The New Kids Blu-ray Review


A Young Lori Loughlin Versus James Spader

Only in the 1980s could a movie like The New Kids get made with its stark cruelty to animals and excessively violent teenage conflict. It is laden with cliches from the decade, including the always fun training montage and a soundtrack filled with cheesy tunes. The teen thriller has an edge to its narrative that comes home to roost in an over-the-top final act that sees high school shenanigans escalate into all-out warfare.

The New Kids stars a fresh-faced Lori Loughlin in one of her earliest screen roles as an orphaned teenager moving to a new school. There she and her older brother square off with a demented local psycho played by a young James Spader. Set in rural Florida, Spader adopts a hilariously uneven Southern accent for possibly the only time in his acting career.

Made by Sean S. Cunningham, the director behind Friday the 13th, The New Kids embraces a particularly bloody high school clash between two siblings and the troubled gang of youths that harass them. Almost forgotten today as a film, Loughlin’s recent college admissions scandal has revitalized interest in her back catalog. Once a staple of cable television, the movie isn’t really a cult film that fans had been waiting for on Blu-ray. It’s a mildly entertaining flick from the Eighties worth seeing for the retro vibe and a young Lori Loughlin.

…action, credible suspense, and likable characters make for a fun blast of retro teen mayhem

The New Kids isn’t great filmmaking by Cunningham but has a recognizable ’80s cast. While Lori Loughlin is rough and slightly unpolished this early in her acting career, she brings an undeniable charm and presence as the beguiling high school student at the center. Her co-star Shannon Presby actually pulls off a more convincing performance as the older brother protecting his sister from bullies.

Abby (Lori Loughlin) and Loren (Shannon Presby) are two recently orphaned teenagers, when they are shipped out to Florida to live with their Uncle Charlie (Ed Jones). Charlie runs Santa’s Funland, one of those old-fashioned carnival/roadside amusement parks that used to pop up across America. The kids are fundamentally decent people, making them eminently likable.

The beautiful Abby starts attracting the wrong kind of attention at her new high school. Teenage psychopath Eddie Dutra (James Spader) and his gang of high school toadies are the local bullies, used to getting their way through fear and intimidation. They start going after Abby and messing with her brother as well.

Eddie and his gang of low-life friends bet among themselves which one can score with Abby, who wants nothing to do with them. She has her eye on a student played by Eric Stoltz in a small role. Trained by their father, Loren is very capable of defending himself and Abby from Dutra. The conflict begins escalating when local police ignore Dutra’s behavior and Loren decides to take matters into his own hands. Rebuffed by Abby, Dutra’s rage grows out of control with deadly consequences.

The New Kids is basically a violent twist on the traditional narrative of new kids showing up at a school and learning how to deal with a new set of bullies. Cunningham crafts an entertaining flick built around a number of genre conventions familiar to ’80s fans. The final act has a surprising amount of edgy content considering the mostly staid narrative preceding it. Dutra moves from classic high school thug territory to homicidal maniac fairly quickly.

There’s a lot to enjoy about The New Kids if you like the cast and don’t mind standard ’80s storytelling. Raw action, credible suspense, and likable characters make for a fun blast of retro teen mayhem.

Video

Mill Creek isn’t a label known for its quality video presentations but The New Kids is a big exception. Licensing a fairly recent HD transfer struck by Sony, the 1080P video shows huge improvements in texture, detail and definition.

The 1984 production receives a crisp, largely film-like transfer from the camera negative. The transfer has not been filtered like some other Sony efforts on older catalog properties. Excellent color tonality and an improved contrast produce better-than-anticipated picture quality for this nearly forgotten flick.

The 89-minute main features gets a BD-25 all to itself with the lack of supplements. Encoded in adequate AVC at serviceable bitrates, grain and film texture are largely preserved in whole without compression artifacts. Some mild ringing is seen in select scenes. Flesh-tones exhibit a healthy range of warmth and saturation approaching realistic ideals. A few of the darkest scenes have reduced shadow delineation and noisy moments, but The New Kids mostly takes place in the bright sunshine of Florida. Exteriors have superb clarity.

Audio

A fine stereo mix is heard in lossless 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. The soundtrack has surprisingly full and robust sound quality, replete with a few cheesy Rock songs for the training montage scene and other pivotal moments.

The score from noted Hollywood composer Lalo Schifrin offers satisfying fidelity with extended separation. Clean dialogue and dynamically mastered tunes rock the simple but effective audio design.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Previously issued on DVD by Sony, which also had no special features worth mentioning, this Mill Creek Entertainment Blu-ray lacks any special features. The backcover says this is for Region A only but users indicate it works as well in Region B.

Released as part of Mill Creek’s very cool Retro VHS slipcover line, The New Kids comes in a slipcover with fantastic art worthy of VHS.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The New Kids
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

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Lori Loughlin stares down James Spader in The New Kids’ decidedly ’80s violence and high school drama.

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