Bad Girls From Valley High
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Bad Girls from Valley High

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In past years the teen comedy has taken a new direction. While some still depend on the puerile use of nudity, drugs and profanity there are a few that depend on wit to tell its story. Bad Girls from Valley High (also known as A Fate Worse than Death) is a witty, comic romp through the worse possible scenario possible for a group of popular teen aged girls, growing old. The first we see the popular girls here the shot is now very familiar, the alpha girl Danielle (Julie Benz) walking down the hall of the school one step ahead of her two sycophants, Tiffany (Nicole Bilderback) and Brooke (Monica Keena). They dismiss all those lowly schoolmates that are beneath their self exalted status. On the one year anniversary of the death of a classmate, Charity (Tanja Reichert) an exchange student enters the school. Katarina (Suzanna Urszuly) is a poor but beautiful girl from Romania (in the province of Transylvania) that moves into Charityís locker and, most importantly the boy that Danielle is after, Drew (Jonathan Brandis). It comes as little surprise that the uber-popular trio begin a campaign to humiliate the new girl. Over night the girls begin to age incredible rapidly. Tiffany begins to lose her eyesight, Brooke has pain in the hips and Danielle is in dire need of adult diapers. The later is driven home in a scene where Danielle is at the store purchasing the garments when a tell tale dripping sound is heard. The girls naturally come to the conclusion that Katarina is the ghost or the departed Charity and this is her revenge.

While much of the story is typical of this genre there are some excellent moments to be had. Not to spoil things but the ending and postscript of the film is extremely humorous and I really didnít see it coming, well not completely. What places this film above so many of its contemporaries is the humor while based on bodily function jokes the underlying concept carries the day. The worse thing that could possibly happen to these girls is to lose the only thing they have of any personal value, their looks and youth. To them this is the very worse possible scenario, winkles, sagging flesh and leaky bodies. Bad Girls takes a little Clueless, adds a touch of Mean Girls and stirs in a heaping helping of the Golden Girls. Like most films like this the adults are as important as the wah-wah noises in a Peanuts cartoon.

Julie Benz plays the self-centered Danielle to a tee. From the instant she struts on the scene we know we are going to hate her yet Benz gives enough dimension to the character that we actually feel for her as she ages. Part of that may be a little guilt that in all films of this type we really want to see the popular girl get what she deserves. Benz has a natural comic gift for facial expressions. The one that she employs as she relives herself at a check out counter is priceless. Nicole Bilderback as Tiffany also comes across as funny than I had anticipated. She has a good sense of comic timing and brings more life to what could easily have been nothing more than a second banana role. Monica Keena is more emotionally affected by their part in the death of Charity. She actually seems to care, a feeling not well received by her friends. Two adult roles are well done. Great film and television comic Christopher Lloyd is the teacher of this group of misfits. In almost every scene some physical damage is afflicted on him. With his rubber face and well timed slapstick movements he brings one old fashion pratfalls to the film. There is also a cameo by one of the original, old school scream queens, Janet Leigh. Jonathan Brandis, best known for his role on SeasQuest, is little more than male eye candy here. His part seems to serve only to set up the tension between Danielle and Katarina. Suzanna Urszuly as Katarina also has very little to do. In fact her character is almost a classic McGuffin, important to the players but not the audience. The film centers around the three leads and the young actresses have the comic ability to pull it off nicely.

This is the one feature film for director John T. Kretchmer. Still, his resume is considerable especially for teen oriented television series. Among his credits are series like Buffy, Charmed (all seasons), Dark Angel and One Tree Hill. As such he has a lot of experience in giving an interesting story aimed at teens without pandering to them. One of the most important things with a film like this is the pacing, keeping the audience laughing while building on the premise. Kretchmer has nailed this aspect perfectly. The changes made to the girls are gradual at first. We know what is happening but the joke is kept going without taking it to the point of tedium. He also keeps the filmís length to the point. Its less than an hour and half, more like a double episode of Charmed. So many television directors make the mistake in their first feature film of taking themselves too seriously. Kretchmer retains a playful feeling through the film that goes a long way to making it work. This could have been just another one joke flick but he gives the audience a truly amusing film.

Universal did a good job with the DVD presentation. The video is presented in anamorphic 1.85, crisp and clear with an excellent color balance. The Dolby Stereo audio provides a reasonable sound stage with little to dazzle you but the job does get done. The only extras are some deleted scenes that will give a little chuckle but its easy to see why they where left out. No, this isnít a classic but it succeeds in what it sets out to do, give you about 80 minutes of laughs. This would make a good beer and pizza flick that you might actually enjoy with your teens.

Posted 3/18/05

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