I began to like Detention from its opening scene where the class bitch (Alison Woods) is starting about her day while giving us a series of rules for survival in school a la Zombieland (2009) where the film clearly has its tongue planted well into its cheek and is digging into teen life with scathing regard. Here the screen is constantly popping up with cartoony info-graphics to list the rules or showing us the text messages that she is writing, all before the scene abruptly turns into something akin to the opening of Scream (1996) and is very funnily interrupted by the masked killer who stabs Woods and shoves her body out the window to land onto her waiting mothers car. The film then segues into an equally amusing credit sequence moving through the school halls where the credits come printed on everything from the labels on the doors, students sneakers, rolls of toilet paper, lockers, the dials of locks, the cleaning sign the janitor puts down, school yearbooks, dents punched in the wall by the school bully and with the directors name finally forming out of cereal letters vomited into a urinal in the bathroom.
There feels like there is more creativity in the first five minutes of Detention than there was in the entire running time of Bad Kids Go to Hell. Where Bad Kids Got to Hell got off one cute reference to The Breakfast Club (1985), Detention comes with so many 1980s/90s pop culture references that ones mind is boggling trying to keep track of them all. There are all manner of sly and witty lines/homages thrown in the direction of bands/artists like Oasis, Morrissey and Sting and reference to films and tv like The Karate Kid (1984), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94), Road House (1989), Under Siege (1992) and in particular Scream I am not a retarded Neve Campbell, heroine Shanley Caswell tells a disbelieving police officer at one point. Parker Bagleys bully/football jock even becomes a bizarre parody of The Fly (1986), while he also appears to share a name with John Travoltas bad boy in Carrie (1976). There is the film within a film Cinderhella which the killer is trying to imitate that seems construed as a parody of Saw (2004) and sequels. This is the best movie since Volcano , says Spencer Locke while watching at one point. Joseph Kahn even gets off digs at his previous directorial outing, the action film Torque (2004) makes as much sense as that stupid movie, one character is heard commenting.
The dialogue comes with a sublime wit. The fun of the film comes in watching whatever demented spin or sarcastic 1990s pop culture reference the film is going throw in next. The script feels like some love child of Diablo Cody and Kevin Williamson having gotten lose on a remake of Scream that also managed to get mixed up with Back to the Future (1985), while inhaling John Dies at the End. The lines are wonderfully sardonic Yes, I care about animals, says the Canadian exchange student Travis Fleetwood during a debate about vegetarianism vs meat-eating, thats why I only eat baby animals and goes on to give a speech about how killing babies is better than killing ones that have lived longer lives. So much of the film comes with a mocking wit like the scenes of Shanley Caswell try to hang herself in the school hall at the same time as fending off the killer, or where her claims that she has been attacked are dismissed because she is not cool enough.
The film becomes even more demented and almost wilfully impossible to follow (at least without a second screening) when we finally get the principal characters into detention and everything goes completely insane, including to wit time travel between multiple eras, a mother and daughter having conducted a cross-time bodyswap, the looming end of the world, alien invasion, a rejected characters long-hatched revenge scheme and the school bear mascot in the hall revealed to be an alien time travel device. Here tiny details throughout the film manages to be wound in and explained as part of the films utterly surreal tapestry where incidents that happened are even revealed to contain characters having time-travelled back and affected events from the margins Back to the Future Part II (1989)-style. Completely demented fun.