The Dangers of Standardized Testing: A Review of The Thinning

When I saw a trailer on YouTube for a YouTube Red movie called The Thinning, I was intrigued. Earth has few resources left, and in order to help stem the bleeding, as it were, the UN decreed that nations across the globe must cut their population by 5% each year. Everyone does it differently, but in the US, the decision was to only keep the brightest and the best. Every year, students take a test. And every year, the students with the lowest scores don’t go home.

The movie stars YouTuber Logan Paul as Blake Redding who has decided he’s had enough of the awful testing, and Peyton List as Laina Michaels, one of highest scoring students at the school. Together they set out through the school to find out just what the hell is happening with the tests and make some disturbing discoveries that continue much further along than you think (though guessing is possible).

It’s one of those concepts that, at first glance, look like it would be purely speculative. Kill off elementary kids? High school students? Absurd! Parents and people wouldn’t stand for it! But we’ve seen horrors in the past carried out by humans without a second glance — concentration camps in particular. And given enough time and coaxing, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it became a kind of slow acceptance. Hey, the neighbor’s kid didn’t make it, but at least yours did, and that’s all you’d care about. Move on, head down, look forward to next year. Especially when you see the indoctrination the kids get when they’re little, as a teacher plays them a cutesy animated video showing them why the Thinning is a-okay.

But it’s also made clear not everyone is fine with the test. Teachers get teary-eyed about losing students. Parents start to get royally pissed when they can’t see their kids after the lockdown of the school fails to lift. Yet all the same, they go through with it because it’s still essentially the norm, and who are they to speak out against it?

Initially I thought it was a dystopian movie in which the classic boy-girl duo was set to take down the system. I wondered, if they did, then what would the new 5% culling method be? I mean, we still have to keep the overcrowding problem on the planet to a minimum, right? So already it’s an interesting conundrum — screw the system, screw the planet. But as things continued, you realize that’s not the goal. Everything here is self-contained, happening within the bubble of the school. Corruption occurs in places you may not initially think of, but then realize would absolutely happen, such as girls allowing themselves to be used by teachers in the hopes of getting a passing grade. Others will come as no surprise, like the star quarterback sliding by without any problems. There are a lot of little things happening in this movie aside from just the main two characters running through the school, and I appreciate that.

There are, of course, some typical dystopian tropes. Boy-girl flirtation, though I also appreciate that it was only touched upon and wasn’t a heavy feature in the movie. There just wasn’t time for that, and it didn’t make sense to smash more in, so they didn’t, and it worked. Mason King, the head of security (or testing? Or the school? Now that I think about it, I’m not 100% sure) was as stereotypical as could be, and of course he’s surrounded by disturbing-looking guards that seem to have no other reason than to be scary-looking dystopian guards — complete with slightly warped, deeper-than-necessary voices for effect. But, again, it’s one of those things where you think, “Eh, why not?” and move on. Though honestly? I’d rather have that actor (Michael Traynor) in the role of Kylo Ren because yikes. That dude angry and with a light saber? No, thank you.

At not quite an hour and a half, it’s a good length for what it sets out to do. It may not be a big budget film, but I enjoyed it. While others might give it sass for being a YouTube-based movie and complain about the acting (which I didn’t have any problem with, by the way), I’ll take this over another Tom Cruise movie any day of the week.


  • Carey Ballard September 20, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Interesting. I’ve heard of Logan Paul but not this movie.

    “I mean, we still have to keep the overcrowding problem on the planet to a minimum, right? So already it’s an interesting conundrum — screw the system, screw the planet.”

    Same conundrum with the recent Netflix film “What Happened to Monday?” with Noomi Rapace, which is also about state-mandated population control.

    • Shara White September 20, 2017 at 11:18 am

      I want to watch that Netflix movie!!!

    • Nicole Taft September 21, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Interesting, I hadn’t heard of that one. Guess I should go check it out!


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