Detention takes everything about sappy teenage high school flicks and turns it on its ear. This is not a slick homage to John Hughes, but rather a fanciful horror version of today’s cliques and clichés. including time travel, UFOs and body swapping. While all of this elements may seem to sporadic to try to tie together, they do indeed end joining in unexpected and quite humorous ways.
Detention follows the final year of a group of kids at the high school in Grizzly Lake. Bringing even more problems than the angst ridden teens usually have is the fact that there is a serial killer in their midst. Josh Hutcherson, Dane Cook, Spencer Locke and Shanley Caswell all make appearances as inhabitants of this crazy world. Following a series of mishaps, a group of co-eds finds themselves in detention trying to figure out who the killer is and how to stop them.
The film adapts a farcical tone almost from the beginning, appropriating ideas and themes from the teen subgenre of films. Where it breaks tradition is by openly mocking them while having the actors play it with a straight face. While it employs the fast humor and sight gags usually reserved for the likes of the more satirical and even farcical Airplane series of movies, all of the actors are made to play their roles fairly straight. The humor comes quick and often, so often in fact, some may miss either the jokes or the transition for the next scene. The only true drawback is the subjective nature of humor some may find it too clumsy or the characters too one dimensional for their liking.
While films for youth have often used language and references only the current crop of kids would understand and appreciate, this film also is shot with a quick-fire pacing that younger viewers will appreciate. Cleverly, though, director Joseph Kahn (Torque) makes tribute to the 90′s by referencing them as not only plot elements, but almost a constant theme throughout the film. Clothing, language, music, and hairstyles of the 90′s appear so often and so thoroughly that one could expect Joey Lawrence or Shannen Doherty to come wandering around the corner at any time.
Well shot, the film has plenty of gore for the horror fans coupled with some very creative fight scenes. The soundtrack is a mix of hits from the last three decades. The effects and graphics are all well done, simply adding enough realism to carry the story along.
While some older audience members may not appreciate the humor, some of the references will be lost on the younger viewers. The film acts as an odd echo chamber, Kahn having digested the last 30 years of pop culture and teen flicks then regurgitated them as Detention. There is a sense of disdain of this culture by his open mocking of it within this movie, yet he manages to still create enough sympathy for his characters to know that on some level he has enjoyed it as well.
Recommended for horror fans and fans of dark humor.