Well. It’s the beginning of September, and I feel pretty confident when I say that this is the weirdest fucking movie I have seen and will see all year.
Actually, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I just don’t know if I can articulate why.
You know what, let me just rip off Netflix’s summary:
“In this genre-bending slasher flick, a high schooler gets slapped with detention on the same night as senior prom. But plenty of other kids will also be missing the big event when a past-her-prime prom queen shows up to slay them.”
. . . well. That’s sort of what happens, I guess.
1. Seriously, I’m at a bit of a loss on where to begin. I saw a trailer and a short clip for this movie months ago, and I was desperate to see it — unfortunately, there’s really only one theater in this whole county that plays independent movies, and they prefer to showcase the Serious Ones, not . . . well . . . this. But when Detention popped up on Netflix, I knew I had to ignore all the horror movies I’m supposed to be watching in order to try it out. And . . . well . . .
It’s . . . it’s like if you put Scream and The Breakfast Club and Donnie Darko into a blender and then also added acid and cocaine and maybe some absinthe to the mix as well? A dash of Scott Pilgrim vs The World too? And seriously, did I mention the acid? That’s kind of what this movie is like. It’s bringing meta to a whole new level, a level with serial killers called Cinderhella. And grizzly bears.
2. Possibly the weirdest thing about this movie is that it’s not actually dumb. I mean, it’s balls to the wall insane, but even as the script is bouncing all over the place, it’s pretty sharp. There are so many good quotes in here, I’m not even sure if I can remember them all. Of course, a lot of them don’t make much sense out of context.
Principal Verge: “I make 40 G’s a year plus dental. You may not have a Skittle.”
Billy: “If your face hurts my fist, I will punch you again harder.”
Clapton: “Mullet beats ponytails.”
Gord: “Vegetarians who eat fish are hypocrites! She thinks that because fish feel no pain they don’t value their lives! Absurd!”
Mr. Kendall: “Well, Clapton. I’m wet.”
Sander: “The girl’s a moron. Wait, you don’t have a thing for her, do you?”
Clapton: “Sander, Ione’s an old soul trapped in a very painfully hot cheerleader’s body.”
Taylor: “Let me montage this to speed things up.”
Ione: “Clapton, the small guy always beats the invincible killing machine. You’re my Pat Morita.”
Clapton: “Isn’t he dead?”
Gord: “I do feel sympathy for animals, and that’s why I choose to only eat baby animals. They have not lived as long, and they aren’t leaving as much behind. Baby clams, chicken wings, baby seals. No big loss.”
Clapton: “I’d hide in a sporting goods store if zombies attacked.”
Sander: “Costco. Zombies don’t have membership.”
Ione: “How hard is it to be cool in 1992?”
Principal Verge: “What does the future hold for Clapton Davis?”
Clapton: “Well, I’m starting my own music site. It’s going to list new releases and review albums from bands no one’s ever heard of except me, and if they have I’ll just dismiss them with scathing comparisons to avant-garde folk rockers. Everything’s great on an ultra precise 100 point scale, and there’s no place for feedback. If readers want to bitch about it, they’ll have to go on their Twitters. Good taste is not a democracy.”
Principal Verge: “And this pays what? 13.5 a year?”
Clapton: “. . . free Costello tickets.”
Riley: “I’m only going to say this once: do not become the bad guy in the health class pregnancy scare video.”
3. Detention was kind of billed as a horror parody, but Netflix had it right about the genre-bending aspect. It’s one of the reasons this movie is so odd. I used to think that you absolutely couldn’t mix certain genres, but it’s not that it’s impossible — it’s just that people usually do it all wrong. Nobody likes it when aliens are introduced in the third act. And it’s just not good enough to slap, say, a western and a science fiction story together without any thought and say, “Sure! People will love this!”
But Detention handles all the genre-bending surprisingly well, I think. All of these things seem out of left field, but by the time you’ve finished the movie, you can see how most things were actually foreshadowed early on in one way or another. This seems like it’s the kind of movie that you laugh at (or stare at in dumbfounded shock) the first time around but can actually appreciate better on a second viewing.
4. The only element I’m not sure that fits in entirely is The Lonely Ballad of Billy Nolan. (The movie is separated into all kinds of flashbacks and side vignettes with titles like The Lonely Ballad of Billy Nolan or The Worthless Yearning of Principal Verge.) I feel like I need to see the movie again because I might be missing something, but Billy’s secret story doesn’t seem like it ties in as well as everything else, and I’m not really sure of its purpose.
5. As far as acting goes, I like everyone pretty well in Detention. It’s not a big name cast. The two people you’re most likely to recognize are Josh Hutcherson . . .
And Dane Cook . . .
