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Boarding School Movie Review

All Aboard

Director Boaz Yakin can sometimes take a very dark view of things. I first saw his darkness in Death in Love, a film that I loved. While "Boarding School" can't match it, if you enjoy horror-type films, it's still well worth your time. In both movies, there is a link to Nazis; this was an integral part of "Death in Love," but in "Boarding School" it feels less important and almost a distraction.

Jacob (Luke Prael) is a young teen who suffers from night terrors, and he doesn't fare that much better when he's awake. His mother, Isabel (Samantha Mathis), isn't very sympathetic toward her son's problems. Mostly, she yells at him. Isabel is going through other things of her own with the recent passing of her mother, who she despised.

At the funeral, an odd older woman corners Jacob and tells him a scary and confusing story about his grandmother. Jacob also experiences bullying from his contemporaries. At a dinner party, Christine (Sterling Jerins), the daughter of the hostess, who is about his age, tells him he is pretty like a girl instead of handsome like a man. He bristles at the observation. Soon afterward, he finds his grandmother's clothes and puts them on. His stepfather catches him and the decision is reached to send him to boarding school to straighten out.

The school is in the middle of nowhere. It's run by Dr. Sherman (Will Patton) and his wife (Tammy Blanchard), and only has six other students. They include a large boy with mental problems, another with Tourette's, one who is bright that was severely burned in a fire, identical brothers who appear normal, and Christine, who shows up at the school after Jacob.

In class, the students are provided with three books, but the only one they ever open is the Bible. The couple running the school punish the kids cruelly as often as possible. It's clear that the kids are going to be forced to rebel at some point. The progression of the plot gets darker at every turn, until survival becomes the primary goal of the kids. They don't all achieve their goal.

"Boarding School" finally turns very violent after beginning as psychological terror. All of it works because Yakin knows how to pace a story and because Luke Prael does a great job in the lead. His facial expressions are often so blank as to cause us doubt as to what is about to happenm, and the technique works beautifully. "Boarding School" isn't going to win any awards, and some of the secondary characters are too stereotypical, but the direction and Prael make it a very fun and chilling ride.

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