What greater gift could a high school student receive than the gift of justifiably being able to kill off your annoying classmates who’ve become zombies?
In the comedy horror Detention of the Dead, a group of outcasts come together during a day of detention and find themselves fighting off hordes of the undead student body.
Detention of the Dead, written and directed by Alex Craig Mann and based on the play by Rob Rinow, is a mixture of Night of the Living Dead and The Breakfast Club, but without the engrossing plot and memorable characters. The film finds a group of 6 students—the cheerleader, the jock, the bully, the stoner, the goth, and the geek—who must complete detention all while fulfilling their stereotypical horror roles.
While each character represents important elements of the genre, some are given names and dialogue as nods to past horror classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Evil Dead, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The cheerleader and her bully boyfriend are named Janet and Brad, and the lines “Damn it, Janet,” are spouted throughout the film to bring audiences back to The Rocky Horror Picture Show…possibly to dissuade viewers from remembering how awful the film they are watching actually is.
Aside from the character’s familiar names, the film tries too hard to bring heart to the story in its Breakfast Club-like moments where the characters break down and express their true feelings to one another. The scenes came off as cheesy and forced, and they threw off the tone of the film, making it feel too much like a teen drama rather than a hilarious horror movie paying homage to classic films. Along with the awkward emotional scenes, a majority of the humor is recycled unfunny jokes that aren’t smart enough for an adult audience. While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but feel as though I were watching a Nickelodeon TV movie due to the low-level humor and tame dialogue.
The only thing that reminded me that the film was for an older audience was the gore, which was more goofy than gross. When you’re making a movie that has basically been done before numerous times, you need to up the ante and provide the audience with something seductive and unique in its own way.
There’s a thin line between homage and replicate, and Detention of the Dead failed to make their film stand out among the others that have succeeded like Dance of the Dead and Detention. While Detention of the Dead was attempting to poke fun and applaud the teen comedy-drama, it became those films and fell into the same lame traps that were created in the past. The idea of being stuck in detention during a zombie outbreak is fun; however, the filmmakers didn’t do enough with what they had, resorting to uncomfortable confessions among characters and keeping the characters from really exploring the scenery and their situation.
It’s obvious that the people behind Detention of the Dead are fans of the genre and they know the genre, but it seems that their love for it was too much for them to separate their movie from the movies that they value. Detention of the Dead doesn’t provide anything special in its homage and it certainly doesn’t have characters you would want to root for. The jokes and dialogue are cringe-worthy and cheesy, and they made the film painful to watch.
If you’re looking for a fun and weird flick that combines horror with a touch of John Hughes, then watch Detention.