The Ups and Downs of Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Downfalls High’

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Published February 17, 2021
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The Montclarion
Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun directed the musical "Downfalls High" which some call a modern-day punk "Grease." Photo courtesy of Interscope Records

Richard Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly (MGK), is a lanky, blonde, tattoo-covered rockstar. He has released five studio albums in his career after rising to popularity following a controversial rap fight with Eminem in 2018.

Although the singer has made acting appearances in films such as “Bird Box” and Nerve,” I never expected him to be the director of his own musical.

“Downfalls High” is a 49-minute musical drama which MGK shot and directed over the course of four days alongside friend and fellow musician, Mod Sun. The short film shows a modern punk love story drawing obvious similarities to the iconic 1970s film “Grease.” Furthermore, MGK performs songs from his most recent album, “Tickets to My Downfall,” in between scenes to carry the plot along.

The film features Fenix, played by Chase Hudson, a quiet and mundane teenager and Scarlett, played by Sydney Sweeney, a popular teenage girl surrounded by minions dressed in pink sweaters. The pink visuals supposedly reference the Pink Ladies of “Grease,” while Fenix represents Danny Zuko.

The unlikely pair fall in love and it seems that the film is over before it even begins. While the storyline is encapsulating, it feels overly rushed. Some interactions between Fenix and Scarlett seem forced with glimpses of deadpan humor. As soon as I started getting invested in the two main characters, everything plummeted and crashed.

However, MGK and his production team carefully designed each set, keeping small details and symbolism in mind.

The film commences with Fenix trapped in a deserted psychiatric hospital wearing a pink straitjacket, reminiscent of a scene directly from a horror movie. Within a few seconds, MGK is playing his first song from the album called “Title Track.”

MGK performs “Kiss Kiss,” from inside his van with Travis Barker and sings “Drunk Face” in an abandoned pool. One of his more popular songs from the album, “Bloody Valentine,” is performed from a cheap stage with paper hearts hanging in the background. In a stark contrast, “Concert for Aliens,” shows people vomiting into toilets in a room covered in graffiti.

As MGK sings about heartbreak and loneliness, montage scenes of Fenix and Scarlett’s brief relationship pass by on the screen.

A memorable scene shows Scarlett kissing Fenix on the sidewalk with a plastic bag over his head. It was unexpected, oddly heartwarming and left me wishing they had delved more into these types of scenes.

In the midst of all the montages and chaos, something tragic happens. Without spoiling anything, I will admit that I cannot feel that much pity for the outcome, as I was not that attached to the characters. This is one of the downfalls of “Downfalls High.”

"Downfalls High" is a musical based on Machine Gun Kelly&squot;s latest album, "Tickets To My Downfall."

“Downfalls High” is a musical based on Machine Gun Kelly’s latest album, “Tickets To My Downfall.”
Photo courtesy of Interscope Records

The most enjoyable part of the musical was MGK rocking out with his electric guitar and singing with surprise guests such as Trippie Redd, Blackbear and Iann Dior. His unique vocal range and cynical outlook on life has always drawn me to his music.

While the film has its flaws, it is impressive, cheesy at points and delivers a thorough synopsis of the album. MGK’s traumatic past gives him the inspiration for his music and it is evident that his emotional performances are a way to let go of those experiences.

After watching, I grew to love MGK’s music even more because of the characters, storyline and visuals combined that gave “Tickets To My Downfall” a meaningful and memorable purpose.

As merely the first visual piece Machine Gun Kelly has directed, we can only hope to see more projects like “Downfalls High” in the future.

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