Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 2 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED I am putting you guys in Detention! Oh, and a SPOILER ALERT is in order.
Day 2 of 31: Detention (2011)
Director: Joseph Kahn
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke, Dane Cook
IMDb Trivia: Joesph Kahn said the most expensive sequence in the movie is the circular tracking shot around various characters in the library showing the passage of time by portraying different music eras. This is because the music licensing for using these songs cost so much.
Plot: As a copycat killer named after movie villain “Cinerhella” stalks the student body at Grizzly lake High School a group of co-eds band together to survive while serving detention.
First things first, ignore the plot synopsis above because it’s not only misleading, it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what Detention is as a whole. This isn’t a slasher movie; far from it actually. And while the design of Cinderhella looked original and I would totally love to see an actual slasher movie with this character as its lead baddie, this villain is just another tool used to take a satirical look at the teens of our generation, horror movies and horror culture in general.
So here’s what I liked. Director Joseph Kahn’s filmography is made up mostly of music videos and it shows in his editing style with its fast-paced storytelling (which becomes a problem later on, but I’ll come back to that) and stylish visuals. The opening sequence is reason alone to recommend watching Detention as it’s one of the coolest and most unique title sequences I’ve seen since Zombieland.
Also the gore and the kills were very well-executed even if it they were sparingly used. This is not an indictment against the movie: quite the opposite. And if I had to compare the first half of this movie to any other horror film I’ve seen, it would be Happy Death Day.
The actors also seem to be having a fun time with their roles. I don’t know if they understood most of the story but they delivered solid performances, with a pre-Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson as one of our leads and a surprisingly grounded and not-at-all annoying Dane Cook as the principal. Cook stole every scene he was in (a sentence I never ever thought I would find myself writing) and proved he’s not just a one-note comedian but an actual actor. Good for him.
The first half of this story (and the actual detention) are the best aspects of this movie, but things get insane and way too bloated with plot lines and exposition as we race to the conclusion. You might get something different out of this movie than I did, but for me Detention isn’t poking fun so much at horror as it is pointing out how some modern day horror movies have lost what truly made the classics so iconic. They rely too heavily on nostalgia instead of trying to craft new stories that not only have something meaningful to say, but are memorable on their own. How many remakes have we seen in the last year alone? I’m totally on board with the message here but I would be remiss if I didn’t admit movies like Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale vs Evil and even Shaun of the Dead did this much better.
I don’t recommend being stoned and watching this movie as the last 45 minutes is bat-crap crazy. This is where things start to feel like you’re on a rollercoaster with no safety rail, no seatbelts and there are screws missing on the tracks. We have aliens, time travel and a bunch of other strangeness that needs to be seen to be believed.
After watching Detention I can see why it got lost in the fray of horror movies released in 2011. It’s more complex than it needs to be as it tries to take a satirical look at horror but gets lost along the way. I’m not calling this movie bad in any sense of the word, and in time I could totally see this becoming a cult favourite. I’m just saying if they stuck with the horror/comedy aspects and left the crazy sci-fi time travel grizzly-bear-entering-a-UFO for no reason (no I’m not having a stroke, this happens in the movie and I still don’t know why) on the cutting room floor, it would’ve been a more cohesive film.
Detention is one of those movies I would recommend watching just to hear what others have to say about it. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Donnie Darko or Brick, you might just dig this too. Feel free to check it out for yourself and let me know if you enjoyed spending time in Detention.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
And you can check out Part 1 of this series below together with some other great horror content:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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