The students of Grizzly Lake High School are being killed off one by one by Cinderhella, the villain of a popular horror movie franchise, and too smart for her own good Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) appears to be her next target. Too bad everyone thinks Riley is an attention-seeking loser and that no one will believe her. However, when Riley and several other students are given detention on prom night, Cinderhella shows up too, and the group must band together to figure out the identity of Cinderhella, in order to save themselves – and the whole world.
Imagine Scott Pilgrim vs the World crossed with Scream and a handful of other, randomly selected movies, as written by someone obsessed with the 1990’s (the ‘90’s are the new ‘80’s, don’t you know) and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Detention is all about. An independent film that was later picked up for distribution by Sony, Detention lacks the polish of its studio-financed counterparts, and with the exception of Josh Hutcherson (pre-The Hunger Games) and Dane Cook, stars a lot of actors you’ve probably never heard of. However, what this film lacks in quality, it more than makes up for in enthusiasm, and the end product has cult hit written all over it.
At first glance, Detention comes across as a fairly straight-forward teen slasher-comedy that’s been jazzed up with a few post-modern touches, such as Scott Pilgrim-esque captions and characters who talk to the audience. Riley is the stereotypical smart, sarcastic loser girl character that seems to be popping up in every teen comedy these days (see also Easy A and Awkward), and Cinderhella, although a passable horror villain, isn’t exactly likely to spawn her own horror franchise like Freddy or Jason.
Then, around the 30 – 40 minute mark, weird stuff starts happening. Really weird stuff. Bizarre sub-plots and characters arrive completely out of nowhere, such as a time-travelling alien bear, an acid-spewing footballer, and a previously unseen character announcing that the world is going to end in 9 ½ minutes. Half the fun of the film is trying to figure out what these are all references to. By the final half-hour, the twists and turns are coming so thick and fast that you’ll probably miss half of the references, but you’ll definitely never guess what’s going to happen next.
Detention is the sort of film that could easily have degenerated into a third-rate parody (think Dance Movie, Date Movie, Superhero Movie – basically anything with Movie in the title). Yet, instead, writer/director Joseph Kahn delivers a movie which only gets better with repeat viewing. The less you know about it going in, the better. Just enjoy going where this film takes you and have faith that it will all make sense in the end.
Verdict: An intelligent parody masquerading as a dumb teen comedy; Detention is so full of pop-culture references that multiple viewings are necessary to fully enjoy it.