Directed by Joseph Kahn
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Detention is a film I heard little about plot-wise before watching it, but I did know that it is rather divisive – people seem to either really like it or flat out hate it – and I can definitely see why. It’s without a doubt the most interesting flick I’ve seen thus far this year, but to say it’s not for everyone is beyond an understatement. It’s a warning… If you decide to check it out based on this review, don’t blame me should you fall in the “hate it” category as my tastes tend to run toward the unconventional, and Detention is the most unconventional film I’ve seen in ages, probably since Southland Tales, which I also enjoyed immensely, much to the disdain of many others.
After watching the Detention Blu-ray, four words came to mind: ambitious, weird, gutsy, and funny. Director Joseph Kahn and his co-writer Mark Palermo have crafted something quite special here. Part slasher, part monster movie, part time travel tale, part teen angst exploration, part comedy, part romance – and that’s just on the surface. It’s also super self-aware, drops non-stop pop culture references throughout its 93-minute runtime, has at least four other movies-within-the-movie, and skewers just about every horror convention you can think of. So, yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it: Detention is pure genius.
But enough praise for now. Let’s take a look at the storyline for a brief moment. There’s a killer on the loose in Grizzly Lake targeting teens at the local high school. But it’s not just any killer – this one tailors his/her appearance on Cinderhella, a character in a popular horror movie franchise. Meanwhile the typically nerdish but endearing Riley (Caswell), stung over her former best friend, Ione (Locke), stealing the affections of her crush Clapton (Hutcherson), toys with committing suicide, only to be interrupted by the fake Cinderhella, from whom she manages to escape. Of course the cops don’t believe her story so the killer remains on the loose and under the radar. More drama results from Clapton’s feud with Ione’s ex, Billy (Bagley), who treats Clapton like his own personal punching bag. On top of everything else, it’s almost prom time, and fellow nerd Sander (Johnson) hopes Riley will realize Clapton only has eyes for Ione and go with him to the big dance. But that’s just the broad strokes; to say any more would ruin the fun of those experiencing Detention for the first time. The less you know, the better.
As for the “detention” of the title, it’s not until the third act that our lead characters – and several secondary ones as well – find themselves confined to the school grounds by Principal Verge (Cook) until they figure out who the killer is or one of them confesses. So, obvious comparisons to The Breakfast Club meets Scream aside, the actual detention part of the story is truly less important than anything that comes before it or transpires in the final scenes of the film. It’s a bit of misdirection that I really dug and exemplifies the mindset of Kahn and his team.
And speaking of those final scenes, they do drag on a bit. Just when I thought the movie was over, there was another denouement. Then another. But considering all the balls-out fearlessness of what came before them, I can be forgiving. Which must have also been the case for Caswell, who gets battered and bruised in her portrayal of Riley, with regard to her director. It’s not often you see an actress be put through such a ringer, particularly in a little indie film like this one, but she gives her all and then some. As do the special effects people, who accomplish a LOT on what had to have been a tight budget. And with respect to Hutcherson, who has now exploded into a mega star thanks to The Hunger Games, I honestly enjoyed his performance here more than in that blockbuster. He’s extremely natural and boy-next-doorish in a Michael J. Fox kind of way that didn’t quite transmit in THG.
Before I get into the special features, I have to give huge kudos to both the soundtrack (of course a movie like this has to have good tunes, and both Brain & Melissa with their original music and music supervisor Dan Rodgers did amazing jobs) and especially the opening credits. I’ve seen a lot of movies with a lot of creative title sequences over the years but nothing like Detention‘s. They’re ridiculously clever and set the tone right away as to what type of flick this is.
Now, what about those special features? The “Cheat Mode” is very fun and enlightening. It serves as a “pop-up” kind of commentary that totally enhances the experience of a repeat viewing. The other two featurettes are entertaining (who doesn’t love Dane Cook?) while the screen tests are your typical “let’s find something to put on the disc” kind of thing to me, but no doubt some people will appreciate them. Do we even need to say how great the Blu-ray looks anymore? If so, it does, and the sound is pretty awesome, too.
So hopefully I’ve piqued the interest of at least a few of you enough to seek out Detention despite the rocky road it’s had to this point, including our own HorrorChick’s awfully negative opinion of it. One man’s (or woman’s) trash… Different strokes… Whatever cliché you choose… The fact is I loved it and am sure that, based on originality alone, you’ll see Detention mentioned again by me when it comes time for our “best of” lists at the end of 2012.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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