Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Detention: Piling Up the Dead Teenagers

Serial killers love killing teenagers. That is about the only convention upheld in a new horror mash-up that gleefully defies all the laws of nature and constraints of logic. Nothing will be allowed to suppress the body count in Joseph Kahn’s amazingly frenetic and kinetic Detention (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Man, where do you start with this? Possibly with arrogant cheerleader Taylor Fisher, who used to rule Grizzly Lake High, until she was murdered by a serial killer apparently inspired by Cinderhella, the horror-movie-within-the-horror-movie franchise character. Her place at the top of the status totem pole is filled by Ione Willis, who has been slumming with Clapton Davis, the childhood guy-friend misfit-mascot Riley Jones carries a massive torch for. She is having a bad high school career. Socially shunned and hobbling about on a walking cast, she was contemplating suicide until Cinderhella started stalking her. Unfortunately, everyone dismisses her claims as a pathetic plea for attention.

That is about the first five minutes of Detention. From there, Kahn steps on the gas, spinning out into outrageous territory. Teenagers will be hacked up, Jones will be humiliated several times over, the space-time continuum will be jeopardized, and audiences will witness a truly wicked send-up of The Breakfast Club.

Kahn is like a postmodern hipster Mel Brooks, launching an incredible barrage of jokes at the audience, which are rather clever, more often than not. Indeed, it is truly impressive how consistently he maintains the sheer breakneck pace of the madness. Viewers will leave Detention with their heads spinning like Regan MacNeil, in a good way. He really has an unusual flair for visuals and keen sense of pop culture. There is one extended scene marking the passage of time at Grizzly Lake through emblematic songs of years past that approaches outright brilliance.

Frankly, his ensemble cast deserves kudos just for keeping up amped-up lunacy. In fact, they are all quite game, including Spencer Locke as Willis, which turns out to be a rather more complicated part than we might expect. Even Dane Cook is quite funny Principal Verge, perhaps even redeeming himself for the mess that is Answers to Nothing. However, it is some of the supporting players who really bring the mojo, like rapper Dumboundead as Toshiba the exchange student and Walter Perez as Elliot Fink, a character beyond explanation in this limited space.

Detention is like Scream on a heart-bursting dose of speed. Just watching it careen by is a riotous trip. Largely self-financed by Kahn, Detention is quite an enterprising and idiosyncratic accomplishment. Enthusiastically recommended for horror fans not susceptible to seizures, it opens this Friday (4/13) in New York at the AMC Empire and in San Francisco at the AMC Metreon.