'Detention' Starring David Carradine, Movie Review

by Shannon Hilson, MoreHorror.com

If you’ve watched many horror movies in your lifetime, then you’ve no doubt absorbed your share of the classic prank-gone-bad plotline when it comes to what you watch. Detention – directed by James D.R. Hickox and distributed by American World Pictures – fits comfortably under this umbrella and very much keeps to the formula you’ll be familiar with.

The film opens in 1976 on the prank in question which involves a teen named Gabriel winding up trapped inside his school’s incinerator at the hands of classmates who apparently thought this would be a real laugh riot. A freak lightning storm promptly sends electricity surging through the school’s wiring system and before you can say “I know this can only end in tears”, poor Gabriel is going right up in flames just as you instinctually knew he would. As the opening credits lead into the rest of the movie, the viewer is informed that the perpetrators of the deadly prank were cleared of any responsibility for what happened. However, you know that someone will have to pay for this at some point… somehow!

Suddenly it’s 30 years later at the exact same school and we find ourselves meeting the group of teenaged clichés who will make up our cast of characters. We have the rich girl, the emo-goth, the jock, the geek, the juvenile delinquent, and even a pothead thrown in for good measure. This unlikely group will all be serving detention together, making this reminiscent of some B-horror movie version of The Breakfast Club right off the bat. However, another freak lightning storm, the discovery of Gabriel’s watch in the incinerator by a couple of maintenance workers, and the presence of the mysterious new history teacher will ensure that nothing goes as smoothly as you would otherwise figure. Before you know it, ghosts are popping up out of nowhere, spooky shenanigans are going down, and people are dying. The rest of the film follows the characters as they struggle to understand what all of this has to do with the unfortunate death of Gabriel 30 years ago… before it’s too late.

Now… I’m going to get this out of the way right off the bat. Detention is hardly horror cinema at its finest. However, most people looking to give this a watch are probably not expecting it to be. This is definitely a B movie. The special effects leave a lot to be desired and a lot of the writing seems overly clichéd and forced. I’m not so sure about the realism of the blood, wounds, and gore either. Nevertheless, this was pretty entertaining for what it was and those of you who love your horror with a little bit of cheese on the side will probably appreciate it.

One highlight of note that deserves special mention in my opinion is that David Carradine of Kill Bill and Kung Fu fame plays a small part as the school’s principal, Mr. Hoskins. It may also be of interest to his fans that Detention was the last film he actually completed before his death, so you may want to consider giving this a watch for that reason if no other. Although he isn’t in many scenes, I did feel that his presence really added a lot to the film and I certainly was pleased to see him again myself.

While Detention isn’t going to win any Oscars or go down in history as the best horror film ever made, it’s decent for what it is. While largely predictable, there were a few small twists I didn’t quite see coming. Plenty of incidents and occurrences were creepy enough to entertain even if they weren’t bone-jarringly scary. Carradine was certainly a bright spot that raised the caliber level of Detention several notches. It’s certainly a solid addition to the prank movie sub-genre to be sure. I’d just recommend it more as a Friday night rental to watch over popcorn, as opposed to a purchase unless you’re just cuckoo for this sort of thing!

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