The New Kids (1985) Review

Army brats Loren (Shannon Presby) and Abby (Fuller House’s Lori Loughlin) live an almost idyllic life, happy and healthy training with their war hero father every morning across the military base that is their home.

Sadly tragedy strikes when both their parents are killed in a car crash and rather than go into foster care their eccentric uncle arrives and offers them a home with him and his wife in a small town on Florida.

Living and working in their uncles new money making project a run down amusement park called Santa’s Funland, the siblings make the most of their new life however the transition to a new school is not so smooth.

Immediately Abby attracts the unwanted attention of a local gang lead by blonde bad boy Dutra (James Spader The Blacklist) and him and his cronies pursue and pester the pretty teen refusing to take no for an answer.

When Loren steps up to protect his sister, using his fists to even the score, the gang’s attacks start to escalate in violence and viciousness culminating in a bloodbath at the amusement park that no one in the town will ever forget.

Co-written and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, five years after he made Friday the 13th, The New Kids is a classic from the cycle of ‘80s gang movies. This wave of juvenile delinquency films which included Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, Class of 1984 and Bad Boys (no not THAT Bad Boys) echoed the classic teenage rebellion movies of the 50’s such as The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause upping the violence to fit the more horror flavoured tastes of the period.

Rather than take the side of the disenfranchised and dejected young folks as most of the other stories do The New Kids positions the gang purely as the aggressors, giving Sean S. Cunningham 6 Jason Voorhees to torture and torment the innocent orphans. Relatively two-dimensional the thugs act on aggression only, seeming to be only three degrees more civilised than the hick horror families of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills have Eyes.

Luckily The New Kids has a great cast including Tom Atkins, Eric Stoltz and Eddie Jones and even amongst the villainous mob there are some superior performances. John Philbin from The Return of the Living Dead and Children of the Corn does a fine job as Gideon and James Spader shines through the cellophane thin script offering up tons of menace and malice and clearly showing why he became such a household name.

With fist fights, dog attacks, torture and rape The New Kids puts its heroic twosome through hell and back however interestingly the brother and sister are far from frail victims you might expect. Both utilise their army training to fight back throughout the film with Loren transforming Santa’s Funland into a park of death with various traps and tricks in the final showdown with the terrible gang, giving the audience the chaotic and cathartic climax they have been waiting for.

101 Films have done a great job with the Blu-ray bringing the film to the UK for the first time since its VHS release under the title Striking Back in 1988. The new disc is packed with extras including brand new interviews with director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Stephen Gyllenhaal, a commentary with film critics Sean Hogan and Jasper Sharp, and a limited edition booklet with new writing on ‘80s gang movies and Sean S. Cunningham’s career.

Movie Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

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