By Amy R. Handler | September 2, 2013

Joseph Kelly’s Community Service the Movie may seem the typically overdone, teen-based slasher-flick, but there’s a slight subtlety in Kelly’s rendition that separates him from most directors of contemporary horror.

Kelly’s story opens at an elementary school playground, where we find little Billy Fouls (Evan Charles) being mercilessly bullied by ringleader Richard (Ryan Berkun) and his lazy sidekick, Bob Butterfield (Dawson Geist). Having recently witnessed his father’s very ambiguous death in front of the family home, the frail and tormented Billy suddenly snaps. He picks up a rock, and bludgeons Richard to death, while his classmates run off in horrified disbelief.

Twenty years later, we learn that an adult Bob Butterfield is still a slacker, only now he has a nagging wife and a part-time job, as a camp counselor to juveniles who have been assigned by the court to community service. It is at these wooded campgrounds that, one by one, the campers disappear, only to be found later, brutally murdered. Of course, it’s easy to imagine who the murderer is, and why he’s doing what he does, but that’s not in itself a good reason to stop paying attention to Joseph Kelly’s budding filmmaking talent and flee the theatre.

Instead, notice Kelly’s cinematic exploration of PTSD in a child, and Kelly’s provocative implication that psychiatric incarceration may not be the best fix for the young killer. Another noteworthy and disturbing moment in the film is how the other children react to Richard’s bullying of little Billy, and what happens to the young girl who stands up for the victim.

In the end, we’re left with our own version of PTSD, not so much from all the gore and horror we’ve just witnessed, but because each of us has that brewing dark side just edging to come out.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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