(director/writer: Corey Finley; cinematographer: Lyle Vincent; editor: Louise Ford; music: Erik Friedlander; cast: Paul Sparks (Mark), Olivia Cook (Amanda), Kaili Vernoff (Karen), Anya Taylor-Joy (Lili), Francie Swift(Cynthia), Anton Yelchin (Tim); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Kevin J. Walsh, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks; Focus Features; 2017)
“Delivers an abundance of chills and laughs.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The feature writing and directing debut for the 29-year-old aspiring playwright Corey Finley is an auspicious sicko one. The film ranges from a thriller to film noir to a dark comedy, as it every so often switches genres. The script was first sent by Finley’s agent as a play, but film producer Kevin J. Walsh after reading it decided it was better suited as a movie and produced it as such. It tells a depraved story about wealthy Connecticut teens with bad habits and criminal minds.The juicy story of two wealthy troubled but smart suburban Connecticut teens Lili and Amanda (Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke-both are British actresses) covers a lot of territory about them, including their cooking up a murder plot. Amanda says she can’t feel anything and fakes tears to look sympathetic. She went so far as to butcher her family’s pet sick horse in the middle of the night. For that she was sent to a mental institution. After treatment, she is ordered on home-study session and reunites with her estranged neighborhood acquaintance, the equally privileged Lily, someone she has known ever since childhood but lost track of over the ensuing years. The detached Lily lives with her meek mother (Francie Swift), who is subject to verbal abuse from her smarmy exercise nut husband, Mark (Paul Sparks), Lily’s stepfather. Mark uses his influence to enroll his disturbed stepdaughter into a modern school for “troubled girls” after she’s bounced from an elite boarding school for plagiarism. When together again, Amanda’s mom (Kaili Vernoff) hires Lily to tutor her daughter on the SAT test, which gives the darlings a chance to diabolically scheme to murder Lily’s awful stepdad. The mean-spirited teen flick, showing off how cold-blooded and amoral the very rich can be, delivers an abundance of chills and laughs, and the disturbing narrative leads to a simply amazing climax. The result is an original film that’s remarkable for how deliciously different it is from the usual teen film.This is the late Anton Yelchin’s final performance, and the film is dedicated to him. He plays the local drug dealer and an ex-sex offender, who is nevertheless the moral compass of the movie. He is blackmailed by the girls to abet in the murder by staging a robbery, but he refuses because even he cares more about killing another than do the entitled psychopathic girls. That should tell you how psychologically damaged the girls are, when even a drug dealer with a criminal past has more humanity.
REVIEWED ON 8/6/2018 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/