DETENTION OF THE DEAD
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
Alex Craig Mann
Christa B. Allen
What's it about
A group of cliched horror stereotypes are trapped in their high school, where it appears that the zombie apocalypse has landed in their lap.
Is it good movie?
I know, I know. You're thinking right away, Breakfast Club with
zombies, right? Well, not really. We've got our standard fare for the
typical high school characters (do I really need to list the
cheerleader, goth, stoner, etc?) who have to try to put aside their
differences, loves and desires in order to survive the hordes. It has a
pretty standard setup, a teacher is supervising some students in
detention while a student complains about being bitten by a homeless
guy before landing there. From here the teacher gets bitten (heads
fly!) and then the outbreak sets in.
Unfortunately, Detention just doesn't work very well. Take all
aspirations of horror out of the picture, first of all. This is not a
scary movie in any form. Sure, there are zombies, but this flick is
played almost completely for broad, goofy laughs. To add to this, the
characters just don't really seem to care about the zombies. During the
big reveal scene where the zombies show up, Eddie (our heroic nerd
protagonist who teams up with Brad and Janet..get it?) pretty much just
brushes it all off and doesn't instill much of a sense of panic at all.
Though there are plenty of references, winks and nods to different
horror flicks that came before it, the dialogue in the film tends to be
practically cringe-worthy at almost every turn. It also doesn't help
that the characters are so one-note and wooden through most of the
film, that by the time they do begin to develop slightly near the
film's mid-point, it's pretty much too late. With that said, If you're
into really lowbrow, college style humor, you'll get some laughs. Lots
of dick jokes, if you're into that sort of thing.
Another problem I had with this one is that it just seems to break its
own rules. In a strange lack of logic, the two main characters seem to
"love" zombie movies, whereas most of the people in the school have
never even heard of the concept of zombies..that's odd. Without
spoiling anything, the ending is best classified as an absolute
stretch. There's a certain character who can suddenly kill the zombies
by breaking a rule that had been established as unbreakable early on in
the film, and that whole struggle isn't even documented on camera- the
person just succeeds and you hardly get to see any of it.
In terms of zombie action, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The gore effects
are there, though they're sometimes completed through the use of some
awful CGI. However, they're really hit and miss. The zombies are not
turning in great performances here, and the makeup on many of their
faces tends to look like someone smeared jam across their mug. Some of
the blood and guts look incredibly phony, and are often punctuated with
a distinct lack of blood, which is disappointing.
At the end of the day, this flick tries really hard to be funny and scary, and just ends up wallowing in it. It just doesn't work.
Video / Audio
Video: A 2.35:1 widescreen transfer gives us
a decent, standard def transfer that looks pretty solid.
Audio: Dolby 5.1 is the audio order of the
day, and the sound is mixed well, with a good balance between channels.
The main meat here is a chunky 45 minute behind the scenes segment (kind of a
patchwork of featurettes woven together) that really shows off how the
film came together. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but goes in-depth
with the cast and crew, and the usual behind the scenes stuff (with
lots of references to John Hughes and horror influences).
Also included is an Audio Commentary
by Writer/Director Alex Craig Mann, who is a friendly guy who
loves this flick and it shows through in his track. Easy to listen to.
I was hoping that Detention of the Dead might draw a little inspiration from the great movies that influence it, but wound up being a bit disappointed. If you've got a couple of non-discriminating 14 year old boys who just can't bear to watch American Pie 12, perhaps this one will fit the bill in the meantime. Otherwise, skip it.