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Boarding School (Movie Review)

Boarding School (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: Jacob Felsen experiences every kid's worst nightmare -- attending boarding school at a creepy old mansion with six teenage misfits and two menacing teachers. He must soon confront all of his fears as events become increasingly sinister and horrific.

REVIEW: A few months back we were hit with the trailer for writer-director Boaz Yakin's horror-thriller BOARDING SCHOOL starring Will Patton, Tammy Blanchard, and Samantha Mathis. I was hooked in by the creeping dread and style presented in the trailer and made a note to check out the film as soon as I could get my hands on a screening or a screener. Well, lucky for me the powers that be sent over a copy of the film to us here at AITH and I quickly threw my hat into the ring for the review. And now that I've peeped Yakin's strange school of misfit toys, what did I think. Let's dive right in!

The film kicks off with our hero kid, Jacob (played with future-serial-killer coldness by Luke Prael) waking up from a nightmare, and his mother, played by Mathis rushes in and starts to all but strangle the poor adolescent for never been able to sleep through the night. Needless to say, she's no mother of the year. And that's fitting considering a scene or two later her own mother kicks the bucket leaving little Jacob distressed about his grandmother. The little boy takes care of his feelings regarding his dead grandmother in stride and decides it's a solid idea to throw on the deceased relative's best evening gown and jewelry and parade around his home. All is good... until dad catches him. 

As you might imagine, from there Jacob the gramma's boy is sent off to a sinister boarding school in the middle of nowhere. But this isn't any boarding school. The students have a mere three books in their desks and the only one they ever read is the Bible. Will Patton plays the school's headteacher and takes his discipline very seriously - and with a dash of old-school ruler-to-the-knuckles brimstone. Not only that, but the walls and gates are lined with electrical barbed wire and, oh yeah, students die on the regular. No this is not Harry Potter's home away from home you better believe that. 

The cast is made up of a group of misfit toys - ur, I mean children and, along with the film's gothic, luxurious mansion location, almost plays out like X-MEN, but with emotionally damaged kids instead of mutants and shiny metal guys. The main cast of misfit kids are lead by Prael's Jacob, who as mentioned above has a penchant for dressing up in his dead Grandma's skivvy's and prancing around, and Sterling Jerins' Christine, who has a raging case of angry little witch going on - and shows more than a few signs of being a little nymphomaniac while she's at it. Yeah, the movie's that dark. Both little actors shine here and the movie would have fallen more than flat on its face without their talents. These two will be in line for major movies in the near future, mark my words.

The adult cast is impressive as well with Will Patton leading the group and the school. But Patton, who is always a strong thespian no matter what Oscar-winning film, or Michael Bay summer blockbuster he chooses to appear in, is backed up by some other actors who don't leave all the work to him. These include Samantha Mathis (who will always be "Princess Peach" from SUPER MARIO BROS. to me) as our hero's mother, and Tammy Blanchard (THE INVITATION) gives Patton more than a helping hand as his right hand gal at the "Boarding School". While this film is really Patton's chance to shine, Blanchard won me over as well with her creepy ways and indecipherable face. The two make for a great team. Which, is too bad for the kiddos under their rule.

And speaking of "too bad for the kiddos", this movie puts the central Boarding School children through the ringer, time and time again. Let it be known, this movie is dark. Children die in this motion picture. Children attempt (and succeed?) in killing other children in this movie. Kids beat each other up, brutally, and much more. If this sounds like too much, it's actually not as bad as it sounds. As crazy as that sounds. This is because Yakin keeps the film's tone that of a fairy tale of sorts, and so the proceedings - no matter how dark they get - keep an almost magical tone. Or maybe I'm just so ridiculously desensitized to horrors slapped across the silver screen that all the shock value the movie was attempting to instill was lost on me. So is the movie shocking? I guess that's up to you to decide. 

On a quick side note, I just reviewed the recent adaptation of Lois Duncan's DOWN A DARK HALL (you can read that review HERE) and that film carried along a similar premise: Damaged kids are sent by uncaring parents to a mysterious boarding school out in the middle of nowhere, and once there, the staff becomes more and more sinister and eventually some truly evil-doings are revealed behind the scenes. So I'm thinking if you enjoyed DOWN A DARK HALL, but hoped for more f-bombs, brutal beatings, and general shock value, then give Yakin's BOARDING SCHOOL a look-see. If not, keep moving on till the next haunted mental asylum movie comes out. 

In the end, Boaz Yakin's BOARDING SCHOOL is a movie that comes across like an esoteric passion project. I bet its story, tone, and themes all make sense to Yakin, but for the typical movie-goer, it's a bit of a slog getting through. The events depicted within seem aimed to disturb and disgust, but the tone is one of morbid magic; a magical journey through the horror of childhood. That said, overall, the film won me over by the time the credits rolled as it boasts a whopper of a third act. In fact, this film's final reel is one of the better final acts of a horror movie I've seen this year. Add to that, the performances are top-notch, and the child leads are all charming and instantly likable, and BOARDING SCHOOL is (eventually) worth the rental.

Extra Tidbit: The film is now available in theaters and On Demand/Digital HD via Momentum Pictures.
Source: AITH

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