Photos courtesy of Netflix
Dead Kids, the first Filipino Netflix Original feature, opens in a seedy, sleazy spa. Not exactly what you’d expect from a movie about high school kids, but then again, it never proclaimed itself to be your typical high school movie in the first place. Everything about the opening sequence — neon lighting, stark shapes and tight cuts, Sylvia La Torre’s kitschy No Money, No Honey, even the fonts — is moody and stylized, making for an excellent first impression.
Less excellent is the first impression we get of a kid (not a dead one, mind you) called Chuck Santos, who only gets worse from here: he’s bragging about his Yeezys and asking the women providing massages if they’ve got “daddy issues.” Except there are no women, and he’s instead surrounded by four masked assailants. Cue the “What the f*ck?!”
Based on a true story and helmed by Birdshot and Eerie director Mikhail Red, Dead Kids is a twisted play on the buddy comedy and coming-of-age movie in which a group of misfits get together and plan to kidnap the school’s resident jerk (Chuck, played by Markus Paterson) for a ransom of P30 million.
There’s Uy (Jan Silverio), butt-monkey and recipient of too many gay jokes for his — and the movie’s — own good. There’s Paolo (Khalil Ramos), ignorant and tactless but makes up for it with occasional flashes of brilliance and his ability to get along with anyone. There’s Blanco (Vance Larena), godson to Chuck’s drug-lord father and son of a corrupt police chief. And there’s Sta. Maria (Kelvin Miranda), recent UPCAT passer who looks at the ground as he walks and mostly flies under the radar. Their plan is foolproof: they get their revenge, nobody gets hurt, they each get a cut of the money.
What Dead Kids really has going for it is that it has gathered a talented young cast that’s versatile and easy to relate to, rounded out by Sue Ramirez as Janina, Sta. Maria’s crush who serves as the pure moral compass, and Gabby Padilla as Yssa, Paolo’s sassy take-no-shit girlfriend who’s smarter than anyone gives her credit for. They’re all believable as naive and deadpan and vulnerable and foolhardy high school students — this is both the youngest and oldest they’ve ever been, a time in their lives when everything they want is within reach, yet it can all go away just as easily. Everything is easy and everything’s a joke, until of course nothing is anymore.