The New Kids - The New Kids( Blu Ray) [101 Films - 2020]The New Kids is a mid-1980ís teenage revenge/ high school gang drama/thriller- it features a great early performance from James Spader, some fairly tense-to-brutal action, and a well enough flowing plot. Here from 101 Films, and part of their Black Label series which sees ultimate edition of cult films- is a release of one of the lesser-known titles directed by Sean S. Cunningham- the first Friday the 13th, and one of the producers behind harrowing & notorious rape/ revenge picture Last House On The Left
Released in 1985 The New Kids was the 8th film directed by Cunningham- it was written/ screen played by Stephen Gyllenhaal- whose more known as a producer/ director- taking in a fair few US TV shows, and films such as 1991 50ís drama Paris Trout which featured Dennis Hopper in a lead role, and 1998 doper comedy/ drama Homegrown. The New Kids is passable enough filmed- though it does feel very much of its time- with the more tense-to-brutal elements dealt with well, as are some of the key sets including a small Santa themed fairground in Florida.
The film opens on the McWilliams family- which takes in high ranking soldier father Mac( Tom Atkins), his wife Mary Beth- and their two early-to-late teen kids Abby(Lori Loughlin) and her brother Loren(Shannon Presby). The family live on a base, and are clearly very fit- as we see them training together. Parent's Mac and Mary Beth go off to an awards ceremony, leaving the teens at home- and then they get the news both parents have been killed in an accident. It's decided that Abby and Loren go to live in Glenby, Florida with their Aunt Fay and Uncle Charlie who own a gas station-come- amusement park-come petting zoo. The teens seemingly donít have much trouble making friends at their new high school- Loren starts dating Karen, the local sheriff's daughter while Abby starts dating the geeky Mark. The only issue/ fly in the ointment is Eddie Dutra(James Spader)- leader of a group of drug-fuelled red-necks, Eddie is rather keen on ruining both Abby & Lorenís time in high school, and as both push back against Eddie & his gang, things go from bad to worse.
Spader is great as the bleach-blond thick quiff gang leader- having a real air of menace & unhingement, that from time-to-time explodes into coc- fuelled sadism & murder. The rest of the gang are effective too as leering & unpleasant rednecks, who once again are unpredictable- with both Spader & the gang getting the best scenes. The Ďnew kidsí are ok- though at times feel a little flat & smug, maybe because Loren is a little arrogant & cocky when he first gets to town you donít feel possible what you should for him, but his sister Abby fares better & at moments you do really feel her peril. The adults aside from the chubby, always trying to make a buck uncle are rather cookie cutter. On the whole, The New Kids is a good enough addition to the teen revenge genre- at times the films score by respected score composer Lalo Schifrin feels somewhat dated, and from maybe the 70ís instead of the í80s- with its blend of big bombastic horn chase music & almost soapy easy listening. Cunningham manages to nicely racket up the tension, with some fairly intense & brutal enough moments, and the funfair showdown moves nicely from grim & hopeless, to tense & heroic.
The new Blu Ray print looks nice & bold, really bringing up both the 1980ís color pallet & the blood when it appears largely later in proceedings. Moving onto the extras- and we get a good selection of new stuff- there are two on-camera interviews, and each runs around sixteen minutes. The first is with Sean S. Cunningham, and he remembers the film fairly fondly- discussing how Santa themed park was built from scratch for the picture, and how in one of the fighting scenes Spader punched Presby for real, knocking him out. The other interview is with writer Stephen Gyllenhaal- he talks about how he wrote the script and was on & off the film- as it got re-jigged by other writers. Both interviews are worthy, and are well worth a watch- even if you're not blown away by the film itís self. Lastly, on the disc we get a commentary from film critics Sean Hogan and Jasper Sharp- this is chatty if a little sporadic track, with the pair talking about on-screen action, giving actors bios, and talking about other films Cunningham & Gyllenhaal- itís ok, though there are no great revelations, and the pair keep going back to comment on what Gyllenhaal said in his interview. The finished release comes with an inlay booklet- which takes in new essays about Ď80s Gang Violence Movies and The New Kids, and Sean Cunningham film work- I canít comment on this booklet, as we only got through a screener disc of the review.
Once again 101 Films have done a great job with this reissue- with a great print, and worthy extras. In finishing I canít say The New Kids is either the best thing Cunningham was involved in, or one of the best of the teenage revenge/ high school gang genre- but if you a fan of 1980ís genre pictures youíll be needing to pick this up because on the whole, itís worthy of your time.Roger Batty