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Detention of the Dead / The Demented


They put the “Zzzzz” in “zombies.”

Rod Lott July 19th, 2013

Ten years ago, we didn’t have enough zombie movies. Now, we have too many of them, which might not be a problem if most weren’t so bland and unimaginative. Detention of the Dead tries — not too hard, mind you — to distinguish itself by being a comedy. Technically, I suppose it is; in execution, it fails.

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Imagine if zombies invaded The Breakfast Club. That’s literally the setup experienced by your stock-character students of the nerd, the jock, the misfit, the bully, the cheerleader and, so it’s not a total copy of the 1985 John Hughes classic, a wisecracking Asian kid (Justin Chon, 21 & Over) to spout things like, “I gotta take a deuce from the caboose!” He also farts.

So many scenes from The Breakfast Club pop up that Detention practically qualifies as a remake: group pot-smoking, running through the hallways, crawling through the ventilation system. In updating that film, however, debuting director Alex Craig Mann has scrubbed away all vestiges of wit and humor; his idea of a recurring gag is to keep spraying blood on the costume of the cheerleader (Christa B. Allen, TV’s Revenge). Ha-ha?

Worse than being unfunny is that it’s dreadfully boring.



Unfortunately, The Demented is only a hair better, and it doesn’t have to lean on crass jokes. Instead, in its attempt at being a straight-up horror movie, it reaches for the ol’ “college kids traveling together to a remote locale for the weekend” approach.

Usually, when that happens, a machete-wielding maniac stands on the other side. In fact, I kind of wish there were one, just to liven things up. We get a horde of zombies, which keeps the pool-partying couples inside the summer home — oh, the humanity! — while all hell breaks loose outdoors.

Before the shoe-shufflers show up, danger comes in the form of a very rabid dog. And before that, all the students know is that the Gulf Coast is under a terrorist attack, the chems of which turn the dead into the undead.  

Freshman writer/director Christopher Roosevelt accurately depicts how these young people would react in such a situation: basically like they would any other day, in that they’d be self-absorbed in their own invented drama over stolen boyfriends and other petty issues. They’re so me-me-me, you’ll root for their safe haven to be penetrated as much as you’ll long for 92 minutes to be over and done with. —Rod Lott



 
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