It’s Clear Last of the Grads (2021) Is the Last Class You’d Want to Attend
Title: Last of the Grads
First Non-Festival Release: November 5, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Jay Jenkins, Collin Kliewe
Writer: Jay Jenkins, Collin Kliewe
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Starring: Jessica Lang, Jadon Cal, Charlie White Jr
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After making it through their last semester, high school seniors at an unassuming Florida high school celebrate their last milestone before graduating and entering the real world by attending a lock in at their local high school. Unbeknownst to them, the infamous Coast to Coast killer is on the prowl and has made their high school his next mark. Trapped inside and with little warning, the teens are slaughtered one by one by the vicious killer. It’s up to one teenage girl to fight back and stop before he massacres them all.
A tepid and uninspired slasher without much wit, Last of the Grads limps across the graduation stage with bad acting and mediocre kills.
While no one is expecting a cinematic masterpiece from a movie about a bunch of teenagers getting killed in their high school, one can fairly hope for something competent. The screenplay lags considerably. It sets up the story with two teenage boys killing their guardians for unknown reasons to begin on a sinister tone. Unfortunately, as that background story is interwoven into the main narrative, it gets increasingly more cliché and annoying by relying heavily on tropes and purposeless ambiguity. What’s more, little is done to explain the motivations behind the killings from coast to coast over the course of the years.
B-movies can get away with having a brainless plot so long as it gives off enough tension, comedy, or camp to make up for what it lacks. Last of the Grads gives us none of this. In almost a steely serious manner, the audience is treated to 45 minutes of buildup getting to know the main charisma-less final girl while giving brief flashes of introductions to the other hapless teenagers who will inevitably meet their end in a variety of grisly manners. Once the killing begins, we are subjected to a series of suspense-less hack and slash murders executed in the most frustrating ways.
Emma (Jessica Lang) is not fleshed out enough to carry the film on her shoulders. We are led to believe that Emma has something special in her to allow her to survive through the night and take on the killer herself. Be it her shyness, her kindness, or the loss of her mother, she isn’t given much in terms of personality beyond the typical shallow “good girl” attributes. Her tenacity is revealed only because the killer decides she will not die after marking her and attempting to perform a ritual. Sheer luck is what drives her to slip out of his clutches which makes her run feel cheap. Jessica Lang’s performance fits the bill only because Emma is so devoid of personality that anything Lang adds to the role can only boost the character. Otherwise, she portrays the reserved and flighty teenager with competence.
It may not be the slasher film I was hoping for, but Last of the Grads has a few redeeming qualities. Although it looks more like a university than a high school, the campus itself brings plenty of cool set pieces, albeit underutilized, into the fold in what would otherwise be blank space. While most of the film falls flat, some of the comedy truly does land. Between two unique death sequences and some well-placed jokes, it lightens up the mood and shows glimpses of the film it could have been.
The bar is on the floor when it comes to creating a passable slasher and somehow Last of the Grads falls further below the standards one can hope for. Riddled with many functional issues, Last of the Grads fails most in crafting a strong and compelling narrative. Terrible dialogue, painful acting, and a meandering plot make Last of the Grads a slasher difficult to invest in fully. Despite its interesting setting of a high school lock in, the team fails to make use of the space and delivers low quality and uninspired kills in a film that really offers nothing else of substance. You may want to skip the ceremony to take your degree and run rather than watch this back-to-school slasher.
Overall Score? 3.5/10