Thursday, August 30, 2018

Boarding School: At Least There’s a Low Student-to-Teacher Ratio

At this ultra-Christian academy, they won’t serve Jacob bacon, because he is Jewish and that is their idea of sensitivity. Frankly, he would prefer to have the bacon. There really isn’t much point to their weird attempt to keep him kosher, especially given the staff’s habit of murdering students. However, they probably are not the only psychopaths in Boaz Yakin’s Boarding School (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

After Jacob’s supposedly cool step-dad walked in on his cross-dressing episode, he shipped Jacob off to the New England fundy school, to spare the nerves of his high-strung mother. The student body is suspiciously small, but Jacob is surprised to find he already knows one of his classmates. Christine is the obnoxiously entitled daughter of his step-dad’s well-heeled boss. Frankly, her anti-social behavior borders on outright sociopathy, but she has a weird fascination with Jacob and his sexuality.

While Christine rebels against sinister headmaster Dr. Sherman’s perverse discipline, Jacob tries to protect the weaker students, with mixed results. He also finds himself drawn to Christine, despite her mean streak. As difficult students not-so mysteriously die off, they start investigating the dodgy school, quickly deducing it is like a Hogwarts for conspicuously inconvenient kids.

If this film had been made fifteen years ago, it would be a legend, but today it is totally ho-hum. These days, a gender identity questioning youth like Jacob could be a budding reality TV star, especially growing up on Manhattan’s Westside (we’re assuming it is the UWS, but maybe it is the Upper East). Frankly, it is hard to believe any Manhattan parents would entrust their kids to the titular boarding school, even (or especially) if it really was what it presented itself to be.

Still, the weirdly sexually-charged and massively dysfunctional relationship that develops between Jacob and Christine is consistently intriguing. The film is at its best when they are verbally sparing. They look pretty young too, which adds further elements of danger, as well as a bit of sexualized ickiness. However, most of the actual horror movie stuff is pretty standard issue—and rather tame, at that.

Regardless, Luke Prael and Sterling Jerins are quite well cast as Jacob and Christine. They truly look and sound like problem children. Will Patton and Samantha Mathis are almost always interesting to watch on screen, but they seem to be bored playing garden variety villains like Dr. Sherman and his accomplice-wife Isabel.

Frankly, Boarding School is more confused than its central character. Most of the time, it feels uncomfortable serving as a horror movie, but it doesn’t have any other ideas. Not recommended, Boarding School opens tomorrow (8/31) in LA, at the Arena CineLounge.