Where Bad Apples falters most obviously, though, is in its curious refusal to commit to a tone. At times, the film hints at a more gonzo, over-the-top approach that potentially could have worked in its favor; the opening sequence is Troma-level tasteless, and a kill scene involving cats is amusing if patently ridiculous. Elsewhere, though, there are feints in the direction of a more serious, hard-hitting form of horror – something in the vein of Last House on the Left or the aforementioned Strangers, which didn’t couch their grim nihilism in silliness the way that Bad Apples at times awkwardly does. A dramatic reveal late in the game might have had some emotional weight in a film that didn’t spend so much time setting up goofy supporting characters like a busybody neighbor (Diane Goldner) and a fundamentalist high school principal (Richard Riehle), but here it seems to come from an entirely different movie and, frankly, doesn’t work at all.
“Bad Apples might at least make you think twice about who you’re handing over that fun-size Snickers bar to next year…”
There’s a similarly muddled feeling to Bad Apples‘ direction. The stalk-and-slash stuff occasionally works well, but juxtaposed with some unintentionally slapstick-y staging – a moment in which characters are incapacitated by a shower curtain is downright cartoonish, for example – the tension is too often deflated just when it should be really escalating. The film does have a few good scares, but they’re never allowed to build toward anything truly gripping.
It’s a shame that that’s the case, because it’s horror films like this one, based on relatable, down-to-earth fears, that can really get under a person’s skin when they’re done right. Seriously, who hasn’t been at least somewhat freaked out when someone who’s clearly a little too old for trick-or-treating shows up on the doorstep a bit too long after all the familiar kiddies have filled their candy bags for the night? If nothing else, Bad Apples might at least make you think twice about who you’re handing over that fun-size Snickers bar to next year.
Bad Apples (2018) Written and directed by Brian Coyne. Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim, Richard Riehle, Diane Goldner, and Miles Dougal.
2 stars out of 5