With Bad Kids of Crestview Academy, writers Barry Wernick and James R. Hallam told the story of some of the most despicable teenagers you'd ever meet who all get stuck in detention together, resulting in a ridiculous display of mayhem.
This film is the sequel to Bad Kids Go to Hell, featuring characters or relatives of characters from the previous film. The first film was also based on a graphic novel of the same name, written by Wernick and Matthew Spradlin.
We recently spoke with Wernick and Hallam to talk about the history of the Bad Kids, how to write characters you love to hate, and some of the worst things they did when they were kids!
See Bad Kids of Crestview Academy when it lands in select theaters and on VOD this Friday.
Bad Kids of Crestview Academy 101
PopCultureNow: For our readers who might not be familiar with Bad Kids, can you talk a little bit about the history of both the previous movie, and the comic, and how you developed this whole universe that you've built?
James R. Hallam: Before you launch into that, Barry, let met me set the table up. One of the things that's important for readers and viewers to understand about the property, everything is written, or at least the screenplay is written, where you do not have to see these or read these in order to be able to enjoy the franchise and to follow along. That's why we call them installments. With that being said, Barry, you might talk about the universe and then the comic book flowing into the film.
Barry Wernick: Thanks for making that point James, because it is true. You don't have to read the first, or see the first, to get the second installment of Bad Kids. The idea started off with trying to find a universe in which we could get an audience to cheer and root against the people that they sort of like. You're rooting against them. You want to see them die, but have fun while you're doing it. Obviously, from that point of view, we wanted some sort of franchise that would take place in a universe where that would happen. The world of Nazis and terrorism and all that stuff, that played out over and over. Also, that isn't really fun.
Now, high school, that's not fun either for most people. But it is also. I think by having the high school set in sort of this The Breakfast Club fashion, we could really take a piss out of the Breakfast Club. Instead of having kids with redeeming qualities at the end that you really care for, and everyone comes to tears, no, you actually have fun with these spoiled rotten private school kids. That's Crestview Academy.
Crestview Academy is this elite school where kids seem to wind up in detention and then things go really, really bad. That's really the idea. That was the concept. We try to create a character that, everyone has had that high school experience. We try to create characters that everyone can relate to and also really like. Even though they are rooting against them at the end, they're hoping the character that maybe they associate with the most gets the best, coolest death. There's that to it, as well.
James: Let me insert, I think the other part of it was, we wanted to introduce a level of sophistication that, if we were only as lucky as all the Breakfast Club success and all that. But, because we are trying to do a mystery where there are kids that are falling to these gruesome accidents or death, we wanted to up the level of sophistication, and introduce this concept of a government conspiracy, and there's something happening in this school. It involves the military, and the presidential administration possibly. We hope that that comes through in this product so that people can identify with doing this third installment, if that's what it's going to be, for the comic book. Or being so lucky to do it for a third installment in a film.
We feel good about it, but Barry and I always kid and joke with each other, we drink our Kool-Aid so much that we might be the only ones thinking it's awesome.
Barry: The development of the property, what we tried to do was really move it from what we were calling a genre film that had a niche, cult feeling and really broadening its appeal with Bad Kids of Crestview Academy. Really making the whole universe have that broader appeal, but still not forget our roots in the genre. What we've called it is "Mainstream Genre."
It does reach into these certain areas that, I think, people who normally wouldn't be getting into this type of movie, but actually enjoy it, and get to see a little bit of comic book stuff. What we've noticed is it's really gone beyond the comic book fanbase, or the comic book world, and brought people in that probably were not interested in comic books and hopefully now are interested in comic books, and go, "You know what? There's so many movies out there that you just don't realize are comic book based". Because they don't do what we've done in this one, where we actually do some animation, and have some of the cartoon feel. You know this is from a comic book.
The first movie, we didn't do that. This one, we definitely wanted the audience to know, and hopefully broaden, not just for our movie, but for the comic book world, the industry itself. To broaden that fanbase as well.
PopCultureNow: You think of a film like Road To Perdition or A History of Violence, that were you to tell someone, "Those are based on comic books," they'd react by saying, "No, those are graphic novels, thank you very much." An air of sophistication.
Barry: Right. They have no idea. Like you said, there are so many movies out there that people just don't realize, actually yeah, it's from comic books.
How did the Bad Kids get here?
PopCultureNow: This is the second film in the Bad Kids mythology, how did this sequel come about?
Barry: Right, so the second movie is a completely different take. You have a different director, and actually different writers. The first movie, Matthew (Spradlin) and I wrote it and Matthew directed it. This movie, though, we've taken it up a notch. Several notches. James and I wrote the movie and we had Ben (Browder), who was in the first movie, reprise his role as the janitor. But also, Ben directs. It's his directorial debut.
