A school without an alarm system and with doors that appear to be from some asylum in Massachusetts...it's part and parcel of the horror genre, it seems. That's what we get here. Going in, we get the already low bar of it being a teen-based fright-flick. How good can it be? How much sophistication can the plot possibly carry? Of what value is this piece to viewers? The answers may surprise you.
“Erica Yang” (Annie Q. aka “Sophie Hicks” from Alex Strangelove, 2018) is class president. She's the school's envy, until she ends up in detention with four lesser-achieving kids (“Brett,” “Lizzy,” “Vic,” and “Russ”). Enduring the shame of being the preppy odd one out, and having to deal with a Vice Principal (Hugo Armstrong) that practically hates her, Erica has the added social tensions of winning the favor of her now-fellow thugs. As the gang discovers that the old myth of School Spirit, a vindictive and departed teacher who haunts wayward kids may be true, they find themselves in a struggle for survival.
This is the young bastard love-child of The Breakfast Club (1985) and The Faculty (1999), resulting in an offspring that went in a powerfully effective direction for any TV series. We are offered a more-than-decent horror/mystery, one I went in expecting to find appalling, but was surprised by.
The gum under the tables looks like it was put there just for the shot (and indeed, it was). The plot takes its time and makes no bones about the fact that it never had anywhere big or fascinating to go in the first place. But where it loses even more steam is where it gets wrong how kids should react to seeing truly horrific acts of violence. The acting is quite solid. It just isn't perfect.
But where character development can be seen, a horror movie really exceeds its boundaries to become something better. So let's not talk too much about the intentionally sophomoric content of kids getting high when the principal is away (or the over-the-top character of Principal Armstrong altogether), but instead focus on what the film does well. It employs your sense of mystery and character development in our bright, young star, Erica Yang. Will she learn from her mistake or else be encouraged to carry on in her misguided ways?