If you’re in high school and you have to do Saturday detention in an abandoned, but perhaps haunted, prison, there’s a good chance that you’re gong to die.
That’s the main lesson that can picked up from the 2017 film Deadly Detention, which I watched via Netflix a few nights ago. Old prison. Sex. Detention. It all leads to death. Of course, you really shouldn’t need a movie to teach you that lesson. I mean, it’s just common sense. STAY OUT OF THE OLD PRISONS, PEOPLE! Especially if it’s got a death row because you just know there’s going to be a lot of pissed off ghosts floating around there….
The good thing about Deadly Detention is that it realizes that abandoned prison=death should be common sense as well. It’s an extremely self-aware movie, fully indulging in all of the slasher movie cliches while, at the same time, poking cheerful fun at them. Deadly Detention may start out as a horror film but, after about 15 minutes or so, it turns into a full-blown comedy and it’s actually pretty fun to watch.
Why are our students attending detention? Well, it turns out that the majority of them have been framed, which explains why even the popular school athlete is being punished. Why are they attending detention in a prison? Well, it seems that a pack of rabid possums were somehow released into the school. Now, of course, being the former country girl that I am, I immediately knew something strange was happening because possums are actually immune to rabies. So, seriously, if you see a possum in your back yard, don’t panic! They’re harmless.
Among those spending their Saturday in detention:
Officer Pete (Kevin Blake), the quiet hall cop,
Miss Presley (Gillian Vigman), the principal who brings her very big and very pointed principal-of-the-year trophy with her,
Lexie (Alex Frnka), the rebellious school tramp who turns out to be a lot more smarter than anyone gave her credit for,
Jessica (Sarah Davenport), the school athlete who has always been driven to be the best,
Barrett (Henry Zaga), the hilariously vain and shallow rich kid whose main hope is that, if he dies, he’ll still look good,
Kevin (Coy Stewart), the gay religious kid who turns out to actually have a lot more depth than anyone originally suspected,
and Taylor (Jennifer Robyn Jacobs), the cheerfully strange girl who knows all the stories about all the ghosts.
Now, you may be thinking that this cast of characters sounds familiar and it’s true that they’re all deliberately meant to invoke various slasher movie tropes. At the same time, I suspect that they’re also meant to remind us of the members of The Breakfast Club as well. However, each character is so well-cast and each actor seems to be having so much fun that they all soon develop their own individual identities. In fact, this cast is so fun to watch that it’s kind of sad once the blood starts to spill.
But spill, it does. Soon, the detainees find themselves having to figure out how to escape the prison while an unseen stalker taunts them over the intercom. What sets this film apart from many other Netflix slasher films is that the students all seem to know that they’re in a horror film and they tend to comment on the action accordingly. When it comes to a horror-comedy, a film always has to decide if it’s going to be more of a horror or a comedy and, early on, Deadly Detention embraces the comedy label and it turns out that the film made the right choice. Thanks to a likable cast and some clever dialogue, Deadly Detention is an entertaining 90 minutes.
As I said, the entire cast is good but Alex Frnka, Coy Stewart, and Jennifer Robyn Jacobs especially deserve a lot of credit for taking characters who could have been cliches and instead turning them into fairly compelling human beings. Alex Frnka not only gets all the best lines but she makes them even better with a delivery that’s perfectly perched between sincerity and snarkiness. The same can be said of the film as a whole.