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FrightFest 2019 Review - EXTRACURRICULAR

extracurricular review
Four teenage friends plan the latest in a series of murders.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ray Xue

Starring: Keenan Tracey, Brittany Raymond, Spencer Macpherson, Brittany Teo, Luke Goss

extracurricular poster

Canadian thriller Extracurricular begins, like so many low budget horror movies have, with a couple heading to a cabin in the woods for what should be an idyllic retreat. But it's a decidedly short stay, as no sooner have they unpacked their bags before they've been sliced and diced by a quartet of killers clad in glow in the dark masks (a nice visual touch in an otherwise blandly shot production).

[ Read more: FrightFest 2019 Review - The Furies ]

The killers are revealed to be four high school friends - Jenny (Brittany Teo), Miriam (Brittany Raymond) and brothers Derek (Keenan Tracey) and Ian (Spencer Macpherson) - and this isn't their first murderous rodeo, as they've spent the past year committing a series of murders in the surrounds of their small town.


extracurricular review


Like so many serial killers, the young group is fuelled by the notion that their collective superior intelligence gives them a divine right to exercise their ability to commit homicide and get away with it. These kids are so cocky that they aren't even bothered by the fact that the town sheriff (Luke Goss) happens to be Derek and Ian's father, though from what we see of him at work, he's not exactly Lieutenant Columbo.

[ Read more: FrightFest 2019 Review - Madness in the Method ]

In history class, they reply with cold Darwinian reason when their teacher asks why the pilgrims could so easily massacre Native-Americans. They claim that the pilgrims' Christianity made them feel superior to the natives, arguing that their Calvinist beliefs made it easy to kill in God's name, but they fail to see the irony of the similarity to their own actions.


extracurricular review


Director Ray Xue's film is a Canadian production, but as is so often the case, it's set below the 49th parallel, and so addresses very American concerns regarding the reasons behind that nation's violence. It might be the first movie I've seen to suggest that Protestantism is behind America's history of violence, which is so often fuelled by the sort of absolutism you see in the likes of 'cancel culture', where people are written off, not afforded the chance of redemption they might be granted in societies founded on Catholicism.

[ Read more: FrightFest 2019 Review - A Serial Killer's Guide to Life ]

But Extracurricular soon puts aside such moral curiosity as it focusses on delivering a sort of reversal of the home invasion genre. Think of The Strangers but from the point of view of the villains. This is where it runs into trouble, as its teen villains are so irredeemably despicable that it's impossible to get behind them, and of the four young stars, only Teo displays a level of charisma close to what's needed for us to remotely empathise with this bunch. As we watch these kids go about their cold-blooded business, we can only view it from a detached distance, as we're given nobody to root for who might possibly save the day.


extracurricular review


Xue's film can't quite settle on a tone, beginning as a black comedy along the lines of Heathers and Tragedy Girls, only to then remove its tongue from its cheek and morph into a straight-forward thriller. Extracurricular is far more successful when mining its scenario's potential for black humour, and when mocking its teenage killers' naivete, such as the debate that breaks out upon their learning a victim was pregnant over whether the unborn child counts as a victim itself. Characters like these deserve to be both mocked and feared, but Extracurricular struggles to maintain such a fine balance.

Extracurricular is on DVD and Digital HD October 21st.

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