Detention (2011) Review
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Written by Joseph Kahn and Mark Palermo
Directed by Joseph Kahn
Detention is a film that has received quite a bit of hype. Advertised as a horror comedy starring teen superstars Josh Hutcherson (from The Hunger Games) and Spencer Locke (from Cougar Town), and comedian Dane Cook, it’s not hard to see why Detention has some buzz surrounding it. After waiting a long, long time to see the film, I finally had a chance to see it. With so much hype behind the film, would it live up to expectations?
From the beginning, the film lets us know that it is not to be taken seriously. The 4th Wall is immediately broken in a way that would make the great Zach Morris proud. Detention then lets us know that we’re NOT watching a horror film through a silly but fun opening credit sequence where brightly-dressed “Clapton Davis” (Hutcherson) rides his skateboard through the halls of his high school before running into the brick wall that is the school bully, who wants to murder Clapton for stealing his girlfriend “Ione” (Locke). Oh, did I mention that a remixed version of “MMMBop” by Hanson is playing in the background and essentially becomes the films theme song? Because it does.
As Clapton thinks of hilarious ways to avoid being beaten, “Riley Jones” (Shanley Caswell) struggles to tell Clapton how she really feels. Unfortunately, before she can approach him, she is attacked by someone dressed as “Cinderhella” (the villain in a popular film series). As she struggles to convince the authorities that she’s telling the truth, two more bodies pile up.
“Principal Verge” (Cook) learns of a popular girl’s murder and, to avoid turning prom night into a bloodbath, he places a group of student suspects (including Clapton, Riley, and Ione) in detention. We then learn random character traits about them through a series of Family Guy-style flashbacks. I will avoid trying to explain what happens next because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it doesn’t fit the film at all. Things become so over-the-top in stupidity that I was no longer able to take Detention seriously, and I was expecting tongue-in-cheek humor from the beginning.
It felt like the filmmakers didn’t like the direction the film was going, so they just abandoned the horror aspect halfway through and tried to make a slapstick comedy. Cinderhella is hardly even a plot point and appears onscreen for probably five minutes total. There are barely any death scenes in the last half of the movie, and most of the take place completely offscreen. I can’t hate, because it works, but I just wanted a straight up horror comedy in the vein of Scream, but instead ended up with Back to the Future Part IV with angst. Detention feels like what would happen if Kevin Williamson wrote an episode of Family Guy.
Regardless, I enjoyed Detention for the most part. There were some hilarious scenes that had me chuckling, and I loved the 90s references, but overall it just didn’t live up to my expectations. It wasn’t a horror film. Plain and simple. There is a lot fun to be had, but Detention could have been so much better. I still have to give major, major points for originality and balls, even though it took chances that sometimes fell flat. Give it a shot. It is undoubtedly one of the most original films of all time. There isn’t even something to compare it to. It is truly in a category of its own.
- Blair Hoyle