Walking the Halls
Back in 1972 the ABC television network began to air movies around 4 pm in the afternoon. They were overtly didactic in nature typically providing admonitions against such activities as stealing, drug abuse or teenage sex. These films became known as After School Specials and quickly caught on. Parents and educators approved of the fundamental messages the contained while teen were able to get into movies featuring young actors and how the topics were presented in a fashion as relevant to them as possible. Eventually such movies were given a feminine perspective and taken up by Lifetime, the network for women. Throughout the decades the ABC series title managed to stick and now after school special can practically be considered a genre in its own right. One film that meets the criteria for inclusion in this category is ‘Walking the Halls’, a look at the inherent dangers of teenage prostitution. This topic is one that is certain to garner interest. Moralist demand the police crackdown on practice, liberals decry demand it be decriminalized while women advocacy groups remind people that the prostitutes are the frequently abused victims. No matter what position a person might take it seems everyone has a strong opinion on the subject. In the case of young prostitutes there is also the issue the exploitation of children. As teenage girl might physically have the appearance of a grown woman but emotionally still react as a child. This movie looks at an issue that might not be as prevalent as portrayed in the story but undoubtedly does exist. Consider the source the film eschews the more sensualistic depiction of what is going on soy teenage boys looking for something soft core are advised to look elsewhere or better still expand you viewing preferences. The movie aims to be a cautionary tale and works well enough achieving that goal. The dramatic impact is kept under control not giving in to the easier path of soap opera melodrama; a common occurrence in films of this nature.
The initial setting of the movie is a typical high school in Los Angeles. Casey Benson (Caitlin Thompson) is in the senior class and, in order to complicate matters by introducing the added moral and legal complication of exploiting minors her age is given as eighteen. Casey could be described as pretty, bright and reasonably popular but never in the clique at the pinnacle of the high school social strata. That is until the events of one day. Her boyfriend Jeremy (Isiah Adams) abruptly terminates their relationship in a crude and cruelly public fashion. Normally even tempered Casey unexpectedly verbally debases him in a similar public venue. This response places her on the radar of the most popular girls in the school. The undisputed queen bee is Amber (Marie Avgeropoulos), beautiful, self-assured and unchallenged in her edicts to the others; Taylor (Lindsay Taylor) and Kylie (Arden Cho). To demonstrate Casey’s ascension to their ranks Amber charges her minions to obtain a fake ID so Casey can accompany them for a night of clubbing.
Even though this is Los Angeles the girls in this elite group have the propensity to wear the best in designer clothing and accessories. The question that no one seems to ask is the source of these extravagant items. The answer is an indulgence in what is commonly referred to as the world’s oldest profession; the high school students are in fact highly lucrative call girls. The reason they became interested in Casey is her potential to increase their ‘stable’ and profit margin. Amber indoctrinates Casey into prostitution in a subtle manner by setting her up with date. The man, Max (Jason-Shane Scott) is at least a decade older than the novice but clueless to what is actually happening Casey accepts. Not used to imbibing alcohol the school girl quickly gets drunk and winds up sleeping with him. When she finally gets back home Casey’s mother, Holly (Jamie Luner) is understandably angry. Her normally compliant daughter disregarded he curfew stumbling back home hung over. Casey is shocked and appalled when Amber presents her with $600, her part of the fee Max was charged for services rendered.
In many films concerned with this theme a typical plot device is to introduce an untenable situation at home. Her mother has been consistently upset over problem in her own marriage. Her husband Christopher (Al Sapienza) is distant and uninvolved with his family. The most heinous manifestation of his ill treatment of his wife is his blatant infidelity. Holly decides to become independent of Christopher by opening a restaurant partnering with her best friend Maggie (Darlene Vogel) and seek a divorce. This will be an uphill battle since Christopher squandered the family savings on an ill-advised investment. Later when confronted by Holly over his losing the family savings and cheating Christopher becomes physically abusive resulting in the intervention of the police and his arrest.
Meanwhile back with Casey Max tries to convince her he was truly interested in her. Casey is on an emotional precipice after learning the details of the family breakup blaming her mother for not devoting more effort to her marriage. Her mother finds the money another argument resulting in Casey leaving home and staying at Amber’s home placing the emotionally vulnerable girl in Amber’s sway. The tipping point is when Amber arranges a three way with a wealthy client for $5,000. It turns out that the client is old and unattractive; Casey initially refuses to service him with Amber. The experienced girl is also reluctant but soon concedes. When Casey tries to run away she is stopped by Jack (Matthew Alan) the police officer assigned to the school and the pimp running the operation.
The primary downside of the movie is clutter. There are too many issues included in the story so that the main theme is muddled. Of course there is a broken family, de rigueur for a young woman pulled into being a sex worker. Added to that is the old high school standard, peer pressure and the need to be at the apex of the social hierarchy. As if that wasn’t enough a slice of police corruption and parental infidelity is tossed in. on the up side we have feminine empowerment with Holly taking her predicament under her own control and starting her own business. It comes across as a Lifetime movie marathon crammed into an hour and a half movie. With that said this film does fulfill expectations for something in the genre. It is not overly preachy presenting itself more along the lines of a straightforward drama. The young cast is suitably attractive and competent in their roles. Time does roll on through; Jamie Luner had played the other side of the mother-daughter feud at the start of her career which was not all that long ago. It demonstrates that a beautiful actress can continue to exhibit the talent to grow into beautiful woman roles.