SXSW Review: Detention

Wednesday, March 16 by

I love meta. “Moonlighting” was probably my first exposure to breaking the fourth wall as a kid. Then movies like The Player and Scream came out theatrically before I went back and discovered Woody Allen. Now we live in a world of Charlie Kaufman and “Community,” and I think Detention is the ultimate payoff for the meta movement.

Riley (Shanley Caswell) believes she’s being stalked by the killer of a film series within the film called Cinderhella. Clapton (Josh Hutcherson) is studying Road House to prepare for a fight with Billy (Parker Bagley). Cheerleader Ione even says she’s typecast, and can you guess who she’s named after?

Already the characters are making references, and I love that. I feel rewarded for knowing what they’re talking about, but I feel like I know more about them by what they’ve watched in their lives. Self-referential horror gets an update when they show a clip from Cinderhella and it’s all torture porn with a religious morality. A work print of Cinderhella III they download is several layers of meta.

The references are really under their breath, like Clapton noticing he’s wearing a red shirt at a dangerous time. The story is going on anyway, but there’s room for it. These are also perceptive references. The ‘90s movies were based on a formula that hasn’t been properly addressed yet. Sherlock Moriarty? Brilliant. Or they’re punctuations to scenes. Look, I like references, stop hassling me!

The film treat high school stereotypes as fun, not self-involved tragedy. The backstory for Billy’s rage is a wonderful goofy homage to The Fly, and maybe Videodrome? Ione’s superficiality is a joy, not evil insecurity.

I compare Detention to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I think Scott Pilgrim was the first movie to really create an alternate reality with film. We used to see fantasy movies with puppetry and special effects as our alternate realms. Edgar Wright actually changed the laws of time with the language of film. Cuts and camera moves covered time differently yet we understood it because we’re well versed in film. It made sense but it wasn’t our world.

Joseph Khan does it too. The entire film pays off, but even if he were just including random non-sequiturs about bears and spaceships I would love that. The film ultimately goes back to 1992 to meta it up. There’s such a celebratory spirit to the whole thing, I adore this movie.

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