Detention (2019) [Fantasia Fest 2020]

Set in Taiwan in 1962, a period known as the White Terror, Detention takes place in and around a school and its among its student and staff as they are encouraged to turn anyone who may be against the current power in. A group of students and young teachers meets up to discuss banned books and other materials. As they try to stay hidden and survive, something not quite usual starts happening.

Written by Shih-Keng Chien, Lyra Fu, and John Hsu with John Hsu directing, Detention creates an atmosphere where no one can be trusted, something that was a reality for many back in that period, and takes that atmosphere, turns it to 11, then adds some potential supernatural element. This leads to a tense film where even the lead may be someone that can’t be trusted. This makes the film something interesting to watch as there is a lot of tension, but also some sweet moments to balance things out. The way the characters are put into these situations, the way they are built, everything comes together to make a film that is a slow burn, yet fascinating watch.

The cast for these characters is good with the leads giving subdued at times performances that work perfectly for the material at hand. The leads played by Gingle Wang and Meng-Po Fu gives really good performances that pull the viewer into the story and gives them characters they can really follow into what eventually happens around and to them. The performances overall here are strong with something hidden by seemingly everyone which helps keep the mystery and atmosphere of the film.

The cinematography by Yi-Hsien Chou is really something here as it works with the story creating a mood to the images, adding to the atmosphere, and letting the viewer think there might be things in the darkness whether they are really there or not. Their work adds a lot to the movie, giving it something extra to layer with the story, the direction, and the acting.

Detention is an effect atmospheric film that gives chills on multiple levels even before the story gets to its conclusion where it works even better based on the established tension. The film is one of those that will feel a bit slow at times, but it’s more than worth sticking with to get to that ending and see where it is all going.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs every year, and this year runs virtually from August 20th until September 2nd.