Director: Joseph Kahn
Seen via: Sony Pictures DVD (R1)
I'm continuing to work through some newer horror, and Detention is definitely one the films that's provoked the most thought (and words)...
One of the primary deficiencies of modern pop culture is its tendency to treat being genuine as a failure of some kind. Somewhere along the line (I'd peg it in the late-nineties) it became cooler to feign interest with a smirk then express honest enthusiasm for the quirks and flaws tied up in a given genre. It's always easier to mock something than to improve upon it, but mocking ultimately brings nothing new to the table. In the last few years it seems like a watershed moment has occurred, when irony increased too much and it was simply impossible to attain higher levels of smugness. Tongues were poked straight through cheeks, smirks morphed into genuine smiles. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
This is the realm of post-irony, where things that might have been previously mocked are embraced wholeheartedly, throwing the consumer into a state of uncertainty. Can they really be serious? Can you tell the difference? In music, the oft-cited example is Die Antwoord, a South-African rap duo soaked in bad fashion, shock-theatrics, and midi synthesizers drudged up from decades past. In the past, this might have been played for laughs, but Die Antwoord fucking dare you to call them out. There are no cracks in the facade - this group is by all reasonable measure wholly serious about their (non-)schtick and carry on without a hint of self-awareness, seemingly oblivious to any outside criticism.
|These individuals are not joking.|
I can't remember how I initially heard about Detention. It's one of those films that snuck onto my watchlist and sat there while I promptly forgot about whichever favorable review convinced me to write its name down. One thing is clear in retrospect: whoever wrote that now-forgotten review has pretty different tastes than I. It's not that Detention is a bad movie. I'm just not sure that it IS a movie.
Detention aims to take the slasher film and update it for modern sensibilities - i.e. the "Twitter" generation, if such a thing exists. Its means of attack is to throw so much at you so fast that you'll never have a chance to absorb it all. If I'm not bored, I must be entertained; Q.E.D. Steep this all in the trash culture of the 90's and you'll have a satisfying movie experience. Right? This ostensible slasher takes place in the same sort of ironically day-glo high school you might find in Heathers, or more recently, Kaboom. It's the only setting possible, really, given the target audience. We're introduced to the main characters thorugh a set of flashily edited fourth-wall-breaking monologues in which two girls named Taylor and Riley describe the opposite poles of the life-in-high-school spectrum. One's the loser, the other popular. Nerd vs. cheerleader. You've seen this before. The rapid-fire editing isn't a bad start. The only thing is... it never stops. We never get a break from camera tricks, flashbacks, flash-forwards, arbitrary chapter titles, digressions, and distractions. This movie is flat out terrified of being boring.
|Do we look self-aware enough?|
Most of the clutter comes from an inability to let a single scene pass without making some sort of external reference. Right up front we're told by a character that "the 90's is the new 80's." God forbid. This film is absolutely immersed in the pop culture detritus of that decade and has no shame in fetishizing many things that I'm still trying to forget. I live in a cave far removed from any modern high-schoolers, so I can't vouch for whether kids today really are enamored with C&C Music Factory or Steven Seagal films. In all honesty, I think it's writer/director Joseph Kahn's dysfunctional attachment to his childhood seeping through into his script.
So does all of this serve a purpose? Is it post-irony, as it flat-out labels itself near the end? Does this film embrace the corniness of the past without pretense? In short, no. There's a willfull obliviousness necessary for that categorization, and nothing here is allowed to be subtle. References to music or other films can't be made without being subsequently acknowledged. It's a constant string of "see what I just did there?" Maybe it's great if you're too young to remember the 90's, but if you can, it's like being bludgeoned to death with a Kris Kross cassette.
|Torrenting a movie that references a movie alluding to|
another movie-within-a-movie... I just OD'ed on "meta."