Director Joseph Kahn basically creates the “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” of slasher movies, a movie so meta and so self-aware that a subset of audience members may be convinced this movie is actually an affirmation of the fads this movie tackles. I imagine some folks will smile thinking “He really gets us” while Kahn is pointing and laughing at them in the background. Kahn seems to have little respect or regard for people in to fads and spends most of the movie skewering just about everyone in this odd vacuum of cyclical nostalgia and retro crap with a modern age lacking an actual identity of its own. “Detention” is a film that many movie fans will either love or hate. I often fell in to the category of despising it but also kept dabbling in the area of admiration for being so unpredictable and original.
There is no opening title, we spend the first ten minutes of the film with a truly despicable grade A example of everything wrong about this generation of nostalgia fanatics, and then we dive in to a very breakneck paced introduction of characters, sub-plots, and credits. If you’re going in to “Detention” expecting a run of the mill whodunit slasher film, then you’re not going to get it. I won’t ruin it for you, but Kahn takes every opportunity to make this film an experience that’s part satire, part lampooning, and part meta horror comedy that makes “Scream” look subtle by comparison. Kevin Williamson shoved the satire down our throats while Kahn finds every available opening and crams it in violently. In fact Kahn references “Scream” more than once and even acknowledges the audience on more than on occasion. Some characters even go on tangents about “Scream,” and how the situation presenting itself is derivative in and of itself. A self-aware referencing in a meta-horror comedy to a self-aware meta-horror comedy really will threaten to collapse the very fabric of reality, but Kahn goes for it.
“Detention” on the surface is about a masked axe murderer running around a school knocking off students while the school reject Riley tries to figure out why the killer is targeting her with a few of the other popular students. And then it just nosedives in to such complete unabashed absurdist humor that it may be absolutely jarring to audiences. Every single character in “Detention” spews unoriginal one liners and slang at least a decade old from their orifices and spend most of the time building an identity that isn’t their own. Director Kahn completely crucifies this new generation of young followers who follow trends almost fifteen years old yet haven’t a clue toward their significance. Even primary protagonist Riley is brutally obnoxious and is intent on forming a bubble of nostalgic fetishizing that follows everyone else’s lead but presents the illusion of individuality.
To add to the further confusion, Shanley Caswell is both frumpy and utterly adorable as heroine Riley who spends most of the movie trying to find the identity of the masked murder while deciphering the killer’s clue and hints at their identity. She manages to make the film even more watchable in her role as the damaged young teen, and Kahn never quite spares anyone in his disgust toward nostalgia cultists. “Detention” is just an absolutely one of a kind horror comedy, and I ask that you experiment with it. I kind of hated it but I also loved it too. It was stupid but clever, ridiculous but satirical, obnoxious but funny. I just don’t get how something so contradictory can exist in cinema. I think it’s probably the most disorienting movie of the last five years but it’s charming and worth a watch.