This film surprised me. At first it presents as a typical teen angst film with a “Let’s-get-back-at-the-bullies” plot, but that’s just the set up. This film offers much more than that. One of the things I’d like to examine is the fact that this film offers up a good example of a Cynical Anti-Hero in the character of Josh.
While there us a triumvirate of misfits being bullied and plotting their revenge (Ray, Josh, and Sammy), it’s Josh who is eventually called on to be the reluctant hero saving the damsel in distress and ultimately going against his and his two friends’ previous plan to blow up their bullies at the high school Homecoming Dance. The catalyst for Josh’s change of heart is the wickedly unexpected part of this film and probably some of the most disturbing gore scenes I’ve seen in a while. I'm not a fan of gratuitous violence, but in this film it's very symbolic and part of the overall message I believe the writer/director is trying to convey.
An anti-hero usually has certain characteristics like rarely speaking, being a loner, has parent issues, bad dreams, and extreme celibacy…all of which serves as a checklist for Josh. The interesting twist in this narrative is that Josh starts off being what could be argued as a complex protagonist. Is he a victim of bullying or a psycho just looking for an excuse to blow up his school because of his home situation, outlook on life, or just the voices in his head? That’s Josh’s initial state.
While one friend stays at home making the bombs, Josh and the other friend go out seeking some real guns to do damage with. They stalk a junk yard owner back to his place of business only to find this guy is the biggest freak on the block and has been killing people in his basement, a Purgatory that woudl rival anything Dante could cook up, for so long he’s lost all humanity. In fact, we don't even see his face. His physical transformation is paralleled by Josh’s in a call to action demanding him to step up and actually save one of the people who were on his list of targets for that evening’s dance. Nice twist. Chaos ensues.
The best part of this narrative comes at the end when we our barrative expectations have led us to think the hero’s life will now be rewarded with the admiration of those he has saved, but in a fresh perspective we’re shown that life and bullies are just that…life and bullies. The boon our anti-hero is given is not so much the clichéd expectation that heroic actions will lead to a change of perception of others, it does show us how Josh’s perception of himself changes and that’s good enough. Oh, and there’s potential sex with a cheerleader involved…I’m just saying.