Detention (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

When Taylor Fisher (Alison Woods), a self-proclaimed “B.I.T.C.H.,” woke up, she turned directly to the camera and gave us a tour of her fabulous daily routine: bragging about being on top of the high school food chain, expressing her hatred toward her mom after French toast was served for breakfast, and acknowledging that her life was not only pretty much exactly what she wanted, she felt that she deserved every bit of it. But when Taylor turned around, a masked figure similar to the newly released film, “Cinderhella II: Beauty Scream,” swung an axe at her throat and her body was thrown out the window. Although Taylor was the most popular girl in Grizzly Lake High School, it seemed like her former classmates couldn’t care less. Prom remained the most important event in everyone’s brain. A conflation of slasher horror, high school satire, and science fiction, “Detention,” written by Joseph Kahn and Mark Palermo, did not always reach its potential in terms of delivering emotional thrusts that rang true but it almost never ceased to be entertaining. Its jokes were a mile a minute and very self-aware, at its best biting and with enough little nuggets of wisdom, mostly in a form of hope, in terms of a life outside of the limiting walls of high school. Its characters grabbed my attention immediately when they uttered lines like, “You are more concept than reality” and “Sting is the Bruno Mars of 1992.” In the real world, no one should expect to hear teens conversing like these characters (let alone know the cultural impact of Sting) but that, alongside its 90s fetishism, was a part of its charm. The script was drenched in post-irony, from its attention-grabbing soundtrack to the films the characters referenced. And yet at the same time, irony within ironies made the material almost unforgivingly cold. Even though we got to know some of the teens in the most rudimentary way, they remained sheep heading for a slaughter. I couldn’t help but consider an alternative and imagine the statement it would have made if, in the end, there was only one dead teen in Grizzly Lake and the rest only involved chase sequences. For instance, when Riley (Shanley Caswell), a suicidal vegetarian who also happened to be our heroine, was chased by the axe-wielding killer around the neighborhood, it was quite thrilling despite its inherent silliness. I felt disappointment at the missed opportunity because if no one else was gutted after the first scene, the final product would most likely have been the same. This was due to the film not really being about the stabbings. It was about the hormone-induced confusion and histrionics of the young people on screen. While quite sophomoric most of the time, it was forgivable because I cared if Riley would end up with Clapton (Josh Hutcherson), a longtime friend from across the street who happened to eye Ione (Spencer Locke), the pretty cheerleader with an interesting background story. What really threw me out of the moment at times, however, were a few unconvincing takes. For example, Nolan (Parker Bagley) was supposed to be a big, menacing bully but there were shots when I saw nothing but sensitivity in the actor’s eyes. He growled, grunted, and yelled as if he were on steroids but all the commotion felt like an empty threat. I’d be more scared of the quiet guy in the corner you could be hiding weapons in his baggy sweater. Another involved the way a police officer handed her card to Riley after she had been attacked. For a movie that was more than aware that small details could lead to big consequences, I was surprised that the director, Joseph Kahn, overlooked the lack of effectiveness in the aforementioned examples and others similar to it. “Detention” is certainly not for everyone especially with its drastic changes in tone, but most people will find at least one amusing thing in its hip smugness.

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