26 August 2007 | lost-in-limbo
Playing with fire.
History teacher Mrs Tingle seems to have it in for student Leigh Ann Watson, who has her heart on achieving a writing school scholarship. She receives another low grade from Tingle, which doesn't help. When one of her classmates Luke steals the paper of the final history exams and pops it in her bag, Mrs. Tingle finds it sticking out. She threatens the three that she will go to the principal about it, but he's not available. So before she reports it the next morning. Leigh, her friend Jo Lynn and Scott head to her place that night and try to convince her not tell the principal. However due to Tingle's stubbornness, that find themselves reverting to drastic measures to stop this getting out.
Wasn't fan of it when I first saw it, and after another viewing, I'm still not one. Writer Kevin Williamson was on a roll after penning the successful contemporary teen horror films; 'Scream (1996)', 'I Know What You did Last Summer (1997)', 'Scream 2 (1997)' and 'The Faculty (1998)'. He was riding the success (also not to forget the TV show 'Dawson's Creek), but this project would be the final bump. The difference there, compared with this entry was other then writing the screenplay, he was also making his debut in directing. The strange thing though, was that I found his direction to be competently done, but material he stormed up to flavourless and tired. It seemed to get caught in playing both a black comedy and straight-out thriller, without making it gel. The script is cluttered with quick-wit, on-going gags, trivial stretches and gimmicky references towards other films, but the problem is that it's too watered-down with so many contrived developments and sappy moral currents disrupting the flow. The fractured script had to be more strong and potent, since it's a small-scale production that feels like you're watching a stage show because of its mostly confined sets. It tries to play mind games with the characters, but these moments are there to only serve the story's poor progression into a puddle of stupidity and senselessness. The film's ending takes the cake. Williamson's polished direction is sound, but more so in a pedestrian way and therefore it lacks suspense and the pacing even with its taut surroundings can really plod on. You eventually feel it after the halfway mark, and it shows up how minor the story is. The performances are tolerable enough, although if it weren't for Helen Mirren's classy, icy portrayal of manipulative prowess as Mrs. Tingle and a buoyant Marisa Coughlan, we would have been stuck watching a vapid goody-to-shoes Katie Holmes. Barry Watson is modest in his slacker part and Molly Ringwald has a lesser role. The soundtrack packs enough energy, but I found it terribly overwrought and shapeless in its choices.
Watchable, but mechanical all round.