DVD REVIEW: HAUNTING OF CRESTVIEW HIGH / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MATTHEW SPRADLIN / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW SPRADLIN, BARRY WERNICK / STARRING: CAMERON DEAN STEWART, BEN BROWDER, AUGIE DUKE, ALI FAULKNER, JEFFREY SCHMIDT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
To describe Haunting of Crestview High (US title: Bad Kids Go to Hell) as The Breakfast Club meets And Then There Were None would be to oversell it to such a degree as to invite ridicule. The fact that it’s a black comedy about an American High School massacre is possibly the least ill-judged thing about the film, Matthew Spradlin’s debut as director (and co-writer), wherein he demonstrates about as much affinity for the material (his own, astoundingly enough) as a bloodthirsty big cat might show for an injured impala. It’s a work of astonishing bad taste – and I don’t mean that in the good way.
It is possible to make hugely successful films with juxtaposing tastes simply by judging the material extremely carefully; A Clockwork Orange and The Evil Dead being two prime examples. It is also possible to make exploitative cinema of the first order on a severely limited budget and with no recognised ‘talent’ – hell, that’s virtually a blanket description of most horror movies. Spradlin, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have the first idea about what kind of a film he wants to make; Haunting of Crestview High is neither scary nor funny, and the twists in its tail are no less predictable than the ending of most Disney movies. And there are several, each subsequent example making less sense than the previous one.
What is unpredictable is the manner in which Spradlin seems to think graphic novels ought to be adapted for the cinema. Eschewing methodically constructed creeping terror, traditional jump shocks or other well-established horror movie practices, Spradlin instead elects to leap between tones (often within the same scene or sequence) like a hyperactive kid choosing which Smartie to eat next. Most of the ‘horror’ sequences are composed of incorporating musical interludes that couldn’t be less sympathetic to the situations if they tried, with multiple changes of lens or technique guaranteeing to induce nausea rather than chills, thrills or chuckles; the dispatch of the story’s first victim has to be seen to be disbelieved. Rarely a minute goes by without the appearance of a badly composed shot to pull you out of the experience, and the film is littered with poor edits that sadly can’t manage to make the plot incomprehensible enough to be interesting.
The performances, conversely, are serviceable enough to give the impression that the cast might have been adequate enough if delegated elsewhere.
If any of the above has piqued your interest, take a deep breath and go and do something else. Even as a renter, you won’t be able to return the disc if you’ve thrown it to the floor and stamped it into splinters. An enema of a movie.
Special Features: None, mercifully
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