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New Kids, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"The Ultimate Anti-John Hughes Film"
2 stars

If you're in the mood for something really suspenseful and scary, try "The Care Bears Movie" instead.

Director Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th and A Stranger is Watching were far from excellent cinematic endeavors, mind you, but there was little denying they worked on an undemanding, fundamental level where the suspense was adequately elicited. His follow-up, The New Kids, which entails two recently-orphaned high-school teens going to stay at their uncle's amusement-park home in Florida and are subsequently threatened and terrorized by a gang of backwoods hicks who've taken exception to the sister's rejection of their advances, is basically a botch because of its premature-ejaculatory structure where the conflicts play themselves out too soon without the benefit of couth in the build-up of them. The villains, headed by a bleach-blonde James Spader with the kind of dubious southern drawl that'd make even Atticus Fitch do a double take, are an uninteresting bunch who apparently exist only to threaten for the sole sake of doing so because that's what the script demands; rather than emitting a sensual violent appeal, perhaps, they're nothing more than one-dimensional, sociopathical goons with a boringly nonchalant concern for human life in general. And with both the hero and heroine altruistically good throughout, there's little in the way of vivid dramatic contrast between them and their antagonists. Suffice to say, it's another of those paint-by-numbers cinematic endeavors where cookie-cutter cliches abound minus so much as an iota of wit or energy that might lend them some gravitas, rootedness.

Even on the simplest level the film cancels itself out by doling out the fights and chases before even the midway mark, so any semblances of sustained organic clarity are dissipated because everything's on one level for far too long -- we're consequently worn out before the film even begins to approach its final confrontation. While accusing something like this with mean-spiritedness may seem prudish, the crude factor is undeniably high concerning the heroine, who's doused with gasoline and taunted by matches before an attempted rape with her tormentors wanting to "fuck her black and blue". (This is also the kind of low-echelon writing where the uncle's expression for being rich is "farting through silk".) The New Kids lacks atmosphere and tension, with Cunningham presenting blatantly obvious set-ups -- not only do you know the second you see the hero enter the school shower by himself and the heroine later go to the bathroom by herself that they're going to get attacked, but you're left questioning their IQs over the guaranteed peril they should know they're putting themselves in. To be fair, some of the deaths in the finale are fairly neat (predictably taking place at the amusement park, they're better than the lackadaisical ones in Tobe Hooper's awful The Funhouse), and Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin give good-natured performances as the brother and sister, but the film's virtues are slim pickings and the entertainment value too low to warrant a filmgoer's full attention from start to finish even with an under-ninety-minute running time. Better thrills to be found on a merry-go-round, I swear.

Try Cunningham's "Spring Break" instead. (No gore, I know, but in the tanned-boobie department, you can't go wrong.)

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originally posted: 07/19/08 07:05:18
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9/28/13 action movie fan fairly good bully harasses new kids horror drama 3 stars
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  18-Jan-1985 (R)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2005



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