Please note, this review of Don’t Grow Up was previously published in October 2015 as part of our London Film Festival coverage.
Don’t grow up, it’s a trap! Blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Shut up, growing up is brilliant. You can go to bed whenever you like, you don’t have to eat vegetables, you can eat dessert instead of dinner and you get paid money just for doing nothing but staring blankly at a computer screen all day and sending one or two very curt emails.
Being a kid sucks. Unless you happen to be a kid trapped on a remote island where all the adults have turned into rampaging, vicious zombies whose sole purpose is to murder the innocent. But what’s the likelihood of that, really?
Don’t Grow Up is a French horror movie, with a cast of unknown young British actors, each bringing a simmering brashness to the action, which sees the residents of a youth facility going wild on a unknown island when they realise that everyone who should be taking care of them has disappeared.
As the group of six adolescents leave the facility and head to town looking for supplies (beer and fags), things take an expectedly horrific twist when any adult they encounter tries to murder them.
What follows isn’t quite your standard zombie apocalypse thriller. Yes the group are gradually despatched one-by-one by the mindless hordes in a ruthlessly bloody manner and there’s plenty of running to one ‘safe haven’ after another in which the tension between characters becomes as volatile as the outside threat, but director Thierry Poiraud is more interested in the quieter moments, where the character’s motivations and emotional backgrounds are explored.
This would be great, but unfortunately Don’t Grow Up suffers from a script filled with clunky dialogue, unsubtle sign-posting and irritating plot-holes. This isn’t helped by an inexperienced cast, and although there are some cracking performances (Darren Evans is an absolute stand-out), some of the actors seem to struggle with carrying an overly-earnest script. This is not their fault, perhaps if it had more of a lightness in tone and a more flexible approach to dialogue, then the younger actors could have loosened up and brought more of themselves to the film. With Attack the Block, Joe Cornish worked with his cast prior to shooting to make sure the dialogue fitted their voices in a genuine manner. This became not only of the best teen horror films ever made but also a brilliant portrayal of what it’s like to be modern teenager. Sure there’s angst, confusion and misery, but there’s also energy, passion and fun.
One of the other problems is that you assume Don’t Grow Up is going to be way more fun than it is. After the first cute little moppet is shockingly killed by its own mother, you’re led to believe that all bets are off, but it soon becomes bogged down in a plot that feels exactly like one of those ‘issue based’ young adult novels you might have read when you were 13, but upon reflection you realise is just overly-serious, pretentious and… well… boring.
It’s a missed opportunity, Don’t Grow Up could’ve been a great counterpoint to the playfully brutal British horror The Children, switching the pre-adolescent monsters to adults, but instead it just feels like hard work. Something that as a grown up, I have managed to expertly avoid. 2/5