“Downfalls High” Drops on YouTube

Singer and actor Machine Gun Kelly releases a musical film on YouTube.

Natasha Speiss

Flashes of a medical bracelet. A deep voice narrates how “sometimes you can love somebody or something so much that people will think you’re crazy.” A teen gets out of a medical hospital while newscasters attempt to tell his story. A flashback to eight months earlier. And with that, “Downfalls High” begins.

To commemorate his transition into the pop-punk genre, Machine Gun Kelly released Downfalls High, a 49-minute movie-musical experience set to the soundtrack of his 2020 album “Tickets to My Downfall” through Facebook Live on Jan. 15. It is now available on Kelly’s YouTube for viewing.

Directed by Kelly and musician Mod Sun, “Downfalls High” tells the love story of outcast Fenix James, played by Chase Hudson, and popular it-girl Scarlett, played by Sydney Sweeney. After Scarlett dies in a car crash, Fenix attempts to cope with life on his own and starts a band.

The movie-musical transitions between music videos of Kelly performing and the character’s dialogue, giving the feel of back-to-back music videos rather than a cohesive plot. Viewers get only a glimpse of Fenix and Scarlett’s story, with many plot points left for viewers to infer. “Downfalls High” focuses on music and aesthetic, with the storyline intended to emphasize both rather than taking center stage.

Many of the songs from “Tickets to My Downfall” were expertly paired with moments in the film, most notably “drunk face” to the sequence of Fenix and Scarlett’s date after ditching school. With “drunk face” being about youth’s carefree nature, the visuals of Scarlett kissing Fenix with a bag over his head and driving around with no seeming destination enhance the light tone of the song. Lyrics like “I’m still young wasting my youth, I’ll grow up next summer” complement the tones of the scene.

While mental health was a large theme of the movie, it was stigmatized and inaccurate in its portrayals. Roaches crawl over the clocks in the mental hospital, and the doctors there have Fenix in extreme restraints even as he gets out. Scarlett’s death was handled by other characters in an inauthentic way as well, with Fenix’s friends making fun of him for constantly visiting her grave and not understanding why he wasn’t acting “normal.” The acting was oftentimes poor, making the moments when characters had mental health crises seem forced.

While the acting sometimes misses its mark, and the plot can feel cliché at times, the film is very well-made, especially considering it was filmed over four days during a pandemic. Machine Gun Kelly’s dedication to his music can be seen in “Downfalls High,” making it a must-watch for his fans.