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dir Crispian Mills
prd Charlotte Walls
scr Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert
with Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole, Hermione Corfield, Michael Sheen, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tom Rhys Harries, Max Raphael, Louis Strong, Isabella Laughland, Jane Stanness, Margot Robbie
release UK 2.Nov.18
18/UK Sony 1h44
In trouble already: Laughland, Corfield and Cole
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The filmmakers couldn't have known that fracking would be in the headlines the week this movie opened, but their luck is in: there's actually a hint of topicality to what is otherwise a fairly ridiculous horror comedy. The story is amusing, especially when it plays on its pastiche of high school movies. Although as craziness breaks out, the directing and editing let things down badly.
Sent to posh boarding school Slaughterhouse in the English countryside, Don (Cole) reluctantly tries to fit in. He causes trouble instantly by falling for upper-class hottie Clemsie (Corfield), which makes him a target of bullying head boy Clegg (Harries). Thankfully, he finds a friend in his roommate Will (Butterfield), and they begin to challenge the status quo established by the preening headmaster (Sheen). But he has secretly leased land to a fracking company, which is causing earthquakes and fires, and has awakened a stinky underground beast.
The script's general nuttiness is enjoyable, especially as it's performed with some grit by the youthful cast members, while veterans like Sheen, Pegg and Frost ham it up mercilessly. There's a stream of witty humour centred around Britain's culture of elite private schools, including of course nods to films from Goodbye Mr Chips to Mean Girls to A Clockwork Orange. But there's also a leery misogyny in Mills' direction. And when things devolve into a bonkers monster horror romp, the comedy slows down drastically, jarringly shifting the focus to some genuine nastiness.
Butterfield, Cole and Corfield are fine as teens who must rise to the challenge. Each character has quirks that make them vaguely surprising and certainly much more complex than Harries' brutal thug or Raphael's gung-ho nerd. Sheen has the most fun on-screen as the camp, bat-like headmaster. Pegg's lovelorn teacher basically exists outside the main narrative, as does Frost's mushroom-munching anarchist. Female roles are simplistic bombshells (Corfield), brains (Laughland as Clemsie's pal) or mutants (Stanness' inexplicably deformed, deranged matron).
For every smart gag in here there are three that simply don't work, perhaps due to the lazy reliance on gunfire and a timid approach to sexuality. Robbie's cameo is witty but underformed. And several of the most daring gags (a class throws a Greek orgy) never find their punchline. This leaves the audience hoping for some extra entertainment in the story's horror element, which like the rest of the movie is fast, loud and jarring enough to feel almost scary and almost funny, but never very memorable.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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