Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Bad Girls from Valley High

Posted by CinemaPsycho on March 22, 2005

Directed by John T. Kretchmer/screenplay by Robert Locash and Andrew Lane, based on a novel by Paul Fleischman/starring Julie Benz, Monica Keena, Nicole Bilderback, Jonathan Brandis, Christopher Lloyd, Janet Leigh/Universal Home Video

Three popular high school girls plot the murder of a rival while suffering from a curse that causes them to age prematurely.

I got a screener copy of this recently, knowing virtually nothing about it beforehand. It didn’t sound like my kind of movie necessarily, but I’m always willing to give something a shot, especially when it’s free. And, well, it sounded like there were some young hotties in it. So sue me, I’m heterosexual. (Just kidding, don’t really sue me)

So I looked it up on the IMDb before watching it. It seems that it was actually filmed in 2000 under the title A Fate Totally Worse than Death, by a production company (the Bubble Factory) that apparently no longer exists. So it’s been sitting on the shelf for FIVE YEARS before finally being shuffled off to DVD. Surprisingly, this is not a Miramax release. And two of its co-stars (Brandis and Leigh) have since passed away (a nice way of saying they died). As if watching this relic wasn’t weird enough.

I often wonder why the studios bother to change titles when they send a movie straight to video. Does it really make that much difference? The original title, while not particularly great, at least somewhat fits the content of the movie. Bad Girls from Valley High sounds like a low-budget drive-in T&A movie from 1976, the kind of flick they’d sandwich in the middle of a triple bill between Satan’s Cheerleaders and Caged Heat. Maybe that’s the idea behind the deceptive marketing of this supposed “horror comedy”, because if people knew what it was really like, no one would want to rent it.

I appreciate the free copy and all, but man, this movie is just awful. I mean, it’s terrible! Is there any chance of putting it back on the shelf for the rest of the decade?

Bad Girls from Valley High is the story of three unimaginatively named popular girls who “rule the school” (you know, just like in Heathers, Clueless, Jawbreaker, Mean Girls, etc). Why there always has to be three, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a union thing. There’s Danielle (Benz), the devious, scheming leader of the group; vacant, superficial Tiffany (Bilderback) and sensitive pushover Brooke (Keena). I think I just gave more thought to these characters in writing that description than the writers did in the entire script. The threesome are known as the “Huns” because they live in an upscale neighborhood called Hunter’s Pines. Don’t worry, this information will not be important later.

It seems that our heroines are responsible for the death of a classmate named Charity who was dating Drew (Brandis), a jock that Danielle has the hots for. (Do people still say that? I’ll just assume that they do.) When Drew expresses interest in an attractive foreign exchange student, naturally she’s next on the hit list. But the Huns get sidetracked when they’re hit with a curse that causes them to age prematurely – you can imagine how this might slow them down a bit. Even though it’s pretty obvious early on where the curse came from, for some reason the girls think Drew’s new girlfriend is behind it, and also must be Charity’s ghost. But of course they still plan to kill her anyway, along with anyone who might get in their way, even if that includes Drew himself. Logic is not this movie’s strong point. Then again, this movie has no strong points.

This is one of those movies that aims extremely low, and still manages to fail on every single level possible. To start with, it’s not the least bit funny at all. If there was any comic potential to be found in watching teenage girls fart, piss themselves and drive badly, the writers somehow missed it completely. This movie’s idea of humor is to have Christopher Lloyd, playing a suspicious teacher spying on the Huns, constantly get into varied accidents that cause him painful injuries. It’s not even as funny as that sounds. While the DVD cover wants to entice thoughts of a darker Mean Girls, the actual movie reminded me more of lame early-‘80’s “slasher comedies” like Student Bodies and Pandemonium. Except those movies were actually sporadically funny, while still being incredibly stupid. Bad Girls actually thinks it’s smart, which is just scary. It’s incredibly difficult to believe that the people who made this movie actually thought it was funny at the time. It’s not so much a case of “what were they thinking?” as it is “what kind of drugs were they on?”

It certainly doesn’t help that the Huns are incredibly unlikable and uninteresting characters. Of course it’s a black comedy, but even black comedies need some sort of recognizable human behavior to make us relate. These girls are just horrible bitches for the sake of being horrible bitches. There’s nothing particularly interesting about that. They have no real motives for all the rotten things they do – we’re just supposed to take it for granted that being attractive and popular makes them act like hellaciously evil bitch monsters. Watching them mistreat an elderly coma victim (the great Janet Leigh, wasted but still outacting the rest of the cast) isn’t even funny in a twisted, misanthropic way. It just seems needlessly cruel and stupid, the kind of behavior you’d expect from glue-sniffing juvenile delinquents, or on Guantanamo Bay. We’re supposed to care about what happens to these snotty little shitheads? Screw that. Even when Brooke (the super-cute Keena, the only one of the three I’d consider “hot”, and she’s supposed to be the least attractive) reveals a sympathetic side, it’s too little, too late. They deserve whatever bad things happen to them, but we don’t even care enough to relish it.

Nor is Bad Girls from Valley High a believable portrait of high school life. Yes, this is yet another high-school movie where most of the cast appear to be around 29 (except for Benz, who could be pushing 40 based on the photographic evidence here). But even putting that aside, there’s no sense of realism at all to the setting. The Huns don’t seem to “rule the school” at all – we rarely see them even interact with the other students, except a dim, horny jock and a (stereotypically) geeky guy who inexplicably worships Danielle. No one else seems to even acknowledge their existence. If they’re idolized, hated and feared by the general populace, you sure wouldn’t know it. The movie’s vision of high school seems to be more like a country club that people wander in and out of, depending on the demands of the plot. Maybe that was the idea, but it’s not at all convincing. It’s all so cardboard-cutout, like a screenwriter’s version of what high school is like gained mostly from watching other high-school movies. Even a foreign exchange student could have done a better job.

By the time we finally reach the end of this mess (and at only 84 minutes, it feels a lot longer than it should), the girls have suffered through a ton of unconvincing old-age makeup, and the audience has suffered right along with them. The Huns conveniently don’t seem to have any parents, and strangely enough no one around them seems to notice how they’re progressively aging and falling apart. Odd, for such popular girls you’d think someone would realize that they suddenly appear to be a good 60 years older. They do attend a Halloween party at one point, so they could have just told everyone who saw them in the other scenes that they were in costume. But that would have required a minimal amount of thought and effort on the part of the writers. Instead we’re just supposed to buy it when the three “hottest” girls in school age rapidly, make very little attempt to hide it, and no one can tell that anything’s wrong. Right…

Overall, Bad Girls from Valley High is pretty much a complete disaster, owing mainly to the fact that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a dark and edgy teenage murder comedy? Is it a revenge fantasy about getting even with the popular kids? Is it a moralistic tale about the bad karma that comes from abusing your elders? Or is it a slapstick teen comedy full of “wacky hijinks”? The writers don’t seem to know what they’re shooting for here, so they try a little bit of everything and wind up achieving nothing. Director Kretchmer has mostly TV and assistant-director credits (although he did direct an episode of Veronica Mars, so he can’t be all bad), but I doubt this will do much for his career when it finally gets out there. It’s not so much that it’s badly directed; it’s just a pointless and incredibly stupid movie that’s directed in workmanlike fashion. It was a bad idea from the start, and probably would’ve stayed that way no matter who made it.

The only extra on the DVD is a couple of deleted scenes, neither of which is particularly good, but no worse than anything in the movie itself. One of the scenes is just an extended version of a scene that’s in the film, and cutting it didn’t seem to improve it that much. While the movie is rated R for “some sexual content”, I’ll be damned if I saw anything of the kind here, other than an incredibly tame dream sequence that wouldn’t be considered titillating on network television. So if you’re the kind of person who rents movies based solely on the potential for nudity, you will be extremely disappointed, despite what the cover wants you to think. Not that nudity would have helped – even if the entire female cast got naked, this still wouldn’t be worth watching. The only conceivable motivation to watch this movie would be if you consider old-age makeup on teenage girls (who already look older anyway) a turn-on. And if you’re that guy, seek professional help immediately.

Everyone else should stay away. I honestly can’t imagine anyone watching this and actually liking it, not even the undiscriminating 12-year-old boys it’s apparently aimed at. In fact, if you find yourself in the proximity of this movie at any time, you should run away screaming and write your Congressman. Unless you happen to be in dire need of a drink coaster. But not even then – you’ll probably cut your hand on it. It’s that bad.

* 3/22/05

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