Detention Joseph Kahn

Detention Joseph Kahn
For those who appreciate ambitious experiments with cinematic form, irreverence for traditional story structure and a love of the absurd, Detention is a breath of fresh whippets. Director and co-writer Joseph Kahn is obviously trying to find his unique voice as a filmmaker after an awful experience making his debut feature, Torque, within the studio system. What he's struck upon with Detention is a fourth-wall breaking depiction of the horrors of teen angst as seen through a selection of pop culture filters. The highly stylized dialogue takes some cues from the witty wordplay of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Diablo Cody (The United States of Tara), only here each character represents the extreme version of a teen stereotype, though ones that have been tweaked to reflect modern sensibilities. For example, our protagonist, Riley (Shanley Caswell), is the nerdy girl pining after a boy who's lusting after a popular, vapid blonde, but she's also a fish-eating vegetarian who gets cut up for hypocrisy during a debate with an angry Canadian exchange student. Said blonde is completely obsessed with the '90s and Kahn does a good job demonstrating the ridiculous cycles of nostalgia people lacking personal identity will latch on to. The plot is a rather twisty affair, starting out as a wordy high school horror comedy, with nods to Scream and Saw, before getting progressively stranger as it becomes apparent that every odd occurrence is carefully built into a larger story involving a time travelling bear. It's a kitchen sink approach, sure, with camerawork and editing as bold and wacky as the tale it's telling, but it creates a distinct energy unlike much else out there. More than anything, Detention resembles an unlikely amalgamation of Greg Araki's Kaboom!, with its treatment of youthful emotion as sinister and apocalyptic, and the farcical satire of Scary Movie. In lieu of a regular special features spread, we have "Cheat Mode," which is Joseph Kahn's version of "Maximum Movie Mode." Every type of bonus content you'd regularly find on a DVD is incorporated into an orgy of on-screen information. Director and writer commentary, cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, bloopers, production details ― all are presented in relentless, rapidly switching, multiple picture-in-picture shots while the film plays. Like the movie itself, both the content and the approach are stimulating and amusing, but lack some wit, finesse and cohesion. Still, I'll take a quirky risk-taker that's a little shaky over a polished exercise in perfunctory traditionalism any day. (Sony)