The start of a new school year is always full of lots of emotion, especially the climatic senior year. It’s the beginning of the end in a way, but a gateway to new self-discoveries and existential angst as you prepare for the future. As my senior year rolled in, all I could think was, “What’s next? Who am I? What do I do now?” Senior year is the year to make the most out of high school, but sometimes actions can come back to haunt you. These actions come back to haunt a group of high school students during Saturday detention in the latest INTO THE DARK installment titled SCHOOL SPIRIT. And it’s a fun episode that still manages to keep things exciting despite the fairly predictable plot.
The episode focuses primarily on Erica Yang (played by an earnest Annie Q), the model student of the school who is having to deal with Saturday school detention for the first time ever. Concerned for her reputation, her main focus is to just to get through the day unscathed and hoping that no one will know that she was there. While there is awkwardness upon first arriving at detention, mostly surrounding a very pro-corporal punishment Vice-Principal (played amazingly by Hugo Armstrong) and everyone’s shock at the goody-two-shoes Erica being stuck with them in detention, it is reminiscent of such classics as The Breakfast Club. However, it becomes abundantly clear early on that these kids are in danger and they are going to need to fight for their lives and be smart if they want to survive the day in detention.
I’m going to try to refrain from posting further about the plot because, although the natural flow of the plot is predictable, there are plenty of spoilers that I don’t want to share to maintain the fun of the film. So, I’ll focus on elements of the film that I thought really stood out outside of the plot. For a film that is very much a slasher film, there are quite a few subtle themes interwoven throughout the course of the film by screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller that you might miss if you aren’t paying attention.
The most prominent theme is really the discussion of good versus bad. Throughout the course of SCHOOL SPIRIT, there is a lot of talk about the bad kids and how the ghost haunting the school halls specifically goes after kids that it has decided are bad and must be taken out of the equation. However, due in part to the talented young cast and the character development written into the script, we soon learn that the bad kids we’re confronted with may not be as “bad” as they have made out to be. Whether or not this could be interpreted as a much bigger picture commentary on how society is quick to label problem-causing people as “bad” and those who toe the line i.e. compliant as good maybe a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think it’s that too far off the mark.
To continue further into the discussion of theming, I think there was also a focus on the pressure to comply and the consequences for those who don’t fit into a certain mold. We see it most prominently with the character of Erica Yang, who faces pressure from everyone around her to succeed and to redeem the high school and overturn the reputation it has for performing poorly. This pressure follows her throughout the course of the film and, in what results in really one of my favorite character arcs, it never relieves itself. We see how the need to comply and live up to standards twists almost every character featured in the film, which was honestly the most interesting component of the film for me. I may be silly for reading too deeply into this film since it’s a pretty standard teen slasher film, but this is what I was able to gain from it.
Overall, I really liked SCHOOL SPIRIT. It’s very much if a teenage feel-good coming-of-age movie had sex with a slasher and birthed a baby. While quite a few plot points were fairly predictable like who was going to get knocked off first, watching it all unfold and feeling the anticipation build as you wait to see what happens next is enough to keep your eyes peeled onto the screen. That and the chemistry between the characters and the natural humor infused to keep things a little on the lighter side helps to make the film stand out in this anthology series.
The new school-themed episode SCHOOL SPIRIT will be available August 2nd on Hulu.
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