A young boy kills a bully and is sent to an institution. Many years later he escapes as he hears that one of the people who used to bully him will be leading a community service program at a campsite, in the middle of the woods.
Can you think of a classic slasher setup? I'll give you a minute. When you have one in mind, keep reading.
Alright, done? Does your slasher setup include teenagers in the woods, a maniac on the run from an institution and revenge? Maybe your setup wasn't that specific, but I doubt you will argue that this seems to be the sort of story most slasher movies are dealing with. "Community Service: The Movie" takes that old story of putting teenagers in the woods, this time because they have to do community service, and doesn't really do much new with it.
20 years ago a young boy kills another kid for burning a comic book that his (now deceased) dad gave to him. Now, 20 years later, the little boy is in an institution, filled with anger and wants revenge. Wait, what? Oh, he killed someone AND wants revenge? Well I suppose that's fine, too. I mean, he wants revenge on another bully I suppose. Anyway, he escapes from the institution when he hears about this old bully leading a community service program. The program is bringing criminals and other troubled young adults to a campsite in the woods. They're soon killed off one by one when the maniac arrives.
Through flashbacks we see what the people did to get sentenced to community service, which I think was pretty interesting. I mean, it might not have been needed, but it did it to try and build a story for them. I think the story could've gone either way with it, but it decided for it and that's fine. Other than that there isn't much in terms of a story to deal with here, as you'd expect from a slasher. It's stupid people being killed.
One problem with the movie, as with a lot of independent/low-to-no budget movies is the acting. In this case they are either underreacting or overreacting, and it tends to throw you off a bit. Especially when they at times don't seem too fussed about being hunted by a maniac. Or they scream their asses off. It's hard to get a sense of them being characters rather than actors and it does become a bit of a problem. Again, it's not unusual for movies like these to suffer from the same problems, but I still have to judge this by that factor. It's probably rude to say it, but the production values overall are rather low. It does have some alright camera work and it's not the worst I have seen. It's just a bit underwhelming.
How does it work as a slasher movie, then? We have the stupid teens and the rather poor acting, but that doesn't mean it won't be entertaining. What we need in a slasher movie is an interesting killer, gory and/or fun death scenes, and perhaps a bit of nudity (not really a strict requirement anymore). Neither of which you find in "Community Service: The Movie". The death scenes are quick and dull - things like a knife in the back and drowning. There's a serious lack of gore, and the closest we get to gory is the opening scene where the boy is killed with a rock, or the quick CGI decapitation shot later on. The killer would've worked if the rest of the movie was up to par, but now we felt dependent on him being more interesting looking than a man in a jumpsuit wearing a small grey mask. Especially having seen him without the mask for so long before that.
I'd say that "Community Service: The Movie" is a fair attempt at the slasher genre, but perhaps they should've dared to gone further. They obviously know the main rules for a slasher, and it doesn't mind making some jokes at the genre's expense. I think had it gone for a much more gory movie, or even made it even more comedic, it could've worked better. Now we have a very low-on-gore movie with a few hints of comedy, and it's just not memorable. Adding so-so quality and poorly controlled reactions from the actors makes this a movie with much to wish for. I do realize that my screener was probably much lower resolution and quality than the movie actually was made in, so I can imagine it looking a bit better once it's on DVD (or Blu?) but the production values remain. The slasher genre is extremely large so I would recommend looking for other titles, but if you are a true aficionado then this is another notch in the bedpost.