A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Thinning is a 2016 YouTube Red dystopian science fiction story set in the near future. The premise of the movie is that due to overpopulation, it's decided that each year, students from the first through twelfth grades who finish in the bottom 5% of a test are to be executed, thus keeping the population low and smart. Guards dressed entirely in black with black hockey masks brutalize and oppress students at nearly every opportunity, speaking through a voice modulator that lowers the tone of their voices. They brutally club and beat up any student who either tries to escape taking the test or tries to resist after failing the test. A student knocks out one of the guards with a fire extinguisher. Young children are shown being taken away after failing the test. A teacher observes another teacher having sex with an underage student in his car; this is the student's attempt at bribery to ensure she passes the test. There is some profanity, including the word "bitch" used excessively by a bullying high school football player.
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What's the story?
In the near future, overpopulation depletes the world's resources. As a result, governments begin taking radical steps. While some enforce a strict one-child only law and others kill off the elderly, America opts to have first through twelfth graders take a test each year, a test commonly known as THE THINNING. Students who finish in the bottom 5% are executed, thus making the population smaller and smarter. After high school junior Blake (Logan Paul) loses his girlfriend Ellie to The Thinning, he vows to fight back against this barbaric practice, even if that means taking on his father -- the pro-Thinning Governor of Texas who is eyeing the Oval Office -- and even if it means carrying out his intention to deliberately fail the test since his father allowed Ellie to die. Blake puts a video in the mail stating his intention to deliberately fail the test; the Governor's agents find the envelope and deliver it to the Governor as Blake is carrying out his plan. The Governor orders the brutal school security detail who help proctor the test to allow his son to pass; as a result, a gifted high school senior named Laina is called to be executed. While being carried away with the others to be killed, Blake fights back against the guards and frees Laina. Now it's up to Blake and Laina to prove that the tests are rigged and brutally enforced, as the school remains on lockdown, leaving parents waiting outside uncertain of the fates of their children.
Is it any good?
Despite the low budget, obvious comparisons to The Hunger Games, and the ridiculous lengths the movie sometimes goes to generate tension, this manages to be entertaining dystopian sci-fi. The premise is fully fleshed out, there's an undeniable chemistry between the young actors, and there are enough twists and turns to keep it engaging. The cliffhanger undoubtedly assures a sequel, and there's enough interest in the characters and their situations to want to know what happens next.
There are some flaws. For example, according to The Thinning, hairstyles, smartphones, and automobile design don't seem to change all that much in the future. But despite the questionable idea of forcing kids to take a life-or-death test in a dark room with giant oppressive Orwellesque digital timers and billyclub-wielding security guards dressed in all-black with black hockey masks, the rest of the movie holds up. The dialogue is mostly groan-free, and with the exception of the hammy kid playing the entitled jock bully, the acting stays consistently above the level of typical low-budget sci-fi fare. The Thinning should give the teenagers YouTube Red is trying to reach something more to latch onto other than good looks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dystopian science fiction movies like The Thinning. Why do you think movies set in a bleak future have an appeal?
How did this movie use music, sound effects, and colors to create the oppressive environments of the schools?
How was violence used in this movie? Did it seem necessary to the story, or added to make the movie seem more exciting?
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