Ever wonder what THE BREAKFAST CLUB would be like if Principal Vernon just knifed Bender instead of saluting devil horns and declaring his “Don’t mess with the bull, young man” speech. Well brothers and sisters I’ve got a movie for you…of course I never said that the movie was any good.
STUDY HELL is like some terrible 1980s-styled mutant-incest-child of John Hughes and Roger Corman. The film follows a group of carefully mismatched high school students as they are randomly assigned a nighttime detention. Said detention is to be presided over by Mr. Keller—a royal fuck up as a teacher who is being given one last chance at responsibility by the principal. Mr. Keller has assigned the Brain, the Basket Case, the Princess and the Criminal an essay. Later when he’s caught rifling the file cabinets by the janitor (stop me when you’ve seen this movie before) he finally looses it and starts tearing through the school on a bloodthirsty rampage. Did I mention that Keller also seems to suffer from some post-traumatic stress that he incurred while enlisted in the Army during Vietnam? Oh, I skipped that, well…whatever. We all need a little motivation now and then.
Let’s get to the problems here, cause this is gonna take a long time. Speaking of long times, I can’t remember the last time it felt like 8-hours to watch an 80-minute movie. It was never ending and THE BREAKFAST CLUB cribbed dialogue and set-pieces were grating on my last nerve almost immediately. I mean it’s one thing to homage or even satirize but it’s entirely another to make a film that actively invites a cease and desist order.
Shot in Canada, the film is littered with “aboots” a plenty, but that’s not really a problem, just an observation. The problem is that the acting is so bad that I swear one of the performers was literally reading her lines off a cue card. This is the kind of wooden, stilted delivery that you get when you’re actually making fun of bad acting. You know what? Maybe this film is so transgressive that I’ve missed the point entirely.
An additional problem is that the film’s timeline is never properly established, although the opening credits massacre clearly takes place a few years prior to the story, and the film’s epilogue takes place 2-years later—it’s the “now” that seems misplaced. The issue that brings this lapse in continuity to play is that the character of Mr. Keller seems far too young to have been fighting for his life in Vietnam—The actor look to be at the oldest about 45. And if they shaved him, he’d pass for 10-years younger. The filmmakers might have had the forethought to streak his hair and goatee with some gray in order to properly advance his age, but I guess baby powder was in short supply. This casting problem is especially irritating as the character of the Janitor—who was also in Vietnam with Mr. Keller—is easily 20-years older. Frankly, the entire thing could have been resolved if the filmmakers had considered setting STUDY HELL in the 1980s. That solution would have fixed the timeframe and allowed for THE BREAKFAST CLUB jokes to play even better. The one thing it never could have solved is that the whole production is barely worth saving in the first place.
On a bright note, the blood and guts—although sparse are better than average. The filmmakers seem to have used some good stage blood, or color corrected properly so that—with the exception of one moment—they avoid the low-budget pitfall of “Day-Glo Grue”. It a miniscule bright light in the vast abyss of mediocrity or outright incompetence that makes up the bulk of this production.
They way I see it, ff you were raised on a steady stream of 80s video fare like CLASS OF 1999, THE SUBSTITUTE, THE PRINCIPAL and their ilk, then watching STUDY HELL might be like coming home to you—assuming you’re home is a halfway house of banal dialogue and painfully measured plot progression. For the rest of you that grew up on FERRIS BUELLER and SIXTEEN CANDLES—you’re already used to disappointment, as director John Hughes has sank into the mire of bad kiddie films and even worse sequels to bad kiddie films. Perhaps for their next project the crew behind STUDY HELL will remake HOME ALONE and just gut that Culkin kid! I’d pay to see that.