Written by Patricia Yap
“Kung may isang tao na gusto mong mawala sa mundo…nang walang makakaalam. Walang kahinatnat—Sino pa ba?” — Blanco (Vance Larena)
Vance Larena as Blanco
These were the words of Blanco, one of the main characters, that would direct the entire motion of the film in Mikhail Red’s Dead Kids—the first Filipino Netflix original film.
As you’ve probably already heard, award-winning film director Mikhail Red is back with yet another soon-to-be hit film with Dead Kids. However, this time, it’s not going to be on the big screen.
From left to right: Kelvin Miranda as Sta. Maria, Vance Larena as Blanco, Khalil Ramos as Paolo and Jan Silverio as Uy
By default, Dead Kids is summarized with this: “A socially awkward teen bonds with a group of misfits who plot to take out the school’s arrogant rich kid—until their kidnapping scheme turns deadly.” The film was not short of anything exceptional and goes beyond this.
Blanco (Left) and Sta. Maria (Right) in a heated argument
In my opinion, Vance Larena and Kelvin Miranda’s performances stood out because of the authenticity they were able to portray. The film provides a good look into the reality and mindset of kids going into drastic situations blindly—but with good reason.
Similar to any film by Red, such as Birdshot and Eerie, he makes it a point to not only create appealing visual, compelling plots and lines, and unexpected twists, but also reflective criticisms and social commentaries on Philippine society.
From left right: Khalil Ramos as Paolo, Vance Larena as Blanco and Kelvin Miranda as Sta. Maria
The plot, having been loosely based on a true event of a kidnapping done in a well-known Philippine university, is Red’s take on the exposing the entitlement and insecurities of his generation growing up in a country of extreme social disparity.
Markus Paterson as Chuck
In the film, seven high school kids are present; each one representing a teen in society. There’s the underprivileged scholar, the teen with the pent-up emotions, the misunderstood “rich kid”, the seemingly “happy-go lucky” friend, and so on.
Even though each one represents a “class” of teen in society, Red gives them all the platform to break the stereotype imposed on them, and to reveal the complex emotions and reasons why these teenagers did what they did.
The act in itself seemed simple and straightforward, but when you read between the lines, you’d see that there was so much more behind committing it; especially with the characters of Blanco and Sta.Maria, who shared the heaviest reason in doing the act.
From the beginning, Uy, Paolo, Blanco, 3 out of the 4 members who joined the kidnapping scheme were confident in their plan. The 4th one, Sta. Maria, being more cautious as he had more to lose than the rest.
Recalling one of the scenes where the four guys ask each other what they’d do with the ransom money, Sta. Maria was the only person who gave an answer that was not materialistic in nature.
This was just one revelation of social commentary out of many others.
Kelvin Miranda as Sta. Maria
Emotions ran wild among the characters in the film, and Red was able to show the consequences when kids take matters into their own hands through a dangerous act—but this is where his point comes into view.
Red shows us that sometimes, if a misunderstood and unheard generation that has pent up desires and emotions become desperate enough, they go to unimaginable lengths to get rid of the negativity consuming them.
Blanco in one of the highlight parts of the film
Something that a lot of kids, both in past generations and now, feel. Desperation just takes over and when the stakes are high, they act on instinct and leave questioning out of sight.
With this, stars Sue Ramirez (Janina), Khalil Ramos (Paolo), Markus Paterson (Chuck), Vance Larena (Blanco), Kelvin Miranda (Sta. Maria), Gabby Padilla (Yssa) and Jan Silverio (Uy) were all stunning in their own way.
According to Red and the cast, working with each other was easy because Red gave each of them the freedom to make the character their own, and so the cast gave Red authenticity.
If you’re a teen watching the film, you won’t be able to help but dive into the shoes of the character you’d feel most connected with. And each one served a purpose that hit close to home, especially when you’ve been silent for long.
Gabby Padilla as Yssa
In all honesty, I was skeptical at first and questioned why the theme of kidnapping and heist was the ideal event that Red wanted to portray a generation in.
To me, it wasn’t necessarily a common situation where young kids would commit kidnapping, right? But the film, upon critical view, really shows the deeper context that young kids feel when it comes to societal pressure.
It just so happens that Red was able to skillfully amplify this situation to an extreme image.
Blanco (Right) convincing Sta. Maria (Left) to continue their scheme
Through Dead Kids, the “barkada” troupe, although seemingly simple, was elevated to a cautionary tale.
One that I think not only kids should understand, but also the older generations that have failed to listen to these stereotypes and outcries should hear when it comes to the perception of privilege, money, bullying, peer pressure, and belittlement.
Vance Larena as Blanco
Red and the cast are commendable, goes without saying, for an exceptional film that has the guts to show the reality of a generation that has been feeling unheard.
Dead Kids is now showing on Netflix. Already seen the movie? Tell us what you think in the comments.