SXSW 2011: 'Detention' Movie Review


One of the worst film festival experiences I've ever had arrived as the ice-cold-wretched Jonas Akerlund film Spun. My colleagues and I left the theater feeling as if we'd been shit upon, truth be told, by the flick's excessive, witless, and aggressively ugly presence. One doesn't often describe a film as truly garish, but that's what Spun was. Sitting here at the same film festival, eight years later, I'm struck by the idea that I simply wasn't "prepared" for an over-the-top, hyper-kinetic, and outrageously stupid drug movie -- film festivals are often awash in this sort of stuff -- but after suffering through Joseph Kahn's Detention, I am certain of two things: 1) I was right about Spun; and 2) Detention is even worse than Spun.

A plotless, pointless, and egregiously amateurish movie from stem to stern, Detention doesn't so much tell a story as it does wallow in cliche, convention, stereotype, and an grating sense of, well, garishness. Much like Spun, it bounces around with little in the way of rhyme or reason, which would be fine if the flick was an anthology (like The Meaning of Life) or a powerful farce (like Airplane!), but Detention often feels more like a migraine-inducing endurance test than anything approximating a real movie.

We open with a typically cliched "bitch" (we know she's a bitch because onscreen fonts scream words at us, and yes, it happens all throughout the film) who rattles off a bunch of mind-numbing slang and a dash of ostensibly genre-skewering dialogue that was already silly when Scream came out, and then she gets killed by a stalker.

We're then treated to one of the ugliest opening title sequences ever captured on film, which leads to the introduction of a bunch of teenagers we hate instantly. The flick then rambles off in a slew of horrible directions: flashbacks within flashbacks; a time-traveling grizzly bear; several consistently stupid references to The Fly; some truly moronic body-switching nonsense; and (always, forever,everywhere) ... the ceaseless, obnoxious, sneering references to outdated slang, outmoded clothes, empty-headed film references; and (get this) a palpable sense of nostalgia for the grand old year of ... 1992. Whatever. There's a lot of running, a ton of screaming, frequent doses of uninspired vulgarity, and -- as the film moves on -- a clear sense that everyone simply gave up halfway through Act III. Probably earlier.

Detention opens with an obvious (and unfunny) knock on Kahn's previous film, Torque, which is a pretty stupid movie ... but looks like Casablanca in comparison to the unfinished mess that's on display here. It's a massive eyesore of a film, it has no wit, no heart, no point ... and it feels like it was made by people who love the popularity and profitability of horror movies, but not really the films themselves. Detention is not merely a bad film; it's an actively insulting film that earns a place alongside the finest works of Uwe Boll, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

Also, Dane Cook is in it.