There are some movies where you just can’t know anything about the plot, or all the fun is entirely ruined. Watching the trailer for Detention, you get the idea that it’s a horror-comedy about a group of kids in detention being picked off by a homicidal maniac. What you couldn’t know is that the trailer really only hints at about 5% of the plot of the film. Most reviews will tell you that knowing as little about the plot as possible is the best way to walk into this movie, and they are right.
Director Joseph Kahn is most famous for his career directing music videos, where he made some of the most popular videos of his time for artists like Blink 182, Papa Roach, Britney Spears, Ice Cube, Eminem, DMX, Moby, and countless other artists. His first foray into the world of feature films was 2004’s Torque, a goofy film about bikers that became a bit of a joke for film geeks. The best part is Kahn himself (as co-writer of this movie) pokes fun at Torque and how silly it is.
Detention is the latest in a growing trend of self-referential horror, but this one is so far in left field that it really can’t be counted with films like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon or Hatchet. However, if you are a fan of those films, Detention will probably hit the mark for you. Star Josh Hutcherson is listed as an executive producer on this film, which means he was most likely an integral key in getting the film made, probably because of his growing star power.
It’s tough to review a film like this without revealing anything about the plot, so instead I’ll talk about the way the film was made. The trailer showcases the unique camera moves, including almost constant swish pans, and the kinetic editing that moves the film along like a bustling locomotive. This really is one of the most expertly shot and edited films I’ve ever seen, director Kahn doesn’t waste a single shot, and there is never an unnecessary frame in the film. The soundtrack is full of insane 90’s pop songs, and 90’s references fill the movie’s runtime, and for good reason. To reveal that reason would be to spoil a major plot point, so I won’t even bother, but you’ll be cracking up as Hanson‘s MMMBop! booms on the soundtrack.
Ultimately, the film is a love letter to high school horror films, constantly cracking on the very nature of the genre, and the swift camera moves and editing don’t let you linger too long on any one joke, so if one doesn’t work, the next one is right there behind it. Josh Hutcherson does well mocking his mainstream persona, while Spencer Locke is the ultimate dumb, popular blonde, and with good reason. Relative newcomer Shanley Caswell shines as a new spin on the cliche of the unpopular ‘final girl’, and the movie-within-a-movie villain Cinderhella is an excellent parody of torture porn horror films. Whether or not you enjoy Detention comes down to two things: Whether you are willing to fully suspend disbelief for a silly horror movie, and whether or not you can stand the Diablo Cody-ish dialogue that so accurately parodies modern hipster culture. Dane Cook does well to mock his own persona in his performance, so even the people that hate his stand up (or his acting) are in for a bit of a treat as he turns himself upside down. In a time where far too many horror films take themselves seriously, Detention is the rare horror movie that is just a blast to watch, not to mention incredibly gory. Definitely a must for horror fans.