Detention (2011)

Detention SXSW

Starring Dane Cook, Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke, Parker Bagley, Alison Woods, Walter Perez

Directed by Joseph Kahn

Writing my review of Detentionhas been troublesome since I am generally a reviewer who likes to see the positives and merit in a project even if the movie may not be a perfect film. I don’t like making it my job to dump all over people’s ambition and hard work for sport- that’s never been my bag. Then I had the opportunity to see Detention during the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, which then made me start to rethink that whole ‘nice’ thing I had going on in reviews because I walked out of that screening feeling like every horror-loving sense in my body had been insulted in the very worst ways imaginable.

Lacking a real plot, Detention attempts to string a series of events together amidst an onslaught of pop culture references that will likely leave most of you in a migraine-induced coma by the film’s finish. We open with the typical high school bitch getting offed by a serial killer mimicking a popular horror villainess named Cinderhella. Oh, how do we know she’s a bitch? It’s literally spelled out on the screen in front of us six seconds in a huge, loud font. As if we wouldn’t have been able to deduce that fact on our own through a montage of said bitch degrading her suitors while on the toilet and screaming at her mother for making French toast for breakfast when she’s on a “no bread” diet.

And that level of obviousness plays throughout the ENTIRE movie. The rest of Detention plays out as a serious clusterfuck of bad acting, nonsensical plots, and only like five minutes of the movie ACTUALLY TAKES PLACE in detention, which makes me wonder if Kahn couldn’t come up with a title, thought Detention was convenient and catchy sounding enough, and worked the scene in as an afterthought. And get this- the detention is being held on prom night (because that’s plausible) as a way for the principal to find out who the serial killer is because apparently we leave the police work to educators these days.

Don’t worry, it gets even better horror fans- I haven’t even mentioned the Freaky Friday body-switching going on or the time-traveling bear mascot or the fact that one of the students is a human/fly hybrid. Oh, and Dane Cook (who hasn’t been funny onscreen since his minor role in Waiting) is in it, too, which was the final nail in the proverbial coffin for me.

I think my biggest problem is that Joseph Kahn is marketing Detention as a horror film when he clearly has no idea what a horror movie is and actually makes it a point to blatantly insult Scream at one point, the very movie he claims to be revering in his plot crunch. He even also boils down the entire Saw franchise to some ugly pop culture references that shows Kahn probably hasn’t ever really watched an entire horror film in his life.

The thing is, I had the opportunity to interview Kahn a few days after the screening (read about that here), and while I understand what he was trying to do with Detention, he failed miserably in his attempt. What was supposed to be a campy send-up on modern teens who have been so desensitized to violence that they don’t even feel threatened when they’re actually in danger ends up being nothing more than a loud, horrible cinematic experience that will leave horror fans demanding Kahn’s head on a pike once the film gets released.

1/2 out of 5

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