For many of you, this time of the summer is filled with dread, as those “Back to School” signs start popping up everywhere. Even for those who’ve not been in a learning institution for a long time, those announcements can be pretty depressing, as they signal the end of summer. Ugh!
But one school you won’t mind being part of is writer/director Boaz Yakin’s Boarding School, a terrific edge-of-your-seat psychological horror thriller that Dread Central previewed on Tuesday night as part of the site’s DreadVision screening series at the Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn. Yakin himself attended the show and participated in a Q&A (hosted by yours truly) that shed light on his story. Said story follows troubled 12-year-old Jacob (Luke Prael), who wind ups the titular place. This secluded boarding school is filled with deadly secrets, while its small group of “misfit” students grapple with their own issues and pasts.
Talking to the crowd after the movie, Yakin (director of Remember the Titans, screenwriter of Now You See Me and producer of the Hostel movies) talked about the difficulties in financing Boarding School; why he avoided making the borderline transgressive film at a major studio; the casting process that landed him his fine young stars; his cinematic influences (including Mario Bava!) and Boarding School’s powerful subtexts of the Holocaust and gender identity.
The Dread Central moviegoers sat riveted throughout the screening, though bouts of laughter spawned from Boarding School’s dark humor alleviated the tension and grimness. Fans chimed in after the movie and Q&A to Dread Central.
“It was a treat seeing Boarding School with a wonderfully upbeat audience,” says independent horror filmmaker Joshua Matteo (Metanoia, Metanoia). “The film, which leaves the viewer with an unexpected light and uplifting feeling, is a wonderfully gruesome little time. The childlike innocence permeates through the film, which deals with and teaches a wonderful lesson on accepting all parts of yourself, regardless of the world pointing a finger at you, or your own personal self-deprecation.”
The screening also left former Toxic Horror editor Michael Benson with good feelings. “Boarding School is a surprisingly upbeat trek through the darkest corners of the darkest corners of the psyche, pulverizing cinematic taboos along the way,” says Benson, author of The Devil at Genesee Junction and Carmine the Snake. “What could have been a here-we-go-again haunted house splatter film, gets suspenseful, and, yes, comedic juice out of verboten subjects like Holocaust sex and gender confusion and sado-masochism in pubescent children. Yakin couldn’t have pulled it off without a fearless cast of savvy kids who take to their misfit characters with energy and conviction.”
Several local horror clubs came down for Boarding School on Tuesday night. “All of the members liked the movie,” says co-organizer Frank Acevedo of The New York Horror Movie Group. “It was a twisted surprise. I also really liked the Q&A with Boaz. He was an interesting guy.”
Also in the audience was Boarding School actor Nicholas Oliveri, who played the mentally-challenged Elwood. “I had never played a role like Elwood before, and it was definitely an acting challenge for me,” says Oliveri. “It was great to feel totally supported by Boaz. He created such a comfortable atmosphere on the set, making it possible for all of us to really go places that, as an actor, can be quite scary.”
Oliveri shared more high praise for Yakin. “Boaz is the kind of director that an actor dreams of working with,” he says. “He had such a clear vision of what he needed from each actor and knew exactly how to communicate that to us.”
And see here for details on the next DreadVision Drafthouse screening. Get infected with Patient Zero on September 5!
(Screening photos by Oliver French: @frenchmadephotography and @vcinemastudio both on Instagram and @giganticpictures)