Unsure if you know of Boaz Yakin, well likely you do, if cinema appeals to you, some of the films he directed included the dramas Remember the Titans (2000) and Max (2015), however Boarding School marks his horror directorial debut, although he wrote the script as well. He’s experienced in that craft too, with work on The Punisher (1989) and From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Bloody Money (1999) hence he does understand the basis of the horror genre. This flick seems to gather together some ‘oddities’ found with a group of teenagers at odds with their parents and suffering from a dysfunction customized lifestyles and greed. Yakin uses many of the tropes from haunted house movies from darken hallways, voices and noises at night, secretive actions from authority figures, and one scene which echoes back to The Legacy (1978). Luckily this received distribution and is now available through Momentum Pictures.
The film starts with the words “New York City, The 90’s,” presenting on the screen, where young Jacob (Luke Prael) afflicted by night terrors and other disturbances, tries to survive his youth. At the funeral, for his grandmother, a strange old woman tells Jacob about a dreadful experience where she was repeatedly raped by a Nazi soldier during WWII while in hiding, until she found salvation. How it happens, sorry that’s too much of a spoiler. Later he’s bullied at school, and the humiliation continues at a dinner party, where the host’s daughter Christine (Sterling Jens (World War Z )), called Jacob “pretty”. He later sorts through his deceased grandma’s personal items while his parents are not around, he dresses in her clothes and dances around the room, suddenly caught by his father. Jacob is a child with many personal problems, though to consider them oddities, a stretch, he’s questioning his sexual orientation, and his beliefs. He’s sent to a boarding school because his mother Isabel (Samantha Mathis (American Psycho )) is tired of him having screaming night terrors and wearing dresses. This though goes deeper, sadly not exploring that the parents seem as elitist, wanting a trophy, a designer custom child, without any problems and issues. The other students at this strange school, Phil (Nadia Alexander, whose face completely burned (never mentioned how), Elwood Frederic (Christopher Dylan White) a boy with a severe case Tourette Syndrome (TS) at least two motor tics and not only dialogue, which is how the movie portrays him (so easy to research and incorporate it properly). Then twin brothers Lenny and Calvin (Kobi and Kadin George) with no oddities, except that they are minorities and very quiet and then Christine who calls the lot “freaks” smart sarcastic girl, who enjoys physical (corporal) discipline. The Shermans suggests sinister aspects about Jacob’s faith such as not serving him bacon, but then, mixing in a weird series of glances and granting the his requests. Dr. Sherman (Will Patton, who stars in the upcoming Halloween  film), who runs the so-called school with his wife (Tammy Blanchard (Deadline )), to take care of kids whose parents want them out of the way, clearly into administering lasting punishment. He presents a syllabus that consists mostly of the Bible, and in a two-week semester (ugh), they’ll have reached clarity. One key element in the school, the students are told everything is their fault, despised by others, their parents, even God, they become the abominations of their own making. By the 70-minute mark of the film, the drama falls to wayside and the suspense ratchets up, horror replaces the course material with blood and bodies. Needless to say, Jacob wears the dresses well and shows his prowess in a school of madness, while delivering some frank discussions – well you need to see the movie.
Clearly, the movie walks the path of a thriller early on, before engaging in physical horror, what the movie lacks, a clear understanding of how the parents know of Dr. Sherman. In addition, while the actors all hit their marks, Patton seems at times to be reliving his character General Bethlehem from the post-apocalyptic movie The Postman (1997). The ‘oddities’ of the students never truly works, perhaps if more about abuse, cutting or bulimia, self-inflicting acts, but trying to pass off the mental illnesses as a crude or even terrible indictment, seems quite passé. The clarity never transcends to the audience fully, plenty of questions surround the parents, then the children, and trying to use the Jacob’s sexuality as a form deviant behavior never works and insults the intelligence of the viewers. In addition, the sets try for Dario’s fame vibrant color scheme, using giallo techniques to enhance the audience’s appeal of the film, once more resulting in a mere satisfactory grading. Plenty of missed opportunities in the movie will leave the audience chatting about all the what-ifs, especially regarding Jacob and Christine budding relationship and the parents’ virtues and morals.
Boarding School becomes a very odd movie, the final portion of the movie saves it with a bloodbath and horrors galore, but keeps pushing a tad too far, resulting in a sigh and delivering a poor grading. One can hope when Yakin gets the chance to revisit the horror genre and repeats the subject with the same gusto he brought to his dramas.
IMDb Rating: 5.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10