This is the worst detention a kid could ever face.

Based on the horror video game of the same name, John Hsu’s Detention is tense and creepy.

The game felt claustrophobic with a sense of slow dread. The film format allows the atmosphere to bleed into a larger setting. Due to the context, dread sets in from the first few shots.

Talking about freedom was a crime in 1962 Taiwan. Associations were banned. But under martial law during the cold war, a group of rebels – both students and teachers – asked themselves the question, Were we born free?

From there began the journey towards a freedom nobody could prove would ever exist. The underground circle of friends swore they would never betray one another, but somewhere along the way, a rat showed its face. Corruption higher up allowed certain insurgents to bend the laws, and thus, a domino effect rippled through the nation. Subverting the government equaled a death sentence, but what makes this shocking is that the penalties in Detention are given to mere teenagers. Nobody is exempt.

The CG on the demonic monsters’ movements and integration with live actors could have worked a lot better. Otherwise, the special effects function because the viewer is immersed in a semi science fiction retelling of lived events. Most take place in low-lit spaces, where things flit and flicker in and out of consciousness. The CG is a minor downside that can be overlooked within Hsu’s universe. The disjointed timeline is dripping in drama and build-up. Aesthetically, the use of dark, muted colors with hints of white and red indicate dream sequences. Even so, it’s hard to differentiate waking hours from memories and dreams.

Bringing a video game into a cinematic universe is not always successful. But in Hsu’s case, he has almost surpassed the ambiance and the emotional aspects of the game. Recommended!

Detention7 PM, Aug 24th, 202

Official Fantasia Website