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1 June 2009
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The hotly anticipated fourth instalment in the popular High School Musical series of films is set to go on general release in cinemas next week. Titled High School Musical 4: High School Massacre, the film has raised eyebrows among critics for its "radical departure from the previous offerings from the franchise."
Rather than focusing on the camp, cheesy antics of Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens, HSM4 follows the lives of two pupils, Eric and Dylan, who sing and dance their way into the history books by carrying out one of the worst school shootings in American history.
"We felt that after three movies, it was time to take the series in a new direction," series writer Peter Barsocchini told UnNews. "Otherwise, we ran the risk that our bland bubblegum pop songs and hackneyed love stories might become stale and repetitive... Our audience has grown up a lot since the first movie was released, and we have to grow with them. I mean, some of these kids will soon be carrying out senseless slaughters of their own."
Many reviewers have noted a more "gothic" feel to to the musical numbers. "Well certainly we expanded into new territory musically on this project," Barsocchini told reporters. "The team really enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the raw anger and hatred of artists like Marilyn Manson, while still trying to keep that Disney feel. We wanted the music to feel like it really could push a mentally disturbed teenager over the edge, without alienating our target market of nine year old girls and gays."
Several critics praised the films dance scenes with The Washington Post describing HSM4 as "a choreographical tour-de-force". Reviewers particularly praised the film's climax, where Eric and Dylan sing and dance through the halls of East High School with 12-gauge shotguns, picking off their classmates one-by-one as they beg for mercy, before turning the guns on themselves.
Some, however, have criticised the film's graphic violence and disturbing subject matter: "Kids don't want to see two nerds' descent into madness, or the brutal slaughter of dozens of innocent children - they really just want to see Zac Effron's lovely face." Others have called the film "a crass and tasteless insult to the victims of these tragedies." One distraught Columbine mother even went so far as to say: "when those boys are dancing around on that screen, its like they're dancing on my little Debbie's grave."
Blogger DeathAngel53 disagrees however, claiming that the film has, on the whole, an uplifting message. "For me, the new High School Musical shows above all that no matter how badly you are treated by other kids at school, there is always a way out. It has certainly inspired me." He went on to add "People like Zac Effron have forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."