Produced by Dan Griffiths
Written by Zach Chassler
Directed by Jeremy Kasten
Starring Sarah Rose Harper,
Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster,
Torey Garza, Clare Kramer
Obvious, tedious attempt at a Twilight Zone riff on school shootings. A group of high school students have to spend summer detention cleaning up their messy school – at night (first clue something isn’t right here).
The teacher in their charge (Clare Kramer, so good as Glory on Season 5 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) tells them the mess is from a janitor having recently been stabbed to death (clue #2).
Wackiness ensues, with flashbacks of a school shooting by a group wearing gas masks, voice disguisers and “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” get-ups.
The film crawls along with seen-it-all-before weird goings-on made even more egregious with Cuisinart editing and an uninspired, obnoxious score (the nadir of the soundtrack is a “trippy”, distorted rendition of a song whose refrain is “I love to go to school”. Clever, that!)
What’s even worse than the hackneyed story points and ideas on display is the lack of context to who these kids are, what they’ve done to be here, why they’re here at night, etc. etc….argh!!
Certainly some mystery must be maintained to guard the “twist” ending (though I can’t imagine anyone who’s seen at least three movies in their life couldn’t guess that reveal), but how about some screenwriting sleight-of-hand?
Something to assuage viewer confusion and irritation so as to, you know, involve us in the story you’re telling?
There are a handful of effective moments.
Such as a pretty cool, creepy shot in a bathroom where we see the open stalls behind one of the teens suddenly occupied by ghosts. It evoked the Disney World Haunted Mansion ride, in a good way.
But these moments are few and far between.
The school shooting scenes quickly become tasteless and quite unpleasant, and the film feels endless even at a brief 73 minutes.
Some climactic step-framey slo-mo during a scare scene was basically the last straw.
There’s very little that works in this film, and its cliches pile on throughout the climax and denouement. Too bad.
The Dead Ones is now available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray.