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High praise for ‘High School’

Troy Mathew | Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3 out of 4 shamrocks

Stephen Susco, a 1995 Notre Dame graduate and co-writer and co-producer of “High School,” credits Notre Dame for helping him develop his interest in filmmaking. Susco’s freshman film class piqued his interest in the field. Susco, who lived in Pangborn Hall “before [the dorm] was neutered,” wrote several films while at Notre Dame.

Also highly significant for Susco was his experience with “Rudy,” which was filmed during his time as a student. Susco auditioned for the film, and was runner-up for a part as one of Rudy’s brothers. Although a role in the film did not pan out for Susco, observing the production of the film gave Susco a valuable glimpse into the industry.

Susco has also written screenplays for horror movies “The Grudge” and “The Grudge 2,” both of which enjoyed huge box office success. A screenplay, as described by Susco, is the film “in its rawest form” and undergoes constant editing and changes throughout the production process.

Writing “High School” provided Susco a respite from the dark, serious horror genre. The comedy centers on high school valedictorian Henry Burke (Matt Bush), who is reunited with his childhood best friend Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette) when the pair are involved in a parking lot accident.

Straight-laced Henry later takes his first hit of marijuana, at the urging of his former best friend, and hilarity ensues. The next day, the overzealous high school principal (Michael Chiklis) mandates a school-wide drug test, threatening expulsion to whoever fails. To solve this problem and save Henry’s bright future, the duo utilizes the aptly named drug dealer Psycho Ed (Adrian Brody) in a plot to get the entire school high.

The story is highly entertaining from start to finish and possesses a surprising amount of suspense, due largely to the volatility of Brody’s character. His wild-eyed threats and nonsensical mutterings generate uneasy laughs in nearly every scene in which he appears. His interactions with Sean Marquette are particularly hilarious, and were largely the result of improv, according to Susco.

The majority of the humor was raunchy and certainly not for everyone, but most will laugh consistently throughout the film. Most of the comedy and the situations the pair of friends find themselves in are hysterical. Recurring jokes, such as Henry’s nausea in response to Psycho Ed’s terrifying threats, are big hits throughout the film.

A cross between “Pineapple Express” and “Superbad,” “High School” features a dangerous and highly entertaining mission mixed with plenty of raunchy, gross-out humor and high school drama.

The dynamic between Henry and his childhood friend, Travis, is one of the highlights of the film. The film’s portrayal of ex-“besties” on divergent life paths is really well done. It’s easy to sympathize with both characters, and the ending is really satisfying.

Susco said this film has been described as a “stoner movie,” but he also sees it as a “coming of age story about two friends.” Susco also said in an interview with The Observer that the film deals with the “fact that alcohol is legal but marijuana is not” in a satirical and farcical way. The hilariously hyperbolical anti-marijuana educational film the students are forced to watch in detention bolsters this viewpoint.

Susco’s current projects include a prequel to “High School,” chronicling the back-story of Psycho Ed. Susco is also working on an action movie starring tween-favorite Taylor Lautner. Although Susco couldn’t divulge any details about the movie yet, it’s promised to be awesome. “High School” hits theaters this spring, and comes highly recommended.