Detention (2011)

DetentionReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring David Carradine, Thomas Calabro, Preston Jones, Maitland McConnell, Alexa Jago

Directed by James D.R. Hickox

The Breakfast Club meets The Grudge. Probably should have just gone ahead and titled this film The Breakfast Grudge and be done with it.

The student body and faculty are off to watch their school play in the big game while the detention students left behind find themselves having to contend with a totally different kind of school spirit. Simply escaping the high school is out of the question because all the doors are locked, all the windows are caged, all means of communication with the outside world have been cut off, and there’s a raging thunderstorm outside that makes Hurricane Katrina look like an April shower.

Allow me to introduce you to today’s detention students. Front and center are the bubbly blonde and the nice guy who have yet to admit their true feelings for one another. The nice guy’s best friend is a stoner dude that fancies himself a Jamaican ninja. An African-American hoodlum secretly longs to be a stage actor but won’t act on his dream because he believes taking part in the theater would seriously hurt his street cred. He’ll hook up with the rich bitch that likes bad boys. The surly Goth girl suffers from such an extreme case of claustrophobia that I got the sense the only environment she wouldn’t freak out in is an open field. My favorite of the bunch is the nerd that will inexplicably go from brainiac to maniac. All of them are played with a certain degree of pep that prevents me from hating how stupid their actions will increasingly become.

The only remaining faculty members include Thomas Calabro of “Melrose Place” (he gets 10th billing) as the short-lived teacher/coach with the misfortune of presiding over detention; first day on the job teacher Ms. Cipher, whose last name instantly stands out as a not-so-subtle clue that she’ll play a bigger role in this haunting; and the late David Carradine (one of his final roles) as the school principal, whose behavior around Ms. Cipher smacks of such uncomfortable sexual overtures that he comes across as more genuinely creepy than the wrathful ghost terrorizing the school. Carradine will nearly get asphyxiated to death by his car’s seat belt, a moment of unintended bad taste I couldn’t help but chuckle at.

The phantasm is that of a teenage boy killed in a prank gone wrong back in 1976. The film opens with that unfortunate incident, and what an incident it is. Lured into the basement by classmates and left locked inside the furnace; by pure happenstance, a lightning bolt from a thunderstorm outside strikes the school and jolts the furnace into starting up – what are the odds? The kid gets roasted alive via flesh-melting effects that’s greatest effect was making me snicker.

Present day turns out to be the very day that the furnace is to finally be removed from the basement. Naturally, make that supernaturally, the ghost is not ready to give up the ghost, so to speak. He’s still got unfinished business of the Nightmare on Elm Street variety.

What follows includes the most door slamming jump scares this side of a Paranormal Activity film and ends up about the silliest supernatural cinema of people getting haunted, possessed, driven mad, teleported, and murdered since Amityville 1992: It’s About Time.

The less-than-convincing digital effect of the upper torso of a blackened burnt boy trailed by a stream of black smoke, angrily roaring as it flies down the school hallway, like Slimer and a charbroiled genie rolled into one, made me smile for some reason.

Did the ghost possess the nerd or did it drive him to madness or did the stress of the situation cause him to conveniently go all Columbine on his classmates? His reasons for doing so mattered little in the end. What mattered was my bemusement as the bubbly blonde tried to shield herself with a wooden chair while this deranged dork chopped it up with a butcher knife, the whole time screaming “bitch” over and over in his nerdy voice, like watching a psychopathic Jim Carrey in action.

As if I hadn’t already found some of the ghostly happenings confounding enough as is, the finale offered up a twist that if one were to apply logic would begin to wonder how quite a few things that were witnessed earlier could even have been possible. Thinking logically would be fruitless, doubly so during a finale that will see someone locked inside a burning furnace and escaping not even lightly singed because, as I can only assume is the case with all industrial furnaces, there is a safe spot right close to the doors where a person inside can stand unscathed as raging fire burns mere millimeters behind them.

Not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, not scary in the slightest, so cliché you can predict the cliché you believe is about to occur and there will be a 75% chance you’re exactly right, but as a ditzy one-off that I will never ever watch again and probably never think about again upon completion of this review, I found it to be just barely passable. You may not agree. I would argue that Detention doesn’t warrant detention – it deserves the short bus. And when dealing with the special ed kids, you always have to grade on a curve.

2 1/2 out of 5

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