Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review : Detention (2011)


Joseph Kahn


Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell and Spencer Locke

As a killer named Cinderhella stalks the student body at the high school in Grizzly Lake, a group of co-eds band together to survive while they're all serving detention.

'What the FUCK are you watching!!??'

Yep, that's the first words that came out of my lady-friends mouth when she walked in and caught me watching DETENTION...

'Well, honey, its sort of a cross between PROM NIGHT, URBAN LEGEND, BACK TO THE FUTURE and DONNIE DARKO, with some SAY ANYTHING thrown in there for good measure. It's about a time-machine and a serial killer who digs Cinderella and its sort of a romance but with a Grizzly Bear in there.Oh, and some alien mutations too. I think I may have had my drink spiked' I replied.

'Looks fucking crazy' she retorted, and left the room without another word.

Truth be told, I still can't think of a more precise way to describe the film. Trying to clarify its plot is like nailing honey to a bee, and it genre-hops so often that its impossible to label it under anything concrete. Time-travel-horror? Quantum teen romance? String theory satire? I haven't got a goddamn clue.

In fact, perhaps my dear lady summed it up best...'...fucking crazy'.

You've probably heard a lot of talk about DETENTION by now. You've heard how its directed by the CRANK guy. Its dazzlingly original. Its dazzlingly shallow. Its hilarious. Its tedious. Its daring. Its nauseating. On and on and on the hyperbole goes, kids.

Where you yourself will land depends chiefly on one thing and one thing only...attention span. Or more precisely, your ability to fluctuate yours.

Yep, all those old fuddy duddy critics who have moaned and complained about the films whiplash pacing and non-stop editing insanity are right on the money when they declare it an attention free zone. Or so it seems, on the surface.

See, DETENTION is style over substance, it is dizzyingly fast and it can cause headaches, but you don't have to be an MTV addled fuck-wit to follow, or enjoy, it. I'm no spring chicken myself and I followed it just fine, thoroughly enjoyed its moves and grooves and not once did I feel like watching a Nicky Minaj or fucking Lady Gaga video afterwards...thank God.

Yeah...I hear all the criticism that kids nowadays get all their information in tiny doses from the likes of Youtube and Twitter, and I agree that its the sort of thing that can damage a persons ability to think above a fourth grade level, but that's clearly not always the case. It has some very positive advantages over mainstream media, (the primary one being that its not mainstream media). Nah, its what they watch that's the problem, not how they watch it. And anyway, all the claims that DETENTION is a product of these techno-addled times is most likely bullshit...

Look at the facts...If DETENTION was created to cater to the moronic masses, and its target audience were glazed over teens who could tell you who won pop-idol in an instant, but couldn't tell you how many illegal wars we're in if their IPods depended on it, then why are all the myriad movies it references from an era that today's average teens wouldn't know nor care about? The film practically bathes in 80's and 90's  nostalgia. It damn near eroticises those periods. And you know what? Those who lived through them ain't 16 years old. We wish we were, but we ain't.

My theory is that DETENTION is a film made by a guy who knows and loves cinema, and had the arrogance and the ability to bend the rules to suit his own ends and actually pull it off. This film isn't pandering to any group. Its something we can all enjoy, if we're so inclined.

And its a film of contradictions. Its light-speed paced and hard to keep up with, yet its full to the brim with great moments that play just long enough to register, (check out the skateboard serenade...90's romance at its finest). It has zero time to develop any characters, yet we care for a few of them anyway. It wallows in its vacuity yet will require multiple views by most audiences just to work out what the fuck is going on. It bounces through dimensions and decades so fast it seems like a jumbled mess, but if you pay attention everything fits and is cross-referenced, and tied up neatly by the conclusion. Theres nothing straightforward about DETENTION, other than its intent, which is purely and simply to delight and to entertain. I hadn't taken any amphetamine, crack cocaine or bath salts before I watched it, and I had a wicked time. I took them all afterwards and had me a fucking brunch, but that's another story...

What may disappoint those genre fans who can handle the films flash and fizz, is the gore. There is, sadly, some CG moments in here, but thankfully, the film looks wonderful in every other area. And the kills will quickly fade from memory. Truth is, once your on board with its acid-fried plot and its psychedelic vibes, you'll soon stop caring about the kills anyway. The slasher elements, though fun, are just the icing on an already fine cake.

DETENTION deserves a look for horror fans and non-fans alike. Its a love letter to more colourful times and it oozes a genuine love for the moving image in its every frame. Its charming, endearing, demented and funny. Love it or hate it, its worth your time, if only to see just how inventive and vibrant modern cinema can be.

And yes, the early 90's was this colorful, but only because we were all full of acid 90% of the time...

7.5 Time-Traveling Grizzly Bears out of 10

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