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Dangerously Close (1986)

During the ’80s, a number of films (Teachers, Lean On Me, Stand And Deliver) addressed the sad state of the nation’s educational system, but none dealt with what some considered its biggest problem: roving bands of preppie vigilantes enforcing their own deadly brand of extracurricular school reform. None, that is, until 1986’s Dangerously Close, the story of an overachieving young pool-cleaner (J. Eddie Peck) whose enrollment at a prestigious high school makes headlines in a local paper on what must have been an extraordinarily slow news day. But life at Vista Verde High isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Peck soon discovers when bullies begin hassling his best friend (Bradford Bancroft), a Dead Kennedys-loving, suspiciously mature-looking misfit whose hairstyle combines the two greatest looks of his time: the mullet and the mohawk. Peck’s allegiance to Bancroft is tested after he’s accepted into the social circle of alpha-preppie John Stockwell, the leader of a faculty-sanctioned group that does its part for school safety by stalking cheeba-smoking misfits through heavily wooded areas under the cover of night. But Peck quickly decides his friendship with Stockwell is distasteful, and departs his shadowy world of underage drinking, reckless driving, and Fine Young Cannibals music little more than a day after entering it. Stockwell and company, meanwhile, are fed up with Bancroft’s unconventional hairstyle, constant wisecracking, and refusal to just say no, so they decide to teach him a lesson—albeit one unlikely to prepare him for the SATs—by chasing him over a hill and threatening his life. The junior fascists’ unique brand of school spirit soon creates a social rift, as they split into two groups: one willing to continue committing horrible crimes, and one eager to return to less hazardous activities, such as cleaning up graffiti. Using his skills as an investigative reporter, Peck teams up with Stockwell’s girlfriend (Carey Lowell) to uncover the school’s dark secrets, putting an end to the mayhem and heroically making Vista Verde High safe once again for stoners, slackers, and other assorted undesirables.