‘Detention’ Movie Review
Given the nature of Joseph Kahn’s newest film Detention, perhaps this review will jump around in a seemingly non-coherent and mind-blowingly random fashion. The satirical teen horror-comedy fills its runtime with a hyperactive display of pure insanity with varying degrees of success. However unorganized and chaotic it may appear, it truly is a one-of-a-kind movie which deserves a viewing for those brave enough to handle leaving the theater wondering “what the hell did I just watch?”
The plot follows various members of Grizzly Lake High School as they are haunted by a killer nicknamed Cinderhella. The main character, Riley (Shanley Caswell), is a cynical (but good-looking) loner that is head over heals for a free-loving hipster named Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson). Clapton is in love with the head cheerleader (Spencer Locke), though, making the film full of who-loves-who drama.
When two Grizzly Lake High students turn up dead, Principal Verge (Dane Cook) orders several students to serve all-day Saturday detention during Prom to ensure other students’ safety. Stuck in detention, the suspects must figure out who the real Cinderhella is before it’s too late.
As you can somewhat imagine, the premise makes the film seem ridiculously weird. But, I’m not talking annoyingly meta or over-the-top violence weird (which this movie certainly has). I’m talking body-swapping and bear time-travel weird. Yes, this type of weird exists and it goes nonstop from start to finish.
Filmmaker Joseph Kahn is moderately famous for his work as a music video and commercial director. Although he has filming credits for the 2004 nightmare Torque, which has its own following, he is relatively unknown in the feature film category. Detention plays out a lot like an extended music video mixed with the best version of a Scary Movie franchise. It’s energetic, satirical, and plenty funny.
In a recent interview, Kahn himself admitted this film was not for everyone, which I can’t agree with more. With relatively unknown stars (this was filmed before Hutcherson’s Hunger Games role) and a budget comprised mostly of his own money, the film’s purpose wasn’t to mix in with the crowd. Instead, he’s looking for a crowd that will connect and love this film for exactly what it is. The jury is still out on whether I think this is amazing, but I can’t help but agree that it will have some sort of fun following.
Newcomer Shanley Caswell does a great job of embracing her role as a kind of “girl next door.” She doesn’t come off as overly melodramatic either. Also, the film smartly pokes fun at its over-the-top view of high school. Instead of trying (and likely failing) to feel like a “real” high school, they simply decided to make it seem as cliche as possible. Both these aspects were concerns I had before the movie even started.
Whether you are looking for a fun comedy or the next great horroromedy, Detention is a safe bet. It may appear to sacrifice intelligence, but I’d argue that the (literally) hundreds of 90’s references, from Neve Campbell to the Hanson brothers, make the film that much smarter. It’s definitely one of the most ludicrous films I’ve seen, but I can’t help but like it (at least a little bit). Joseph Kahn may be an amateur feature filmmaker (believe me, he has enough digs on himself throughout this movie), but he may be onto a new type of filmmaking.
The future will tell, but Detention will get its cult following.