Hello, ghoulish friends in time, and welcome to a regular spooky feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch a chilling movie featuring creepy time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one terrified guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense! Also, I am very scared!” And that’s good enough for me. Look out, post-ironic meta-hipsters are behind you!
What the fuck is Detention?
Here’s… some of it.
The screenshots in today’s article will be selected by a random number generator. Why? Because it seems like the kind of thing this movie deserves. Also, because none of this shit can be summarized in a way that a picture helps worth a damn. I’m just going to tell you that this film confused me, then rapidly unconfused me, but didn’t leave me satisfied nor irritated… just exhausted. I wanted to bury it in a hole so I could go dig it up again tomorrow. If that sounds like the kind of thing you need in your life, go fucking get it, and stop reading this before I try to tell you everything.
Also, make me stop writing this before I try to tell me everything.
So I needed to pick a third horror movie for my poorly titled Clocktober Halloween Spooktacle. Warlock had time travel and Satan. Frankenstein Unbound had time travel and Frankenstein. I wanted to end the festivities on a slasher movie with time travel in it, but I’d already done Los cronocrímenes, which was more of a suspense film, and Triangle, which was more of a stupid film. Then my Internet movie-hunting scored me this article that claims Detention is “in [the] vein of Scream with elements of Back to the Future.” Perfect, let’s do that, I’ll be right back.
I’m dead now. ‘Cuz Scream.
But no, it’s not just a self-aware temporal displacement flick with stabbings. It’s… it’s everything. I think writer-director Joseph Kahn made a list of the most confusing types of movie plots and said, “Let’s do all of them. On top of each other. In ninety minutes. And not drop a single ball.” And fuck if he doesn’t mostly pull it off. Actually, the one thing I have to ding him on is the only plot point that matters in this column: the time travel. It’s certainly interesting, and the time machine is a goddamn bear, but nevertheless, he mixes up his mutable and immutable timelines.
Final grade: F minus minus plus!
So you’ve got time travel and mutants and a fictional serial killer coming to life and aliens and body-swapping… what’s the point? I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t asking the same thing throughout most of the movie. It was kind of like Southland Tales, except it somehow managed to wrap everything up at the end. Oh. God. Fuck Southland Tales. That has time travel in it, you know. I’ll have to watch it again before the end of the year. Well, I don’t have to. Watching every time travel movie I can in a year was just a side project I took on as part of this main project that I’m also not required by anyone but myself to do. Agh, what are you still doing here? Where was I going with this?
Fuck Southland Tales is where I was going with this.
Critics from Leonard Maltin to whoever this random blogger is have criticized Detention for not having a story, but it may actually suffer from an abundance of story. If you look at it as a cornucopia of plot coupons, they all manage to get cashed; it’s just that there isn’t much breathing room for character development or, um, breathing. Look at the Wikipedia plot synopsis. Don’t read it. Just look at it. It’s a wall. It’s a wall you must choose whether or not you will climb. Oh, and the DVD comes with “cheat mode,” to help you better understand it all. I want to smack this special feature in the mouth so hard that it accepts my hand in marriage.
Shit. I’m deconstructing my own article now.
At the film’s climax, a character internally monologues: “It’s just high school. It’s not the end of the world.” And that’s when I finally put the notebook down and externally monologued: “Oh, good. I got it.” So if that’s all the getting to be gottened, the acting.
Shanley Caswell is quite engaging as Riley, the girl who can’t deal with society’s bullshit, man. You could call her the main character because she does the most talking, but it’s fun talking, and I hope to see her in more films.
This isn’t her. The pictures are still randomized.
Josh Hutcherson is the cool guy. He does that okay.
Actually, it would make a lot of sense if Detention was a sequel to Zathura.
Dane Cook plays the principal and is surprisingly bearable.
I wouldn’t lie about that to trick you into watching this movie. Honest.
The film also contains persons named Spencer Locke, Alison Woods, Aaron David Johnson, and Walter Perez, and they all do a fabulous job of being contained within it.
If I tell you who the killer/vampire/potato is, you’ll get mad.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Talking about time travel effects isn’t fun in these modern times, but in case you were wondering, CGI.
I know it’s hard work, computer people. I respect you.
Oh, if you hate “interactive” titles, steer clear of this one. Every other shot seems to have a few hovering letters for characters to duck under, punch, or just kind of acknowledge their existence. You know, because of all the meta.
- There are a couple of specific Back to the Future references, but that hardly seems worth noting since there are also a couple of specific everything references.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
I’m not kidding, a good ten to fifteen minutes of this movie is nothing but fast-paced chrono-confusion, interspersed with accusations of who the killer is. In lieu of a legitimate N.O.T.M.A.S. quote, let’s homage Detention and just take one from a ’90s movie instead.
“I sent him back through time to 1984. Man. He hadn’t even been born yet. It messes with your head.“
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.