Bad Kids Go To Hell (2013)

Bad Kids Go To Hell is based on the cult graphic novel of the same name, and directed, and co-scripted, by the author of said graphic novel. It’s loud, brash, funny and sometimes charming but it tries to shock too often and, when all is said and done, just isn’t as clever as it would like to think it is.

As a fan of the source material, it was with some apprehension that I approached the movie adaptation of underground graphic novel Bad Kids Go To Hell. On paper, it’s billed as The Breakfast Club meets The Grudge, and while not too far off the mark, that description affords the film more weight than it perhaps deserves. While entertaining, BKGTH does nothing new, and the characters will most likely aggravate the average viewer. That’s not to say it’s without merit though.

The movie is propelled by a simple story that quickly becomes needlessly convoluted. A group of ne’er-do-wells end up in Saturday detention where they are locked in the library for the day by their arrogant teacher. Opening with our protagonist surrounded by the bodies of his classmates and teachers, we know from the first moment that everyone meets a sticky end, the hour and a half that follows is there to key us into exactly how the events transpire.

Populated almost entirely by newcomers, with knowing turns from Farscapes Ben Browder and Judd Nelson in the most tongue-in-cheek role in recent memory, all of the cast is more than able. The script, however, is hackeneyed and trite, so it never quite makes the impact that I imagine was intended. If this film had been made ten years previously, I think it would have been much, much more effective than it is in 2013. As it stands, the dialogue seems outdated in a modern world, and the whole thing suffers from a sort of “try hard” feeling that I just can’t shake.

The soundtrack to the film is set to “Project X” volume and tempo, and, from my perspective, I think it may alienate those looking beneath the shiny surface. On that note, the film definitely looks slick, even with a comparatively miniscule budget, but it also showcases the sort of terrible CGI that’s become synonymous with low budgets coupled with lazy filmmaking, and it’s certainly to the detriment of the overall look of the film.

What Bad Kids Go To Hell boils down to is the sort of movie that teenagers may love, and that an older audience might enjoy as a guilty pleasure. Judd Nelson as the Principal of the high school, in a very obvious and intentional nod to The Breakfast Club, is a standout, both in his role and in the delivery of the character, and the film is almost worth watching for him alone, even in his criminally brief screen time.

The real crime in Bad Kids Go To Hell is the distinct lack of morals, however. There’s barely a sympathetic character present during the running time, and the only ones that are, are so put-upon that it’s difficult to muster any real affinity with them. The whole film is somewhat morally abhorrent, which is no real shock in a film within this genre, but potentially taints the gratification one might glean from the film.

Bad Kids Go To Hell is a film that I enjoyed, but it’s a film I wanted to love, and I couldn’t quite manage that kind of allegiance to it. It’s dated, showy and overly convoluted but it’s also relatively compelling and serves as fantastic throwaway entertainment.

Altering the story ever so slightly from the graphic novel, Bad Kids Go To Hell is chock full of cliche, while seemingly trying to subvert the very same cliches. It’s not necessarily a success in this field but if you settle yourself in for an hour and a half of dry humour, funny, if archaic one liners, and interesting visuals then you could do worse than watching this movie. For all its faults, and despite my better judgement, I still came away with a smile on my face.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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