A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dead Kids is a 2019 Filipino thriller in which a group of misfit teens kidnap a popular boy to extort money from his wealthy father. The teens engage in all kinds of bad behavior. They binge-drink, smoke, vape, curse ("f--k" is used a lot, among pretty much every other curse word and gesture out there), bully each other, fight, fire guns, and frequent massage parlors known for prostitution. The adults aren't much better; they're either completely oblivious or make their living as drug kingpins. In one of the more disturbing moments, one of the teens has a video of one of the bullied teens blindfolded and on his knees while another boy rubs a hot dog across the blindfolded boy's lips while telling him that it's a penis. A teen girl, after binge drinking all night in a bar, throws up from her barstool. It's a dark movie that doesn't really address issues the bad behaviors of these teens so much as it seems to sensationalize them.
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What's the story?
In DEAD KIDS, Chuck is a popular, rich kid with tens of thousands of Instagram followers. In Drama Club, Chuck's understudy is Mark, a smart and shy kid who Chuck bullies, along with Chuck's friends, who pay Mark to do their homework. Mark is part of an unpopular clique at school known as "Dead Kids." Tired of Chuck's behavior, the other Dead Kids -- Blanco, Paolo, and Uy -- approach Mark with a plan to teach Chuck a lesson. They want to kidnap Chuck and then demand a ransom from Chuck's father, who is a drug lord. Low on money and behind on rent to his aunt landlady, Mark agrees to participate in the kidnapping. They follow Chuck to a massage parlor, and while Chuck is reclined on the table awaiting sexual favors from one of the women in the parlor, the boys tie up Chuck and hide him in Mark's living room closet. As their scheme begins to unravel, the boys must find a way to keep their identities secret and outwit Chuck's drug lord father and his henchmen.
Is it any good?
This is one of those teen movies that seems to positively revel in and exaggerate any and all bad behavior from teenagers. While Dead Kids makes somewhat of a comment on teenage cliques, popularity, bullying, peer pressure, and the income gap between the rich and the poor, all of this often gets lost in the over-the-top bad behavior. Teens curse in practically every line of dialogue, binge-drink until they vomit, brag about alleged sexual acts, visit massage parlors to pay for sex acts. Meanwhile, the adults tend to be oblivious, homophobic, and making their living in the criminal underworld. Based on true events, the sheer nihilism of it all tends to overwhelm any potential takeaways.
The acting is very good across the board, in spite of all the gratuitous excess. It's a pitch-black thriller where the darkness and the occasional self indulgence supersedes the story. For instance, in one scene, the unpopular "Dead Kids" suddenly stand up to some of their bullies in the cafeteria, which leads to a food fight between all the students in the cafeteria. There's no real reason for this scene to be in the movie, as it doesn't really advance the story or establish anything new about the characters. The movie is full of moments like these that come off as being done just because. This excess turns what might have been a memorable and unique movie into just the latest in a decades-long series of "teen juvey" films.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the behavior of the teens in Dead Kids. Did it seem like the filmmakers were trying to show teens in a realistic way or did they sensationalize and exaggerate their behavior for the sake of shock value?
How was bullying -- physical, verbal, and cyber -- presented in the movie?
How were adults portrayed in the movie?
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