DetentionDetention
Director: Joseph Kahn

Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Detention is a movie that I really wanted to like, but I couldn’t. At least, not fully. It has a few good jokes and scenes that did make me chuckle, but it also has as many more that fall completely flat. Maybe it’s a generational thing? I don’t know. It seems to be made by and for the hipster set, at least that’s the subgroup the movie panders too, so much so that even on its back cover it is listed as a “a hipster, teen horror-comedy.” I mean, it looks back at the ’90s in the same rose-colored reverence that I hold the ’80s in. The problem is, the ’90s sucked and the ’80s were awesome. Sorry, but that’s a scientific fact and you just can’t argue with science. So maybe I just wasn’t the right audience for this movie. Does this officially make me ‘old’ now? I mean I don’t feel old… Wow, now I’m sort of depressed. Ok let’s get on with this review before I start crying or something.

Detention follows a group of way too pretty people (even those who are supposed to be nerdy types in here sure don’t look like the nerds I knew in high school) as they attend Grizzly Lake High. A slasher right out of a movie called Cinderhella starts axing some of the teens while themes of time traveling bears and hip(ster) parties just seem to get in the way of the overwrought story. This scattershot approach to storytelling, which is chock full of pop culture references to the point you would swear Diablo Cody worked on it as an unaccredited script doctor, culminates at the titular detention where the token good girl and good guy must save the day from a demented, nihilistic killer with access to the way off wonderful yesteryear of 1992!

The good of this movie: Shanley Caswell as the much put-upon lead girl I found a lot of fun. She’s cute, the most consistently funny, and pretty believable. Some of the weirdness in this movie works well. The aforementioned time traveling subplot was pretty good. I really enjoyed the scene showing detentions throughout the years. And who cannot get behind some good old fashioned bear fellatio? Oh don’t worry; I’m not talking about the gay kind. We can’t have that, can we? No, it’s the girl on animal kind. See, much better. Anyway, the best bit of silliness is when the teens realize that they are being stalked by a movie slasher, so they try to get the inside scoop by watching the movie the slasher is from, only to see the teens in that movie doing the same thing and watching another flick, where a third set of hunted kids also get the same idea, and so on.

Now for the bad in Detention. First there’s the sad, pathetic killer that is just too damn sad and pathetic. Cinderhella is never a threat, even in a comical sense. The killer in the first Scary Movie is more frightening than this clumsy clown by far. Second, to further defang the horror part of this ‘horror-comedy,’ the splatter effects are awful, so the flick can’t go for the gross out, and not once is any attempt made to establish any tension or dread in this movie whatsoever. As for the comedy part of this flick, while I got a few chuckles from it, most of the humor is horrible. The chief offender of this is Dane Cook as the school’s principle. When will people admit that Dane Cook is not funny? He’s never been funny and he will continue to be not funny until his dying day. Sorry, but once again, that’s a scientific fact.

The new Blu-ray from Sony does look amazing, even for a low budget film, but that’s to be expected from the company that invested in Blu-ray. As for the extras, there are a few, but only one of note. There are screen tests and some behind the scenes stuff about rehearsing the fight sequence, both of which are kind of boring. Easily the worse of the special features is a collection of deleted scenes called “Riffing with Dane” which are, surprise, surprise, completely unfunny because they feature Dane Cook. Thankfully not all of the extras are a total waste. There is a neat pop up video style of audio/video commentary called “Cheat Mode” that was both funny and informative. I wish movie movies would do neat stuff like this.

Detention is a very uneven film. It’s sometimes funny, often times not, and never once scary. As a horror-comedy, I just can’t recommend it. Maybe if you are a hipster you might like this, even if it’s just ironically. For anyone else, I’ve got to say give this one a pass.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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