D MAGAZINE FRONT ROW (MARCH 8, 2012): WRITER GOES TO HELL
A Sneak Peak at a New Film By Dallas Filmmakers Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick
BY DAVID HOPKINS
The last two movies my wife and I saw at the Angelika were The Artist and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. We watched these movies, in part, so we could say things like: “The Artist is a bold achievement and clearly deserves the Oscar for Best Picture,” and “It’s a shame that Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia wasn’t nominated.” Yeah, we’re those people. We bonded over our mutual love for Woody Allen and Wes Anderson. I fear no subtitles, nor any pretentious IFC feature. So, when we were invited to a private screening of Bad Kids Go To Hell at the Angelika, we went in knowing it was certainly not our kind of movie. But it offers enough to makeDallas proud.
Bad Kids Go To Hell is a campy comedy-thriller, created by Dallas filmmakers Matthew Spradlin and Barry Wernick. The plot borrows heavily from The Breakfast Club. But instead of bonding over Saturday detention, the students die horrific deaths. Also, these kids do not attend a mere public school. They are members of the elite Crestview Academy, thus filling them with the requisite privilege-laden angst. This fictional school seems familiar. Barry went to St. Mark’s and was the student council president. Matt graduated from Highland Park High School. In fact, much of the movie was filmed in Dallas. The interior library scenes took place at Spiderwood Studios in Austin. Bad Kids’ five year journey from script to comic book to film is an interesting one. I’m saving that story for the June issue of D Magazine, once the movie is ready for mass consumption.
Matt and Barry cast much of the film using Dallasactors, such as Amanda Alch, who attended the screening, and Ali Faulkner. Amanda plays the nerdy girl who gets detention for stripping in class. Ali, best known for her role in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, is the coke-head cheerleader with a heart of coal. Just like how I remember high school. (Sarcasm note: This is not how I remember high school.)
My wife and I arrived at Mockingbird Station and walked into the Angelika. The upstairs lobby was packed with well-dressed people waiting for the film. The excited and familiar chatter let me know that the audience would be mostly friends and family, also known as “the investors.” I couldn’t imagine so many elderly ladies would normally line up for this movie. The doors opened, and people battled for saved seats in a crowded theater. After a few words from the producer, the room darkened and the film began.
Bad Kids Go To Hell is a slumber-party movie. Kids will enjoy this one. There’s enough R-rated fodder for them to feel proud for watching it without parents knowing and yet it’s not scary enough to keep the kids up at night. Bad Kids has some fun gross-out moments, a wacky Scooby-Doo twist ending, and hip techno music to continually remind us how hip everything is. Plus, Judd Nelson is the Crestview headmaster and you have to appreciate the casting here. What we saw wasn’t the final edit, so I’m sure a few things will change. Hopefully, the ongoing gag of the teenagers pulling out their cell phones every time chaos erupts on campus will stay. The clever camera work deserves recognition. This is Matt Spradlin’s first film to direct; I doubt it will be his last.
After the film, the producers of Bad Kids hosted a red carpet event next door. A camera crew from Spiderwood Studios interviewed people as they entered the club. We snuck past them. I didn’t know there was anything between the Angelika and Trinity Hall. This “special event” hideout had an open bar and more hip techno music. One guy danced, everyone else mingled. Amanda Alch hung out with her co-star Marc Donato who I remember from Degrassi. I couldn’t think of any Degrassi related banter, so I kept my distance
Quite a few people tripped over the velvet rope on the way out. Low-cut dresses are not equipped for stepping over anything. Good to know. As we left, an employee was taking down the letters on the marquee for “Bad Kids Go To Hell” and putting up “We Need To Talk About Kevin.” At that point, the two combined and it said, “We Need To Go To Hell.” I was filled with childish amusement.
On the drive home, when my wife was certain that none of Matt or Barry’s friends and family was nearby, she exhaled and let me know what she really thought of the movie. We entertained ourselves by examining the plot holes that are typical with any thriller. I wanted to know why the school’s number one troublemaker was entrusted with the sacred task of school mascot. I also was curious about the conveniently shelved magazines in the school library. (Who put magazines on a shelf among the books?)And why again was Matt Clark throwing basketballs at the cheerleaders? I could go on, but it’s not really our movie.
I stopped at RaceTrac before we returned home. I went inside and saw a teen-age boy who looked a lot like Bobby from King of the Hill. He walked around aimlessly talking on his cell phone, swinging a Coca-Cola that he eventually intended to purchase. He had a white “Free Elmo” t-shirt tucked tightly into his jeans. He looked like the kind of kid who would have no patience for artsy meanderings of Melancholia or the perfect silence of The Artist. He looked like the kind of kid who would enjoy seeing Amanda Alch strip in a classroom and many varieties of improbable death. He wouldn’t mind the obvious errors on how a library stocks its magazines, but I bet he would love Bad Kids Go to Hell.
(Originally published in D Magazine’s Front Row, which lead to this article.)