Detention review – Nightstream Film Festival

Director John Hsu makes his directorial debut by tackling one of the hardest challenges in film history: making a good adaptation of a horror video game. Detention, based on the Taiwanese game of the same name by Red Candles Games, takes a look at two students’ lives in Taiwan in 1962. Fang Ray-shin (Gingle Wang) and Wei Chung-ting (Tseng Ching-hua) find themselves trapped in their school overnight, with Fang having no memory of how she ended up asleep at her desk. As the two students roam the halls, the horrors begin to build, and the truth is revealed as to what exactly happened at Tsuihua Senior High School. 

If there’s anything to take away from Detention immediately, it’s the atmosphere. Within the walls of Tsuihua Senior High School, there’s this unrelenting tension that only heightens as the sun goes down. The film sets the tone early with armed guards doing bag checks and the constant threat of death for failure to report “espionage” and only escalates when the ghosts begin haunting Fang and Wei. However, by the film’s second chapter, the supernatural horror takes a backseat to the terrors of reality as the film fleshes out the real horrors of the White Terror period of Taiwan’s past. Detention blends this well, but at the sacrifice of never getting that initial supernatural momentum back. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome bit of worldbuilding and pivots the back half of the film fueled more by the characters’ sins than just your typical haunted high school.
Detention is the type of film that will linger longer thanks to the real history behind the terror, but it’s to the readers’ credit that the story is given enough weight that the context isn’t seen as window dressing.

The characters are rounded enough to draw audiences in, but their actions are still relatable enough not to have too many moments where moviegoers would yell at the screen in frustration. All in all, Detention is a roller coaster from beginning to end, but the endless darkness is paid off with the faintest glimmer of hope. 

Rating: B+
Reviewed by Cassie Jo Ochoa

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