I actually find some of Dane Cook’s shtick funny, but I also get why a lot of people find the guy grating, and the idea of watching him as the main lead in any film does not fill me with joy. (I expect that when I get to Hell, Good Luck Chuck will be playing on constant repeat.) Thankfully, Cook’s a side role here — he’s definitely visible, but he’s also not eating up all the camera time, either, which is nice. I hate it when one comedian takes over a whole movie. (Robin Williams, I like you buddy, but I’m totally looking at you here.)
As far as Josh Hutcherson goes, you know, I enjoyed him a lot. This movie is all about super quick dialogue (we’re talking Gilmore Girls plus West Wing speed here, people) and he does a really good job with the delivery. He has to be a kinda dumb but likable hipster, and I don’t think that’s entirely easy. (Especially since even hipsters apparently hate hipsters. Has anyone ever called himself a hipster with pride?)
All of the kids are pretty enjoyable, actually.
Spencer Locke plays pretty girl Ione with a ridiculous amount of energy, and Shanley Caswell, our sarcastic, vegetarian, feminist of a heroine, is pretty funny too. The movie works pretty well, I think, because the characters are all clearly parodies, but they’re also likable parodies. You don’t really hate anyone . . . which is actually pretty unusual for any kind of horror film, come to think of it.
6. If I do have a minor flaw, other than the Billy thing . . . there is way too much vomit in this movie. I’m not positive, but I think there’s somebody puking on screen . . . I don’t know . . . six times? Eight? I’m all for gross out humor, but that’s kind of ridiculous for a 93 minute film.
7. Finally, I mentioned the pace of the dialogue before, but even quicker than that is the pace of the filming itself. The easiest way to demonstrate is probably to just show you a clip. Don’t worry — there aren’t really any spoilers.
The whole movie is like this. The visual style of the film is actually a part of the story itself. I can’t even imagine another director having shot this movie. If this is what happens when music video directors take on horror parodies . . . well, I like it.
Possibly my favorite part in the whole film? Riley (Shanley Caswell) misses her bus and asks her dad for a ride. Her dad, who is lying on the couch with beer bottles all around, starts to sit up, all, “Sure, honey!” Then he hesitates and is like, “Nope, still drunk,” and lies back down. The movie freeze frames and we get this message:
“The movie Detention is against drunk driving, even if you’re suicidal.”
I laughed so damn hard at this.
I’m creating a very, very tiny spoiler section, but if any of what I’ve talked about sounds funny to you, check out this movie and see what you think. I cannot guarantee that you’ll like it because I’m still a little surprised by how much I did, but I’d be awfully curious to see what other people have to say.
I have absolutely no intention of recapping this movie because I am not a crazy person. However, if you really want the whole story, Wikipedia has you covered. Because whoever wrote that article is clearly eighteen billion times more dedicated than I am.
I only made a spoiler section to note a couple of things. If you’ve just skipped ahead without having actually seen the movie, a) shame and b) you will probably not understand whatever I’m talking about.
1. The line about Ione being an old soul trapped in a hot cheerleader’s body was funny, but the second I realized that it’s also true? That’s awesome. I am so in love with this.
2. The best intertitle of the bunch: The Disturbing Abduction of the Time Traveling Bear.
3. I had never really given the matter much thought, but my sister pointed out to me that I’m not usually a huge fan of time travel stories. (It’s not that I hate them on principle, or that I care about the science. Ha. It’s just that I don’t have the nostalgia for movies like Back to the Future or The Terminator that most people do, and I almost always bitch whenever any Trek has a time travel ep because of a) missed angst opportunities or b) extremely lame and excessively annoying Mark Twains.)
However, I think I can say that Detention might be one of my favorite time travel stories ever because seriously, how often do you see a bear turned into a time travel device?
4. And really, I never thought I’d like a movie about high school kids who use a time traveling bear to save the world, or a movie that ends with a Canadian (who is actually is a vegetable-based alien) leading an attack against humanity, but that’s how my life rolls, I guess.
5. In a fight between Patrick Swayze versus Steven Seagal? Yeah, I’d probably go Swayze too. Ponytail really should beat out mullet, but there’s just something about Steven Seagal and his whispery little girl voice that I will never be able to take seriously.
Also, how have I never seen Road House all the way through? Clearly, I need to work on this.
Totally psychotic but . . . I kind of loved it, I think. I don’t know. I may need time to fully wrap my head around this hyperkinetic oddball of a film. But I’m thinking about buying it at some point.
SUCH A TENTATIVE GRADE I HESTITATE TO EVEN WRITE IT DOWN:
Um, don’t turn down a guy if he asks you to prom because he’ll probably try to kill you, kill all your friends, and then maybe decide to blow up the whole world for good measure.
Sheesh. When I got turned down by the guy I asked to prom, I just, you know, went anyway. Men and their fragile little egos. Everything has to be so dramatic.