DETENTION is a new Horror Movie from Taiwan. For this one, profound sadness and regret are powerful undercurrents. If you like Asian horror, then read our review to find out if you should check it out. Read our full Detention movie review here!
Detention is a new horror movie from Taiwan, so this movie will probably speak to fans of Asian horror the most.
The horror genre typically exploits fantastical terror to serve its purpose.
And yet, history is saturated with real fear that can readily inspire the genre’s films.
As does Detention.
Illicit affairs elicit severe repercussions in Detention
“In 1962, during the Cold War, Taiwan was under martial law. All books containing Communist or left-wing thoughts were strictly banned. Reading them would be severely punished, even with the death penalty.”
Backdropped against this setting, Detention takes place at Greenwood High School, where two teachers (Zhang Ming-Hui, played by Meng-Po Fu, and Yin Cui-Han, played by Cecilia Choi have formed a secret book club to read and discuss banned books.
Late one night, one of its members, Wei Chong-Ting (Jing-Hua Tseng), and star student Fang Ray-Shin (Gingle Wang) wake up in the school… or at least what seems to be their school, its rooms and hallways damaged and vandalized.
Clueless to their circumstances, with Fang Ray-Shin even speculating that she has dreamed these experiences previously, Wei Chong-Ting and Fang Ray-Shin search the school’s grounds to uncover the truth of what happened to them at Greenwood.
Why are there “In Mourning” banners tapestried through the hallways? Who are the people with burlap sacks over their heads? And, why is Fang Ray-Shin asked, “Have you forgotten, or are you too afraid to remember?”
Profound sadness and regret are powerful undercurrents in Detention
Based on the “Detention” video game by Red Candle Games, Detention (language: Mandarin), originally titled Fanxiao, was first released in September 2019 and was later nominated for 12 awards (including Best Feature Film) at Taiwan’s 56th Annual Golden Horse Awards (i.e., equivalent to receiving 12 Academy Award nominations).
Unsurprisingly, Detention is a very good film, albeit one that is not overly frightening in terms of traditional horror-film expectations. Instead, the real horror of the film is the perpetually oppressive regime, aptly referred to as White Terror (i.e., a 38-year period of martial law in Taiwan.
Like Savageland, Detention does well to sample from this inherently fearful historical context to complement rather than muddy its supernatural story.
Watch Detention in theaters nationwide now!
Exceptionally augmented in quality by its score (Luming Lu), Detention steers the viewer along a mysterious and emotional winding road, in which viewers’ initial frustrations at teenage angst may be supplanted by both a raw sadness of the observed adversities as well as yearning for easement of eternal repentance.
While the 103-minute film intends to have an atypical chronological structure, it’s too disjointed, which may leave the viewer struggling at times to properly piece together its disarrayed segments. Coupled with its surprisingly subpar CGI (despite being based on a video game), Detention earns 3/5 stars.
Recommendation: Stream it (but know that it will be more comprehensible with a second viewing)
DETENTION opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide on Friday, October 8, 2021.
Director: John Hsu
Writers: John Hsu, Fu Kai-Ling, Chien Shih-Keng
Cast: Gingle Wang, Fu Meng-Po, Tseng Jing-Hua, Cecilia Choi, Chu Hung-Chang
1962 Taiwan, during the time of the White Terror. Martial law is in full force across the country. In a time of extreme repression, all ideas considered to be dissident are banned, and the culprits are tortured or executed.
Tsuihua Secondary School is not an exception from this oppression. Despite close surveillance by the military police, Professor Chang (Fu Meng-Po) runs an underground literary club where he and his students learn about banned books and dream of freedom. One of his club members, Fang (Gingle Wang, in a Golden Horse-nominated performance) is madly in love with him. The usually shy teenage girl from an abusive home manages to open up like a book in his presence.
But then, Chang disappears…
One night, Fang wakes up at her desk, the school around her changed and distorted. As she wanders through the sinister corridors and dilapidated rooms in search of her teacher, she meets Wei (Tse Jing-Hua). Together, they must confront the ghosts and monsters that have taken over their alma mater in order to find out what has happened there.