Review : Boarding School (2018)

Boarding School is a horror thriller directed by Boaz Yakin. This is his first attempt at a horror film and his lack of familiarity with the genre does come across throughout Boarding School. The film stars Luke Prael as the main character, Sterling Jerins and Will Patton.

Jacob is a young teenager subject to night terrors, which drive his mother crazy. Shortly after the death of his maternal grandmother, whom he never met, and an encounter at the funeral with an intimidating old lady who tells him a story about his grandmother during WW2, Jacob starts having visions of his grandmother’s WW2 traumatic experience. When his stepfather finds him dressed in his grandmother’s ball gown and dancing, he and the mother decide to send Jacob to a boarding school for troubled teens. However, the boarding school turns out to be a really strange place, ran by an even stranger couple.

Boarding School is, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity. The film remains intriguing throughout so it keeps you wanting to figure out what is going on in this mansion, but it seems like the director doesn’t know how to explore the themes he implements. Boarding School could have been great. Unfortunately, it is just an average film from an unexperienced director.

The actors are all obviously talented but what really transpires through their performances is the lack of direction. For instance, Luke Prael, who portrays Jacob, goes from mesmerizing performances to downright bad line deliveries from one scene to the next. Will Patton is having fun playing the scary headmaster / only teacher and it really shows on screen. The other child actors are good at portraying disabilities so the characters are quite believable. The only character I didn’t like is Christine, another teen sent to the school whom Jacob knew beforehand.

There is one aspect of Boarding School that is constantly hinted at but never fully explored and it really hurts the film. Jacob is a feminine boy and people around him keep telling him he is a girl or walks like a girl. The problem is, that’s all that is said on the subject. It seems the director wanted to touch upon the subject of transgender but didn’t know how to incorporate it into the story. It seems the only purpose of Jacob dressing up in his grandmother’s clothing was to make the kid have an interesting look in the climax of the film. I mean, Luke Prael can definitely pull it off but it doesn’t bring anything to the story.

The premise of the film is interesting enough and the reveal of the adults’ real intentions could have been a great twist but unfortunately, an good story doesn’t make a good film without good writing and good direction. Boarding School offers good visuals and a story that never goes beyond the surface.