Stanley Coopersmith (the great Clint Howard) is an orphan loner at a military school that prides itself on inclusion. Every cadet gets to and HAS to play in the soccer game so they can feel good about themselves, throwing kids like Stanley out to the wolves of the school, including, naturally, a guy named Bubba (That ’70s Show’s Don Stark). Bubba and his posse are exactly the obvious, obnoxious, unfortunate bullies we’ve seen in way too many movies.
But the film makes it clear: the adults are only different in that they are more secretive bullies. Coach makes a public display of protecting Stanley from his angry teammates, but when Stanley’s barely out of earshot, he tasks Bubba to deal with him so they don’t have to play him in the big game. The sergeants, colonels and captains (or whatever they are) view and treat Stanley as a messy, tardy screw up, ignoring the fact that this is the result of the rampant bullying taking place. Stanley is merely a problem, a charity case who doesn’t belong because he doesn’t fit their traditional masculine template. The alcoholic chef and the one cadet of color are the only ones who treat Stanley with any decency.
That real-life horror is brewed with the supernatural: we actually open on what could be a deleted scene from a 70’s British folk horror film, where one Father Esteban is put to death for his satanic ways. The military school is built on these very grounds, the metaphor here isn’t subtle, with the dusty basement that Stanley is tasked with cleaning up housing Esteban’s tomb.
Somehow, some way (I love old technophobia) Stanley uses 1980s coding magic to resurrect Esteban and get revenge on his tormentors. Do we get several scenes of green phosphor text on CRT monitors? Yeah, baby. Does it take a bit too long to get to Father Esteban’s return? Indubitably. Is the finale satisfying as I’d like it to be? Not really, but revenge never is. But I know what you’re really wondering: are there multiple scenes involving demonic pigs? Absolutely.