EXTRACURRICULAR **** Canada 2018 Dir: Ray Xue. 90 mins
“Two does not count as a massacre…” This assured feature debut for Rax Xue opens in a familiar fashion with a savage sequence of a young couple assailed by a quartet of Day-Glo mask wearing strangers…before unravelling so we can spend the movie experiencing further atrocities from the perspective of the killers. The film then plays out as if we’ve been given a backstage pass into the daily lives of the anonymous killers from THE STRANGERS movies – and, in spending time with them, we get a 21st century variation on SCREAM’s Billy and Stu.
After a busy night’s killing, the four disaffected teenagers gather at their local diner to gloat about what went well and make snarky comments on news coverage of their work. They argue routinely about the need to avoid predictable tactics (“Halloween seems so cliched- it’s not, it’s classic!”). There are fleeting nods to past mask-wearing maniacs (“Maybe potato sacks with eyes cut out?”) but Xue avoids overt post-SCREAM style genre referencing. Detailed preparations for home invasions are juxtaposed with scenes of small-town sheriff Luke Goss investigating the crimes…and he happens to be the dad of two of the perpetrators.
This insight into the modus operandi of four Nietzsche-quoting Calvinist psychopaths is strong on chilling detail – some potential victims are chosen simply because their house is too close to the road – and its restraint with onscreen violence heightens the impact of a startling climactic moment. The theme of bored, otherwise unremarkable millennials slaughtering those simply unfortunate enough to fall under their radar allows the film to explore the well-trodden genre territory of banal, everyday evil. The finale trades in contrivance and bleak irony, hammering home an overall sense of helplessness.
Review by Steven West