VOD film review: Extracurricular
Mike Williams | On 09, Nov 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Ray Xue
Cast: Luke Goss Keenan Tracey, Brittany Raymond, Spencer Macpherson, Brittany Teo
Watch Extracurricular online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
The opening of Ray Xue’s horror flick about a group of murderous high-schoolers doesn’t exactly set the tone for a smart, intricate story as it introduces a psycho killer premise in excruciatingly cheesy fashion. The set-up of an adult couple all alone in a log cabin in the woods, as they’re terrorised by a group of masked assailants, is nothing to scream about (unless you’re the hapless victim, that is), and the acting couldn’t be any less of an incentive to make it past the opening credits. Yet sticking with Extracurricular is somewhat more rewarding than the intro suggests.
Bad acting and predictability aside, the film introduces our lead quartet of sick youngsters who, in their downtime from attending school and handing in homework, orchestrate organised evenings of randomly targeting victims to terrorise and commit violent homicide, before waking up for class on Monday morning as if nothing happened.
We’re presented with an interesting deep dive into teenage apathy and sociopathy, as we become privy to the lives of Derek (Keenan Tracey), Miriam (Brittany Raymond), Ian (Spencer Macpherson), and Jenny (Brittany Teo). A commentary on the desensitised attitudes Generation Z are more than accustomed to, the murderous plotlines are intertwined with their relationships and dramas, as the quad carefully plot their next murder event during free periods. And while it comes across as both whimsical and contrived, it’s elevated somewhat as it progresses to the latter part of the story.
What begins as a typical slasher gradually morphs into a film with more predominantly thriller elements that doesn’t require any more thought, but does piece itself together better and hit you when it needs to. The problem is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, even as it yearns to be like Assassination Nation – it just can’t keep up with the pace required, especially when even its opening outstays its welcome. I
t may only be 90 minutes long, but for the genre and target audience it has in mind it should be fully aware that it needs to be doing better – it slows right down at points where it has to be pulsating and a number of holes and illogical moments don’t appear to have any impact on the plot. Another big issue is that it attempts to make these four misfits likeable and almost glamorises the act of indiscriminate killing – until things inevitably go awry. There’s an unsettling angle the writers offer us in the shape of our unhinged psychopaths: are we meant to empathise with them?
Extracurricular has a devilishly twisted finale designed for maximum impact, but does any of that really matter when struggling to remember anything that precedes it? The final third saves it from being a total dud, but this run-of-the-mill teen horror that grows into a semi-competent thriller never quite lives up to its potential.