(2011)3.5Jeremy WheelerIt's hard to describe Detention without spilling the goods. What can be said is that it's a lot more than a teen slasher flick. Though it might share some of Scream's postmodern comedic leanings amidst the slice-and-dice kills, there's more juice in the fruit than just that. Unpredictably wild and full of a bingo-cage grab bag of genre mash-ups, the flick miraculously remains cohesive despite walking a tightrope between mad brilliance and lunacy throughout its lean running time. At its core is a hyperstylized reaction to the last two decades of pop culture, with hip characters making fun of what's hip in what is ultimately an incredibly hip film. While parents can find guides to the teens' cryptic text messages online, the key to understanding Detention lies in piecing together its excessively creative puzzle. It's purposefully not for everyone, and that's a good thing. As with most cult films, the picture's admirers might feel strange if society as a whole embraced all of the crazy that's on display here. In short, Detention is weird…but normality is even weirder.
Detention doesn't just bust out of the box, it destroys it. Just when you think it's going in one direction -- bam, it hits you like a ghost punch. Boom boom -- it's a teen comedy. Boom boom -- it's a slasher film. Boom boom -- you're in a sci-fi movie. And before you know it, the flick's riffing on '80s teen fantasy comedies. There's a lot in there. It sometimes feels like too much, but don't tell that to your buzzing brain, which will connect many of the dots after the credits roll -- or better yet, on your second or third viewing. The tale follows a select few high-school seniors in Grizzly Lake, a suburb like any other -- except there's a killer on the loose. Class outcast Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) has enough on her mind: her ex-best friend stole the skater kid she was crushing on, her new best friend wishes he was the kid she was crushing on, and she's dateless for the prom with a bum leg stuck in a cast. If that's not enough, a maniac mimicking a slasher series called "Cinderhella" is stalking her. Meanwhile, the focus of her silent adoration, Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson), is trying to figure out why his new girlfriend is so obsessed with the '90s when he's not ducking an inevitable brawl with the football-star school bully. As the killings ramp up alongside strange occurrences within different cliques of kids, Riley and a motley group of classmates are thrown into a 12-hour detention by the hard-nosed Principal Verge (Dane Cook) that'll ultimately decide each one's fate.
Detention is a little John Hughes -- if Hughes were up on today's lingo and into crazy drugs. The picture is certainly a product of modern moviemaking (à la Scott Pilgrim), funneling different inspirations into the cinematic equivalent of a mega Slurpee as director Joseph Kahn tears down the binary line of audiences' expectations and attempts an outlandish blend of cinematic madness. Just as Kahn's previous film Torque broke the outrageous speed barrier of modern racing flicks, Detention snaps the teen thriller's spine, using its framework to craft a unique movie that knows it's in for a few punches on the chin on its way to acceptance. Kahn and co-writer/film critic Mark Palermo worked on the script for three years, maddeningly shaping it to be appreciated with repeated viewings. Detention certainly isn't for everyone, but thanks to its sharp wit, fresh-faced cast, and sheer audacity, it will live on -- hopefully inspiring even crazier followers in the process.