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Film / Dead Kids

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Cops only kill poor people. Do we look poor to you?

Dead Kids is a Filipino thriller film directed by Mikhail Red. The first Netflix original film from the Philippines, it follows Mark Sta. Maria (Kelvin Miranda), a socially awkward scholarship student. He attends a school mostly filled with rich kids, terrorized by wealthy bully Chuck Santos (Markus Paterson). Mark's life is upended when he's roped into a scheme to kidnap Chuck and extort money from his father, a drug czar.

The movie juxtaposes its Teen Drama foundation with a devastating look into class inequality in the Philippines. Its Netflix premiere was on 17 November, 2019.



Dead Kids provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Chuck isn't physically ugly, but Janina doesn't like him that way. He, on the other hand, lusts after her.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Typical for a rich school in the Philippines, there are a lot of mixed and/or racially ambiguous and/or light-skinned students. Chuck Santos is played by a half-white actor with an Anglo surname, Markus Paterson.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Uy. His schoolmates to harass him for being gay, although it is incredibly difficult to tell if this is just bullying and toxic masculinity or if he is actually gay (or perhaps both). Others, such as Paolo, repeatedly call him gay, and not in a nice way. He never confirms or denies it; he only ignores these pejoratives completely. For the record, Paolo is right in that Uy doesn't show interest in his female peers, but Uy shows no interest in other boys, either.
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  • Anti-Hero: The very plot of the movie involves our heroes kidnapping the school bully. Characters like Paolo, however, especially embody this trope, possessing unpleasant qualities or prejudices outside the fact that they're criminals (e.g. classism, homophobia).
  • Artistic License – Geography: Visayan viewers surely groaned at Mark saying that he's from "the Tacloban province." Tacloban is in fact a city in the Leyte province.
  • Asshole Victim: The premise on the movie hinges on the kidnapping of Chuck Santos, a rich bully who is horrible in almost every way.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Characters switch from English to Tagalog with ease, regardless of socioeconomic class. Another Truth in Television for post-colonial Philippines.
  • Blackmail: Blanco, Paolo, and Uy rope lower-class student Mark into their plan by threatening to rat him out on his secret ghostwriting business.
  • Book Dumb: Compared to Mark, the school's brightest student, the other characters' book-smarts pale. Amusingly illustrated when he quotes Karl Marx, and Blanco responds by saying that he doesn't watch Game of Thrones.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: The vast majority of students in the film are rich. Mark, a scholarship student, is the odd one out. A Truth in Television, especially for the Philippines.
  • Eat the Rich: Even some of our "heroes," like Paolo and Blanco, are massively elitist.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Blanco's dad, a cop is protecting Chuck's dad, a drug lord. They are both vile men, but ultimately love their sons. Deconstructed as they only really protect themselves and the ones they love; the poor and outsiders, they allow to suffer.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Despite the crimes they commit, the main characters are ultimately quite sympathetic. All the characters are endowed with bad and good sides. Even Chuck's drug lord father, while undoubtedly a wicked man, seems to genuinely love his son, though he usually fails to show it.
  • I Am Not My Father: Blanco is determined not to be like his vile father, but he does show some alarming red flags, such as wishing death on a little boy who was simply walking on the road, equating the child's obvious poverty with drug addiction. And clearly, all drug addicts should die.
  • Karmic Death: Averted. The boys are punished for their juvenile crimes, but Sta. Maria — the most innocent and decent-at-the-core one as well as, not so coincidentally, the only student among them who isn't rich — is the sole member who's slaughtered by the police.
  • Last-Name Basis: Blanco, Sta. Maria, and Uy. For reasons unknown, Paolo is the only one who goes by his first name, even though his surname (Gabriel) could even pass for his first name and not sound weird.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Paolo severely compromises their plans just so Yssa won't break up with him. For all his flaws, the boy is clearly genuinely in love with the girl. She's not nearly as ride-or-die as he is, with the ending implying that she was the one who reported her own boyfriend and his companions to the police.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Averted with Mark. He does pretty much become an Anti-Hero as the story progresses, yet still remains the most sympathetic of the main characters, who are mostly privileged jerkasses with much less to lose.
  • Parental Issues: Blanco and Chuck, although they are two different sides of a coin. Chuck's, in particular, stems from Parental Neglect.
  • Police Brutality: A prominent element of the story, with The Leader Blanco's dad being a cruel cop. Mark Sta. Maria, The Protagonist, eventually dies because of it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Chuck announces in History class that his favorite historical figure is Adolf Hitler. The nicest thing to be said about this is that he's most likely just trying to piss off his teacher, which works.
  • Rags to Riches: A very micro and very short-lived case for Mark Sta. Maria. For a while, the boys actually manage to get away with having kidnapped Chuck. Mark then shows up to school wearing shiny, brand-new AirPods, which of course catches the attention of his classmates.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Chuck is the rich to Mark's poor. They're both attracted to Janina.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Narrowly Defied in Janina's writing. We hardly see her, and many critics have described her as an underwritten character. But she does undergo heavy Character Development, even though most of it is offscreen. Even after the main boys are arrested and Janina's Love Interest dies, life goes on for her; she's even conquered her stage fright!
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Paolo's girlfriend eventually rats them out.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Lightly Parodied with Uy. He wears thin frames and always tries to be The Smart Guy, but is really quite ineffectual. It's also established that Mark is the smartest student of them all.
  • Token Minority:
    • Uy is apparently the only student of Chinese descent. And maybe also queer, who knows.
    • Sta. Maria is also a double-whammy of poor kid and Visayan. (He's from Tacloban in Visayas. Visayans are an ethnolinguistic minority in the Philippines, albeit the largest group among non-Tagalog Filipinos.)
  • Tragic Bromance: Blanco and Sta. Maria, complete with the classic one-bro-dies-in-the-other's-arms shot. This was, according to Mikhail Red, inspired by another Tragic Bromance from Russian history, no less.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The poor students are dubbed "dead kids." It tragically becomes literal for Mark Sta. Maria, and undoubtedly many other impoverished people.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Uy and Paolo are Those Two Guys, but also constantly at each other's throats, to the point that Blanco asks them how the hell they became best friends in the first place.
  • Working-Class Hero: Mark Sta. Maria, "always the dead kid." Literally.


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