I spend a lot of time wondering what is going through the mind of a teenager. There was a day when I was one and even today I can’t fathom why I made some of the decisions I made. Now when I’m out and about in the public and I see a group of high schoolers I often find myself annoyed and dumbfounded by the things they say or do. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will likely never have the answers that will satisfy me, but at least DETENTION director Joseph Kahn has given me something that at least makes the inner workings of their brain and surface level actions pretty hysterical. Kahn’s extremely kinetic genre mash up moves so fast and spews out so many pop culture references every second that in the end as divisive as the film is it’s also one giant kind of awesome WTF- and I mean that in the best way possible.
I don’t even know how to go about breaking down the plot of DETENTION, except to say that it’s got just about everything you could ask for in one film. One second it’s a romantic teen comedy, an apocalypse movie, a slasher movie, a body swap movie, a science fiction/time travel flick or even an action thriller and never once does it settle to be defined as any one of those genres specifically. It stars Josh Hutcherson before he was smooching Katniss Everdeen in THE HUNGER GAMES as just one of several teens wrapped up on a crazy plot that involves a killer stalking the whole school named Cinderhella, a possible plot to destroy the world and even a time machine disguised as a stuffed bear. If any of that sounds even remotely interesting then to make a long story short, go check it out right now- for those that need more convincing we will move on.
DETENTION is a film that has its tongue planted firmly in cheek and at no point in any given second of this film should you be trying to over analyze any of its content. Actually, the film just challenges you to keep up with all the pop culture gags throughout from movie references, fashion trends and music- many of which are centered on the 90’s. The characters talk at a rapid fire pace that, for someone like me, is often a bit overwhelming. The same goes for when characters are texting one another the words are displayed on screen and sometimes it is off almost as quickly as it is posted and in such a way as kids talk these days by abbreviating every single word in the English language. It is at times so frenetic in pace that the older you are the harder it may be to follow and stomach.
I often joke about how old I feel to friends and family, but when it comes to taking in something like DETENTION I may be close to the bubble of people this might not be meant for, but I was still able to keep pace or at the very least catch up. However, even if you are the exact demographic for the film it will take several viewings of the film to take in all the references and appreciate all the different nods plastered all over. What helps to justify the film’s replay value is how great the visual style is- the video quality is crisp and clean and the special effects, while low budget, are pretty great. Speaking of the effects, if the references don’t get you, then I think the amount of over-the-top decapitation and bloodshed will make you come crawling back. Aside from gore there’s quite a bit of other fun effects from a character that is actually a fly that serves as one of the film’s many nods.
I will admit that one’s ability to swallow everything in this film may rest on how you dig its personality. It has the personality of just about everything I hate about today’s youth, that is to say how shallow and self centered many of the teens you will meet these days and honestly I find the majority of them intolerable. That being said, DETENTION at least presents that same type of vibe, but in a way that I can at least find bits and pieces of my own childhood and high school years and am able to laugh at it and even cheer when these kids are being ripped apart left and right.
I fully expect plenty of people that check this out after I get done recommending it subsequently seeking me out to express just how brain dead I am for doing so. DETENTION for me is one of those films that speaks to the sinister part of my brain that imagines horrible things happening to those loudmouth teens shouting ignorant and immature comments either at you or someone else. The film offers itself as a vessel to connect with former teen version of yourself, laugh at it and promptly see it eviscerated right before your eyes. It takes a little while to acclimate yourself to exactly what DETENTION is setting out to do, but once you do- if you do at all- it really is a truly unique experience.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)