Really, I think it's pretty obvious from the get-go when you watch the movie that we weren't holding back and trying to allow the audience to figure out, "Is this supposed to be funny or not?". I think it's pretty apparent from the beginning, it's a comic book movie. It's based on a comic book. This isn't reality and this is fun. Hopefully, that came across when you were watching it too.
For all of the Dark Knights and what have you out there, this is definitely a different tone. More like something, almost like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or something, where it's just super fun and kinetic. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's just a blast for everyone involved. The cast had a fun time as well.
James: On that note, one thing Barry and I, during the writing process, really tried to strive for was how to set this thing up appropriately for just more installments. The first one got us where we are today, but we feel like we have left this thing in a good space, to where if we want to do a third installment and a fourth installment, that the story line is there. It's just kind of a nice smooth transition into it.
Making Awful People Likable
PopCultureNow: You've mentioned the influences that you had, thinks like Breakfast Club, but in all those '80s teen comedies, you just root for everybody. How did you find the balance of making characters that were endearing, but you also did not want to see succeed?
Barry: This is a really important question that you're asking, because that was on the top of our minds the whole time. I know Ben directing, it was very important to him to have these characters. They're written a certain way, but how do you get them to portray the character on screen so that people will actually really like these kids, but at the same time enjoy their deaths? That was a really delicate balance that we had to go for. We were totally cognizant of it the whole time, in making sure that we did have these characters that were sort of likable.
James: For example, what we did with Erika Daly, which is Sara. She had an interesting walk that, surprisingly, she came up with on her own. But we had a blue streak in her hair which we felt like that would be more in line with a young Japanese student that's trying to find her way in a private school. It's little things along those lines like that that helps the audience accept and identify with the student and the character. Then, of course, it makes you feel for them when they die. We were talking about this the other day with one of the characters, Blaine, is that you actually feel sorry for this young man, because he has all these mommy problems that I think so many young men, not to get real sophisticated here, so many young men have growing up. That actually, when it's unveiled that mom has been the master behind this whole plot, and he's just one of the pieces in the puzzle, that you actually feel sorry for him, and attach more to the character. That's two examples there.
Barry: Obviously, we don't want to give away spoilers and things like that, but it is something that we noticed when we've had the private cast and crew screening. Where people who didn't know what to expect had seen it, like focus groups. It seems like that character, Blaine, who obviously isn't such a great guy at all ...
James: That's one way of putting it.
Barry: That all the girls love him. At the end, they felt sorry for him and still liked him, which is pretty cool. That means that obviously with that character, we got it. That's what we wanted to achieve. At least that's what the focus groups had told us. But we'll see when it hits theaters and on demand and everywhere else.
James: Yeah, we'll see how tasty the Kool-Aid is.
Takes Bad Kids to Write Bad Kids
Speaking of just "bad kids," the characters in the film do some pretty terrible things, so what do you think is the worst thing that either of you did as a kid?
James: Oh my gosh.
PopCultureNow: That you're willing to admit on record.
James: At our high school, Highland Park, who just won the state championship on Saturday, I shot the windows out of the shop with a BB Gun. I know, I'm going to get in trouble for that one.
Barry: We had this thing called "Smash," which wasn't really so bad. I had this pickup truck, it was a real old pickup truck. It had a camper on the back. It was a GMC Sierra Grande. We went out thinking we were all cool, like a militia. I went to an all-boys school, a private school. We had a sister school. We would go out and do these things at night. I guess it wasn't so terrible, but we would buy those little biscuits, those Pillsbury dough biscuits, where they pop open and it sounds like you're really creating some kind of havoc. Then we'd throw them all over the windows of the school, the biscuits. We used those because there was that oil mark that they just couldn't get off.
We thought that was pretty fun. At the time we thought we were the A-Team or something.
PopCultureNow: Yeah, the A-Team of biscuits.
Barry: Exactly. We were trying to be cool by causing problems.
PopCultureNow: I mean, at least you weren't shooting out windows with BB guns, right?
James: Yeah, I'll take that one.
Barry: I had to watch myself. I was president of my school, on the student council, so I had to be very...
Barry: Right, the ski mask really probably didn't hide much. Everyone knew it was me coming about three miles down the road, because the car was so loud.
PopCultureNow: If only your student body could see their student president now.
Barry: The Crestview universe, although people would think a lot of it came from St. Mark's, the private school that I went to, and the uniforms and all that other stuff, the real bad stuff actually came from James' high school, Highland Park, the public high school, because those kids were ruthless. They were bad. Our community wasn't, but I think when you're looking into it from the outside, you would think, "Oh, that private school. A bunch of spoiled rotten private school kids".
I didn't have the experience that really James had at, probably the wealthiest public school, or one of them, in the country.
PopCultureNow: I'm sure your alma mater will be glad to see you clearing it up.
Barry: Oh yeah, that's right. I always make a point of it, "This is not about St Mark's". I have to let them know that.
James: Great, thanks bud.