Unlikeable characters are wonderful. The anti-hero who has killed a multitude of people yet has a secret heart of gold always win over the almighty hero or villain. Those type of villains that grapple with consequence and demons. Anti-heroes are on the rise in cinema from Travis Bickle to Bruce Robertson in Filth. This even includes blockbuster hits such as John Wick, Thor: Ragnarok, and Blade Runner 2049.
But Anti-Heroes have to be done right. You have to have impeccable characterisation – you have to develop them beyond their bad traits. You have to make us care.
Directed by Ray Xue, Extracurricular revolves around four students – Miriam, Derek, Ian, and Jenny. They are a bunch of clever students who take on so many out of class activities (or, one could say, extracurricular activies….) that you’d think they wouldn’t have time for anything out. Wrong! When they aren’t studying or practising, they are committing the perfect crime. But when one of them gets cold feet, it could unravel their perfect plan.
Extracurricular is a film that has four really dislikeable people, gives us no reason to care for them, and yet has the audacity to beg you to. Before the film’s dramatic beginning, the four have already killed around five-ish people, possibly more. There’s no real reason to actually care about these murderers. As you have to spend the entirety of the film with them – it can scupper your investment.
This is further problematic when one member of the team starts to get cold feet. With no real reason for her committing the acts, her gradual turn to the good side is off-putting – especially as they still go ahead with the climatic murder. With that missing element, the film drags in the beginning – especially when there is such a big gap between the killings.
Extracurricular triumphs towards the end when a planned murder goes wrong for numerous reasons. The mounting drama as these smart, overachieving kids lose control. As they try to figure out their murder without giving away that they are the killers, there is real investment. Like Kubrick’s The Killing or Reservoir Dogs, that whole “why has it gone wrong” and “how did this happen” aspect piques your interest. It’s a shame that it happens in the final third.
There is promise in Extracurricular – there is genuine interest in the premise and the escalating crime is worth your investment. The cinematography is good. The score is uneven but it will suffice. Plus the young actors really try hard to spark on the big screen – particularly Brittany Teo as Jenny. It’s a shame some of this is wasted on writing pitfalls.
On an exciting and different note: For those who have seen Bros documentary After The Screaming Stops, you will find some scenes familiar as Luke Goss broods as the disgruntled police officer trying to solve the film. And as anyone who has seen After the Screaming Stops, a Bros Brother is never a bad thing.
Extracurricular plays at Frightfest on Saturday 24th August!
Buy your tickets now!