Miriam, Derek, Jenny and Ian are clever kids. They study hard and do very well at school as a result.
But when they aren’t at school. These kids don’t unwind at parties, spend their hours at the mall or sit glued to computer games for hours on end. Their means of escape from the drudgery of adolescence is to murder others.
After hours of preparation and with some meticulous planning, these teens get a kick out of killing people in ways that are hard to detect and give them immense amounts of pleasure, all four of them psychopathic and yet, somehow, happy to co-operate with one another.
But as often happens in these movies, sooner or later they get complacent. Cracks start to show in their relationship and as divisions appear things start to go wrong for the fearsome foursome. And with the local police hot on their trail it’s just a matter of time until things unravel entirely.
Extracurricular has all the promise of being a ‘different’ horror film. Some of the ideas used are novel, and it’s clear that writers Matthew Abrams and Padgett Arango were determined to create something that is shocking and hard to predict. The question is, do they manage it? And do the directorial efforts of Ray Xue help translate their words to the screen?
The answer depends a lot on who the audience is at the time.
To the seasoned horror nerd (myself included) this film feels familiar.
It seems heavily influenced by the work of Wes Craven, most obviously Scream (1996), with the school setting, the idea of a bunch of kids working together to get their teenage kicks out of death (with different motives), and possibly even down to the casting – Extracurricular’s Ian and Derek bear resemblance to Billy and Stuart in Scream.
Stylistically, it drew from My Soul to Take (2010) and there was even something Rob Zombie-esque about it – something about the unflinching, unrelenting murderers that harked back to The Devils Rejects (2005). And one can’t help but see some connection with Funny Games (2007) when watching a film about psychopathic teenagers.
Having clear influences from these films isn’t a problem. However, particularly in the case of Scream (to which it is most similar) one can’t help but continually compare them. And as Extracurricular does fall short a little in terms of quality of acting, scripting and generally the ideas used, this makes for a less satisfying experience.
But going back to the point about the audience… If you hadn’t seen Scream and Funny Games, Extracurricular might offer you something truly new, fascinating and terrifying. And for that reason, it can’t be criticised too harshly.
The film does indeed draw you in, and has a coherent story which delivers enough unpredictable twists and horror to remain captivating.
Brittany Raymond (Miriam) and Brittany Teo (Jenny) deliver the stand-out performances, playing the two polar ends of the psychopathic spectrum between which, the boys Ian and Derek reside.
Some nice camera techniques are employed and it’s hard to find fault in the quality of the production.
But the film has a fair few holes, plenty for the horror geek to criticise. From an apparent lack of forensic research on the part of the writers (making the plot twists hard to believe) to the inconsistent behaviour of these otherwise methodical teens who are committing the ‘perfect crimes’ one minute, by not following any pattern, then following very obvious patterns the next – such as sending a photo to each victim the day before they are killed.
These problems won’t trouble the average viewer who is happy to ignore the details, but will drive the more serious horror fan nuts.
It’s a shame as Extracurricular very nearly delivers something different that would make it stand out from the rest. Instead it easily fades away like many of the other middling films screened at FrightFest.
No Trailer available at the moment