Friday, September 4, 2020

New Flesh: Detention (2011)

The Film: Detention (2011)

What Is It About?

After an extended introduction to Grizzly Lake High's resident B.I.T.C.H. (That's Beauty, Intelligence, Talent, Charisma, Hoobastank, F.Y.I.!) Taylor Fisher (Alison Woods), and her subsequent murder at the hands of masked killer Cinderhella (who is also the killer at the center of a slasher franchise within a slasher), we are introduced to the rest of Grizzly Lake High's student body. This includes the sullen vegetarian Riley (Shanley Caswell), slacker skater boy Clapton (Josh Hutcherson), clueless dork Sander (Aaron David Johnson), vapid Ione (Spencer Locke) and asshole jock Billy (Parker Bagley) among others. As these teenagers deal with the drama that comes with their senior year of high school, they must also contend with not only Cinderhella trying to kill them all, but also with escalating incidents involving aliens and UFOs, time travel, time loops, body swapping, and, worst of all, the school principal (Dane Cook) locking them in Saturday detention the night of the school's senior prom to try to weasel out the killer himself.

Why Do I Recommend it?

Two months in a row writing recommendations for lesser known teen slasher films? It's more likely than you think!

Fortunately, Detention is more than just another teen slasher film. It has to be, since it throws just about everything it can think of at you over the course of its ninety minute runtime. Something that surprisingly works in the movie's favor, as it ensures that there's something for everybody within the film: Are you a slasher fan? The film provides you with Cinderhella, the killer that's copying the popular slasher within a slasher Cinderhella 2: Beauty Scream. More into sci fi horror? As the film progresses, the film leans into those elements harder, evolving from mere UFO jokes to including Elliot Fink (Walter Perez), a character who has been stuck in a detention-based time loop since 1992, a taxidermied bear that doubles as a time machine and a Freaky Friday homage to explain why exactly Ione has distanced herself from former best friend Riley and keeps making 90's references. Want some teen drama to help the horror be palatable? There's the love square plot consisting of Sander's determination to win over Riley, who's pining for Clapton, who's dating Ione, in addition to the side romance between Toshiba (Jonathan Park) and Mimi (Tiffany Boone). And if you want some comedy, well, if the descriptions already provided didn't clue in, this movie is absolutely insane and is full of comedy.

Detention is also full of a surprisingly slick style, courtesy of director/co-writer Joseph Kahn. Kahn is primarily known for his extensive catalog of music videos, having directed them since the beginning of the 90's. He's worked with some of the most popular current musicians, including Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson. Here is one of many examples of his work:

Kahn uses his extensive experience with music video to create several sections of the film that could essentially be more music videos. Compare the section of Detention that reveals Elliot's time loop below to the Britney Spears example above and you will see how his experience allows for Detention to express major plot developments with just a montage set to music.

It's also easy to see that, despite the fact that Detention isn't a super well-known film to the general public, the film and Kahn's style specifically have made their mark and influenced other parts of horror media. Compare the film's opening sequence introducing (and killing) Taylor to this scene from Ryan Murphy's 2015 horror comedy series Scream Queens that introduces the series's resident mean girls, the Chanels:

In addition to what Kahn brings to the table with his direction and the script he wrote with screenwriter Mark Palmero, it would be remiss of me to not mention the capable cast that brings it all to life. Caswell and Hutcherson, as Riley and Clapton, make for capable and likable leads. Hutcherson, especially, brings a lot of his natural charm to a role that could otherwise be kind of annoying in another actor's hands, as he makes Clapton's languid attitude and subplot involving a feud with Billy humorous and even endearing. However, it's co-star Locke whom ends up stealing the show as both Ione as well as the younger version of Ione's mother Sloan. Like Hutcherson, Locke takes a role that could be annoying, what with Ione's constant 90's references including claiming Cinderhella 2 is the "best movie since Volcano!" and her antagonism of Riley that includes insisting she would be a final girl instead of Riley due to the latter's lack of money, and makes her extremely entertaining. Something that's only enhanced when Ione somehow switches bodies with the younger version of her mother in an alien-aided ritual that the movie comically brushes aside and Locke gets to sink her teeth into two roles.

Overall, Detention is a fast-paced, stylized, and insane(ly hilarious) film that exceeds expectations and is deserving of more attention. Between Joseph Kahn's slick directing, Kahn and Mark Palmero's great script and the wonderful ensemble cast bringing it all to life, Detention is just the right choice for anybody wanting to seek out a great teen slasher film.

Available on: Amazon & iTunes

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