stereo downmix is also included).

Extras include an audio commentary by director Matthew Spradlin and producer Barry Wernick. Topics addressed include filming in the hot Texas summer (replaced with stormy weather via visual effects), the combining of a couple different private school locations to visualize Crestview, the realization of the impressive 6500 square foot library set, and the contributions of cinematographer David Blood and visual effects company Element X. They also mention that actor Ben Browder's fans suggested him to the filmmakers for the role of Max on the film's Facebook page.

The still gallery section includes sketches rather than finished artwork from the graphic novel, revealing that Spradlin stuck closely to the novel's visual style, a more creatively visualized death for one of the characters than seen in the film (possibly a limitation of the effects budget), and scenes that suggest that the film adaptation does differ in some respects from the plot of the graphic novel. The eighteen minute behind the scenes gallery is a bit overkill, but the shorter make-up effects gallery shows a welcome reliance on mostly practical effects over CGI while a visual effects breakdown video segment shows the realization of some more obvious CGI effects (including the roaches) as well as some less obvious background replacements and wire removal (as well as the cost-saving use of CGI to stamp a tractor with logos and key a car).

Editor Justin Wilson provides optional commentary on some two selected sequences: the introduction montage of the main characters and the reliance primarily on sound design for scene of Craig getting persecuted by the ghost. The film's trailer rounds out the extras.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Phase 4 Films

Region 1 - NTSC

 




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