Adelaide Clemens and Oliver Ackland in Wasted on the YoungThe cruelty of adolescence knows no limits. Combined with the power of money and popularity, the line of victims can be long and the remnants barely recognizable. When the sufferer can find no recourse, death often appears to be the only viable solution – either the perpetrator(s)’ or the prey’s. But first, they try to deal. Wasted on the Young tells a story comprised of all these factors.

In a high-end cliquey private school where kids want for nothing, handsome and vicious Zack (Alex Russell) rules the school with a manipulatively smooth touch. His menacing lieutenants, Brook (T.J. Power) and Jonathan (Tom Stokes), serve as his muscle and together the three are high school royalty. When Zack’s attempts at flirtation are dismissed by smart, self-assured Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens), he’s silently enraged by the rejection. Xandrie is far more interested in Darren (Oliver Ackland), Zack’s shy step-brother. When Zack throws one of his famous parties in his family’s high-tech minimalist mansion, he decides to get revenge for being slighted. Xandrie is drugged and locked in the basement with Zack and his boys, only to wake up the next day bloody and abandoned on a beach. Zack and his friends spread cruel rumours about the incident, so when she returns to school no one is interested in the truth. When the gossip escalates to violence, it draws Darren deeper into Xandrie’s world.

These teenagers live lives that could challenge a rock star’s lifestyle. All their parties are epic with an endless flow of alcohol, light displays and lots of sex. As stars of the school’s swim team – the equivalent of American football players – they are virtually given free reign of the institution. Furthermore, their sense of entitlement is out of control, but nurtured by all of the physically absent adults. Individually, these aspects are disturbing; combined, they are downright frightening.

The extremity of these students’ actions seems unbelievable – until you take a moment to remember all the news items chronicling very similar incidents. Then you’re hit with the ultimate realism of the narrative. However, the style of the film attempts to keep it in the realm of the surreal: the floating text messages, the non-chronological timeline and the fantasy sequences contribute to the unreal feeling of the events. The dreams of executing the school’s bullies are understandable, but no less eerie.

The audience is saved the scene of the physical rape, but the aftermath is equally horrifying. The insensitivity of the students and the quickness of the rumour mill are astounding. However, given the bluntness of the rest of the film, the incompleteness of the concluding events is surprising and irksome.

The young actors are excellent in their respective roles of bullies and victim. Power is a convincing brute, while Stoke’s constant apprehension can be read in his expressions. Russell is incredibly charismatic, which allows him to be equally manipulative. Clemens is heartbreakingly genuine in her loneliness and silent pain. Ackland is also very sincere in his confusion and determination to ensure some form of justice is served.

A crueller version of Gossip Girl, Ben C. Lucas’ debut feature is less a cautionary tale then a high school horror movie in which the monsters are your fellow students and friends.

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