Review: BOARDING SCHOOL (2018)
Boaz Yakin has a career as a writer and director that stretches back to his script for the 1989 version of THE PUNISHER. He’s gone from DTV horror sequels like FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY to the acclaimed drama REMEMBER THE TITANS. Now he’s back in the horror genre with BOARDING SCHOOL.
Jacob (Luke Prael EIGHTH GRADE) is a young man with a lot of issues. He has night terrors involving his recently deceased grandmother. Girls call him pretty, boys bully him. And his father has caught him dressing up in grandma’s clothes. Now he’s being sent off to boarding school.
And what a school it is. Doctor Sherman (Will Patton FALLING SKIES) is the only faculty member, both headmaster and teacher of all subjects. Mrs. Sherman (Tammy Blanchard INTO THE WOODS) is the entire housekeeping staff. The few other students all have their own issues, from the horribly burned Phil (Nadia Alexander THE DARK) to the seemingly psychopathic Christine (Sterling Jerins THE CONJURING).
Soon the other students begin turning up dead. Jacob and Christine must team up to get to the bottom of things before the rest of the class graduates in coffins.
There are a lot of ideas and plot threads running through BOARDING SCHOOL’s 111 minutes. Unfortunately, they never manage to come together in a real way. Jacob’s cross-dressing never becomes integral to the plot. It feels like a cheap gimmick to get some cool visuals during the film’s blood and fire-filled climax. The same is true of the visions he gets of his grandmother during the Holocaust. The story has its own creepiness and shock value, but it never connects to Jacob’s life or what’s happening to him.
A case might be made, given one of the film’s reveals, that Yakin is trying to make a connection between the Holocaust and discrimination against LGBT people. But Jacob is never explicitly identified as gay. Asking us to assume it because he’s effeminate and likes his grandmother’s clothes would be the kind of stereotyping that would contradict that kind of message.
The film does manage to work up some shocks in the final act. However, it takes way too long to get there. By the time the Sherman’s God and corporal punishment regime is in full view and kids are going missing the audience’s interest has also gone missing. Trimming the opening scenes before Jacob arrives at the school would have helped. There’s entirely too much time spent watching him have a snack, read a comic, watch a movie, etc. The fact he watches Bava’s BLACK SABBATH just reminds you what a really good genre film is like.
BOARDING SCHOOL is in release from Momentum Pictures.