I’ve never been to prep school, but I’ve seen my fair share of prep school dramas/thrillers like Cruel Intentions. As such, I’m fascinated by Sean Nichols Lynch’s Prep School because, coming from a lower-middle-class family, the hardships and dramas of the affluent are f****d up in a way that makes me never want to be rich.
The dramatic thriller centers on a team of rugby players at a Northern California school. Coach Winters (Stewart Finley-McLennan) instills the importance of team loyalty, having one’s back, winning, and winning (emphasis on winning). He does so in a toxic-masculine-military manner. While out with the boys, rugby star Greg (Stephen Brookins) walks past his girlfriend’s dorm and hears her having sex. He goes nuts, and the team is there to back him up.
The more cunning member of the team, Caleb (Ben Bellamy), decides to exact revenge on Greg’s girlfriend, Kyra (Carly Schroeder). One afternoon he spots Kyra at a Pro-Life rally and, since she’s not religious, finds her stance against abortion to be doubly hypocritical. Caleb sets a plan in motion to befriend and flirt with her. He infiltrates her medicine cabinet, intent on messing with her birth control. This plan is pretty f****d up.
Humiliated by the betrayal, Greg disappears from school and the rugby team. The team is family, and no one runs out on family. Coach Winters wants his star player found, and the good-looking and slightly psychotic Tony (Austin Scott) goes after him. The more Greg evades Tony, the angrier Tony becomes.
“…Caleb decides to exact revenge on Greg’s girlfriend…”
The moral center of the story is found in Tom (Taylor Lambert). Tom is the Boy Scout of the rugby team. He has excellent grades and an internship of a lifetime waiting for him after graduation. The only assignment he has left is to write an essay about how the school has prepared him for life. With a brilliant, automatic A essay in hand, Tom starts to see the severe flaws of his teammates and how blind he’s been to the school’s toxic environment.
Prep School feels like an indie teen sex comedy but without the sex…or the gratuitous sex. It plays out like a soap opera drama as its story leans heavily into how far boys with way too much testosterone can win games and ruin lives for pure pleasure. Ben Bellamy is the standout as the devious Caleb. He’s got that subtle Jekyll and Hyde persona going, and as his plan to get Kyra pregnant is sheer villainy and becomes more and more disgusting when it looks like it might work.
The other subplots are pretty standard and formulaic. Tony has one note, and it’s angry with an accent of intimidating. We know that as the hero of the film, Tom goes through hell to do the right thing. Prep School is a dark drama, and without saying much, I wish the outcome for Tom was a little more positive or maybe had some ironic turn or twist for Caleb and Tony. The ending seems to wrap up with a dark reality rather than on a much-needed up-note.
Except for my issue with the last few minutes, the plot is pretty solid and flows well. Considering most of the actors are unknown, their performances are good. Very little of the movie was shot at night, so with the high brightness and inexpensive DIY sets, the film feels less cinematic and made-for-TV like the CW or Freeform. This is not a criticism, but I’m managing expectations.
Prep School is for any fan of the teen soap opera genre, like 90201 and Riverdale, and wants to support independent filmmakers and stories that the big studio or network won’t give the time of day.
"…the plot is pretty solid and flows well...[the] performances are good."