Trying to summarize the plot of writer/director Joseph Kahn's horror/comedy/science fiction film Detention is somewhat akin to the group of blind men trying to describe the elephant from Indian folklore: take one part Heathers, one part Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, one part Prom Night, one part Clerks, one part Scream, one part Breakfast Club, and one part Donnie Darko. Mix all of these together, and you'll almost get an idea what is in store.
What I can say about this film without giving anything away is that there is a masked axe-murderer stalking the halls of Grizzly Lake High School dressed as the female slasher character in a movie-within-a-movie series, "Cinderhella." At the same time, teenage loser Riley Jones (played by Shanley Caswell, of Bones and iCarly fame) has all but given up on life. She has a crush on her best friend Clapton (Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), who is oblivious to her feelings. He is currently dating cheerleader Ione (Resident Evil: Extinction's Spencer Locke), former best friend of Riley who happens to know a lot about '90s music and is the ex-girlfriend of resident bully/quarterback, Billy (Parker Bagley, of 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street). Riley is constantly dodging the advances of perpetually horny geek Sander (Aaron David Johnson), and the wrath of Principal Verge (Waiting's Dane Cook), former science club nerd and epitome of uncool who seems to have it out for Riley and friends, and who relishes in dishing out the discipline. Once the bodies start piling up, questions become answered, jokes fly at you like mosquitoes in Florida, and plot twists come crawling out of the woodwork.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the Scott Pilgrim-style breaking of the fourth wall and animation in the beginning. Once this tone was set, the viewer is brutally pummeled by laughs, gore, and relentless '90s pop culture references. Before you can catch your breath between scenes, a flashback is shown which answers some questions, but poses a lot more.
The blood and gore was mostly of the CGI fare, but it felt right, given the atmosphere of the whole thing. It is as much a horror film as Broken Lizard's Club Dread (which I immensely enjoyed), so I can't complain if a CG death or two looks "silly." Besides, the characters are the true stars here, and I found myself understanding them all, which is a very tough task to pull off in today's ADHD era of filmmaking.
The actors all seem to enjoy their roles, as you'll notice right from the start. Especially fun here is comedian Dane Cook. His role as the sadistic-but-clueless principal is priceless. He chews up lines such as, "Who taught you how to make a snuff porno, Lady Gaga?", it is clear that he's having a ball playing this character, which is sort of a cross between Steve Carell in The Office, and Jeffrey Jones in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I am not spoiling anything or exaggerating here when I say that every character in this movie is important to the plot, and all of them are a treat to watch. Take the exchange student from Canada, played by Travis Fleetwood, for example. He wears a hockey jersey in every scene and talks like a second-rate white rapper. At first, one would think that his rant/anti-vegetarian debate with Riley is there solely for comedic purpose, but by the time the credits roll, all will be understood. Kahn does a wonderful job of weaving every single character into this intricate web.
The pop culture references and jokes are fast and plentiful. In more than one case, I had to rewind the film, as just when my brain registered one joke, another flew by so fast, it passed me right up. Ron Jeremy makes a funny and memorable cameo, but don't blink, or you'll miss Dominic (LOST, Lord of the Rings) Monaghan get told to eat something rather unsavory.
Detention is one original movie; It is a breath of fresh air in a sea full of banal remakes, and is deserving of multiple viewings, if not to try and catch all the jokes, but to see it again knowing what is going on. I cannot wait to see what Kahn has in store for us next.
I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. Find it on Blu-Ray and DVD.