Dead Kids’ Stellar Cast Brings Its Characters to Life Effortlessly
A socially awkward teen bonds with a group of misfits who plot to abduct the schools arrogant rich kid until their kidnapping scheme turns deadly.
Director: Mikhail Red
Cast: Kelvin Miranda, Vance Larena, Khalil Ramos, Jan Silverio, Markus Paterson, Sue Ramirez, Gabby Padilla
Language: Tagalog, English
Runtime: 98 minutes
Dead Kids follows the story of four misfits who struggle to navigate through high school. As if that by itself is not daunting enough, the teens then plot to kidnap the most popular and richest guy in school, Chuck Santos (Markus Paterson). He is your stereotypical high school bully, whose father just happens to be a drug lord. What could go wrong, right?
As the film opens, we are introduced to Mark Sta. Maria (Kelvin Miranda), a shy scholar student. He is soon recruited by mastermind Charles Blanco (Vance Larena), the class clown Paolo (Khalil Ramos) and average geek Gideon Uy (Jan Silverio) to take Chuck down. What initially seems like child’s play escalates into a ransom of 30 million pesos and – quite possibly – a deadly situation.
The biggest winner in this film for me is its impeccable casting. The actors nail their stereotypes while still managing to make the character their own. Miranda, Larena and Ramos put up performances way beyond their years. The three share a chemistry that is a joy to watch and together they induce many laugh out loud moments.
Ramos is my personal favourite as the class clown with his flawless comedic timing. As this is solely the boys’ film, little room is left for Gabby Padilla and Sue Ramirez to shine. Although the girls play love interests, there is next to no romance in the film, which limits their scope. I found the whole high school climate to be extremely organic and natural, supplemented by well-written dialogue that would be popular with teens. Littered with unabashedly crass language, the writers make no attempts to censor the words of the youngsters, for authenticity.
With such a talented cast, one major let down for me is the lack of character development. While the actors do a commendable job, I was unable to properly connect with any of them. By establishing each of their backgrounds just briefly, the little development that happens at the start of the film is completely lost in later parts.
I only understood these characters on a surface level, leaving me apathetic about their personal arcs. I was not convinced about their motivations to commit this crime and could not empathise with their circumstances. Regardless, the actors did such a phenomenal job that I found myself rooting for their success.
The film also fell short for me in its screenplay. The film shuffles between high and low intensities because the characters juggle school by day and a high-profile crime by night. The transitions between the two tones are abrupt and rough, as if the boys toggle a switch to shift between them. If that was indeed the intention, it did not work for me.
The scenes are well-lit for the less serious scenes and lowly lit for the heavier scenes, regardless of day and night. While this may have worked a few times, I felt that this repeated too many times without variation, making the film predictable in parts. Having said that, the background music does its best to smooth things over, using white noise during its more intense scenes to keep viewers at the edge of their seats.
With Dead Kids, director Mikhail Red attempts to take a dig at the unequal social stratification in the Philippines that starts even from school. The iconic dialogue “only the poor get killed” stayed with me long after the film was over. While some parts of the film feel like nothing more than classic teenage angst, most parts are in-line with its thriller and black comedy narrative.
The understated friendship and camaraderie that exists between the characters, even amidst the chaos, is endearing and successfully carries the film forward. If you are looking for a blockbuster thriller, this might not be for you. However, I would still recommend you to watch, simply to support these talented young artistes who will definitely go on to become tomorrow’s superstars.