Director John Hsu
Starring Gingle Wang, Chin-Hua Tseng, Fu Meng Bo, Yun Chung-Yueh
Alternative Names 返校

Based on the hit indie horror video game of the same name, this is Detention.

In the past, movie lovers and gamers have always been wary of adaptions of video games, but as Detective Pikachu proved – games can be made into great movies.

Does Detention suffer the same fate of all those adaptations in the past, or is it a rock-solid horror thriller with enough spooks and chills to keep the audience on the edge of their seat.

Let’s take a good look at Detention.

What's this Movie About?

Set in Taiwan during the “White Terror” martial law year of 1962, Detention tells the story of an underground book club at Greenwood High School – a book club whose members are keen ensure the books and theories on communism and left-wing politics survive the martial law period.

This movie follows two characters specifically, Fang Ray Shin, a young girl not involved in the book club but who has a crush on one of the teachers leading the club, Mr Zhang, who is also her counsellor. Fang takes up the bulk of the screen time of this movie as we follow her accidental discovery of the book club and her overall involvement.

The other character of focus is Wei Chong-Tong, one of the student members of the book club, who has a secret crush on Fang.

The first part of the movie takes place in Fang’s nightmare. She awakes in an empty classroom and wanders out to the hall way where she watches Mr Zhang enter the teachers lounge. She chases after him but can’t get through the door.

Panicked, she notices a figure with no face is hunting her. She then bumps into Wei, and together they navigate though the school grounds, encountering not only other members of the book club, but a ghoulish large figure killing the students while reciting pro-government propaganda slogans.

The second part of the movie reveals the truth about Fang’s nightmare and Wei’s predicament, as the stories converge and the audience discovers the mystery behind Detention.

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Is it Worth Watching?

As a horror movie lover, finding a good modern horror movie that you can enjoy for 100 minutes can be difficult. However, I think Detention is movie well worth your effort to watch.

If you are unfamiliar with the game, then certain story elements may seem a little superfluous to the overall plot, however stick with the movie as it does its absolute best to explain everything while still leaving the audience to determine the ending to themselves.

The horror scenes are well crafted, even if the use of CGI is obvious, and the aesthetics are very faithful to the game, with muted background colours allowing the important elements in the frame – our main characters, the ghouls and all relevant plot devices – to shine with the use of a warm colour palette. Specifically, candle light is used to great effect in the overall composition.

Topping it off is the spooky sound track that keeps jump scares to a minimum.

This is a well-crafted, enjoyable horror thriller movie.

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What are Some of the Memorable Moments?

The usual “ah-ha” moment that occurs about 70 minutes into the movie will be a welcome relief for anyone confused with the film up to that point. For those of us that are enjoying the ride, the ah-ha moment helps solidify what you think is going on.

Visually, the mixture of colour, both the cold greys of the school and warm yellows of the candlelight, and the use of black and white for key flashback elements, add to the style of the film. The only thing that could have improved the visuals would have been to add some artificial film grain in post-production, as the clean digital video in this movie give off a slight soap-opera feel. Interestingly, the film grain effect is used in the black and white flashbacks.

But it’s the story that is the winner here. And with the strong anti-government, pro-freedom theme, it’s a story that should stick with you.

What's Not So Hot?

At times there are some average looking visual effects, very noticeable in dark scenes where the obvious computer matting work isn’t quite as a polished as similar effects in big budget Hollywood films. The first close-up reveal of the pro-government ghoul stalking the students may also be a bit of let down to the audience – as it seems like an imposing figure at a distance, but not so scary up close. Also, the way it’s defeated is a little too simple and doesn’t feel satisfying.

From a story point of view, the relationship between teachers Mr Zhang and Miss Yin could have benefitted with some additional exploration, as could the story of the history behind the book club and its importance to Taiwan’s future.

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Overall Impressions

As far as game to movie adaptions, this is one of the best out there right now. But even as a stand alone horror movie for those with no knowledge of the game, this is still a great horror movie.

It’s not a gore fest and its not a slasher, it’s more a traditional supernatural film that follows the agonising journey of a teenage girl’s discovery of love and obsession, and the consequences her rejection has on an innocent group of people.

Well recommended for your next horror movie night.