Detention of the Dead

A stoner, a geek, a princess, a criminal and a jock—and then another jock, but he doesn’t last long—are serving detention when a zombie breakout occurs in the new indie flick Detention of the Dead.

So, yeah, The Breakfast Club by way of…uh…I dunno, some zombie flick. It’s cute, quirky, beyond campy, and light-as-a-feather, coming in comfortably under 90 minutes. It’s not just Breakfast Club, it also references Sixteen Candles, The Faculty, Night of the Living Dead (duh), and, well, a bunch of the other flicks the kids hadn’t seen.

There’s even a scene directly lifted from the ‘80s sitcom “Square Pegs”, though whether that’s properly a reference or just plain-old plagiarism, I cannot say. (The kids were impressed when I said the lines in advance, though.)

The opening scene is cut in Edgar Wright’s trademark styling (from Shaun of the Dead and the “Spaced!” TV show) but only that one scene. I gotta believe that’s due to the expense and effort to do sequences like that, but it’s kind of a shame because even a rip-off of Wright is funnier and more entertaining than the otherwise flat, stagey style that’s ostensibly original to Alex Craig Mann.

We all liked (but not loved) it. There are some good yuks and it’s lively enough, though it has the problem of occasionally becoming what it parodies. The basic dramatic tension, such as it is, comes from nerd guy lusting after cheerleader girl while ignoring goth girl, leading to goth girl delivering a climactic speech on how nerd-guy is just as big a jerk and sheeple as everyone else.

I’d say there was some biting commentary in a goth delivering messages about conformity, but this particular moment seemed completely sincere.

The original music was pretty good for the most part, but there were about two too many pop-song montages padding out the film.

Christa B. Allen, who plays the cheerleader, Janet—all the characters are named after famous horror characters, Brad, Janet and Eddie (from Rocky Horror Picture Show) as well as Willow and Ash from “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” and Evil Dead respectively—was a standout, in part because her character was somehow the least cliched. She brought a lot of energy to the role.

She was also standing outside the theater when we got there, which was kind of cool, though the kids didn’t notice.

I could point out many more flaws, but that would seem to be overthinking it. It’s fun. Don’t expect too much. Enjoy the references and energy. You could do worse, and this summer, you almost certainly will.

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