Universal // 2000 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 27th, 2005
High school can be hell, but being popular can be murder!
Bad Girls from Valley High is not a film that I hated, although I didn't like it one bit. I have to reserve my feelings of hate for movies that offend me to core or generate an inexplicable hostility within me, and Bad Girls from Valley High did neither. All that it filled me with was apathy and boredom, some annoyance, and a good deal of sleepiness. Thankfully, there was a clock in plain view of the screen so that I had something worth watching.
The movie is like an extremely low-rent version of 1999's teen black comedy Jawbreaker, which itself was a low-rent version of Michael Lehmann's classic Heathers, in that it was about a group of bitchy popular girls that begin offing one another. Now, I'll admit that I enjoy a teen comedy as much as any other emotionally-stunted 28-year-old adult male, but Heathers really should have killed the genre -- it took everything said by John Hughes and his brethren during the 1980s, systemically destroyed it, and effectively had the bleak and brutal last word. When the success of the Freddie Prinze, Jr. vehicle She's All That triggered a resurgence in the genre almost a decade later, I was somewhat peeved -- I suspected that all we would get would be disappointing remakes of those '80s films. As it turns out, I was right. And hardly any of them were worthy substitutes, as proven by the Heathers / Jawbreaker comparison.
Now we get Bad Girls from Valley High, which isn't even a worthy substitute for Jawbreaker, though it features one of the same stars, Julie Benz (Angel's Darla). She plays Danielle, the leader of the bitchy popular girls at school. How do we know they're popular? Because we get multiple shots of the girls walking in formation down the hallway (you know, the same shot we saw in Jawbreaker, only now Benz gets to be in front). Her two friends / followers are Tiffany (Nicole Bilderback, Bring It On) and Brooke (Monica Keena, Freddy vs. Jason); together, the three of them are responsible for the death of pretty Charity Chase (Tanja Reichert, Club Dread). As the one-year anniversary of Charity's death approaches and a new exchange student moves in on Danielle's love / Charity's mourning ex (the late Jonathan Brandis, Sidekicks), the girls begin to notice strange occurrences going on -- every day, they age 5 to 10 years. What could be causing it? A curse? Charity's ghost? The new exchange student? Factor in an embarrassed-looking Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as a hazard-prone teacher and Janet Leigh (Hello Down There) as a mysterious old woman, and you still won't care.
Some digging over at the Internet Movie Database tells me two interesting things about Bad Girls from Valley High: First, that that isn't the movie's original title -- that would be A Fate Totally Worse Than Death, and two, that it was made five years ago and is only now seeing the light of day. Why that is, I can't speculate (why it's being released, that is; not why it's been shelved for so long -- that answer is obvious). Now, I'll admit that Bad Girls from Valley High is a much better title; it suggests something kind of retro and kitschy that I would expect to enjoy. The fact that it's the best thing about the movie should tell you that there's not much going on here. This is a comedy without any laughs, unless you find flatulence and incontinence amusing (as the girls age, they lose control of their bodily functions. Ha!). It's not even sure from what point of view it wants to tell the story. The movie is told entirely from the perspective of the three girls -- the "villains" of the story -- but we're meant to be rooting for the young lovers at the same time. Are we supposed to sympathize with the girls as they suffer and decay, or should we find it funny? Different scenes seem to be asking totally different things of us. And why are actors who are pushing thirty years old being cast as high school students? Yes, Julie Benz is attractive and a fine actress -- she's a lot of things, but a 17-year-old is not one of them. Even Brandis, who was 24 at the time, is a stretch. Watching these actors try to play ten years younger than their ages is one more distraction than this mess of a movie can handle.
Universal releases Bad Girls from Valley High on DVD five years too late and with a new title -- the Weinsteins' legacy to the film world. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, enhanced for 16x9 playback. The transfer is fine; it's bright and features a reasonable amount of detail, but makes for nothing spectacular. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track fares about the same, showing some presence while still giving the dialogue its due. The only extras included are some "hilarious deleted scenes" (as they are called by the cover art), but I found them to be less than hilarious. When what's left in is decidedly unfunny, there's little chance that what's cut out is going to be busting any guts.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes