Toronto After Dark Film Festival Movie Review: EXTRACURRICULAR (2018)

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I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen a horror movie, or two. You’ve probably noticed that there are lot of recycled tropes used in the horror genre. They work as a kind of shorthand for the audience, letting you know what to expect. One very familiar trope from the slasher and home invasion sub-genres is that the killer(s) will always be waiting right around the corner, no matter which way the victims choose to run. They know what the victim is going to do before they do it. They are always a step ahead.

EXTRACURRICULAR is a film that tries to explain how that happens. What type of people plan their murders so meticulously? Not just to execute the murder efficiently, but to scare their victims as much as possible?

Turns out, the hyper-effective serial killers probably aren’t the social outcasts, the losers, the underachievers that we typically think they are. If you’re going to pull off the perfect murder, you’re probably the type of person who does EVERYTHING perfectly. The driven, type-A, honor-roll students who manage to juggle straight-A’s with sports, clubs, student government, part-time jobs and dating. Just, you know… also psychopaths.

EXTRACURRICULAR revolves around just such a group of teenagers. Nietzsche-wannabe Ian (Spencer Macpherson), his jock brother Derek (Keenan Tracey), Derek’s almost-too-perfect girlfriend Jenny (Brittany Teo), and the sensitive dancer Miriam (Brittany Raymond). They have developed the perfect formula to get away with murder. No patterns. No cellphones. Hours of planning and surveillance. And the perfect fall guy, if things don’t go to plan.

Of course, a plan can only be as perfect as the people pulling it off. And there are some cracks and flaws in this group. Derek and Jenny are very bloodthirsty. Miriam has a crush on a girl outside their group and spends increasingly more time with her. And Ian’s jealousy and arrogance are on full display.

This is where the real crux of the film is, and what makes it so effective. The drama that plays out within this group of killers is unlike anything I’ve really seen on film before. They’re obviously intelligent, meticulous and devoted to each other, and yet you can see the writing on the wall that they can’t keep this up forever. As the movie progresses and the characters show more of their inner struggles, you can only wait to see how it all falls apart.

This makes the third act of EXTRACURRICULAR a real thrill. You might think things are about to go wrong, and maybe you can guess where the first domino will fall, but from there it is an unpredictable blood-soaked roller coaster ride to the finish. I’m not often genuinely surprised in horror films anymore, so this was a real treat for me. And most of that comes down to the incredible performances from the four leads. Each brings something entirely unique to the table, and you really end up empathizing with each of them, despite knowing they are unrepentant irredeemable serial killers.  

If you’re a fan of slashers or home invasion thrillers but have always wanted to see a little more from the killers’ point of view, you should definitely check out EXTRACURRICULAR.

Jeff Schmidt

Thanks to everyone at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival! This event is running October 11-19, 2018 at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you’re in the area and want more details about the festival, check out www.torontoafterdark.com and look out for more coverage of the films here at Nightmarish Conjurings.