Judge Mike Rubino can't wait until Hollywood releases Zombie's Day Out or Sixteen Zombies.
When there is no room in hell the dead go to detention.
Described as "The Breakfast Club with zombies," Detention of the Dead finds a group of students struggling to fend off the undead hoards invading their high school.
Facts of the Case
A nerd (Jacob Zachar, Greek), a goth (Alexa Nikolas, Zoey 101), a stoner (Justin Chon, 21 and Over), a cheerleader (Christa B. Allen), a jock (Max Adler, Glee), and a bully (Jayson Blair) all find themselves in detention at Lincoln High…on the day that the world starts to end. Flesh-eating zombies strike out of nowhere, and it's up to the six students to stay alive while staying true to their school.
Detention of the Dead, directed by Alex Craig Mann, was adapted from a stage play.
It's tough to find a good zombie movie these days. You can certainly find generic ones, ill-budgeted ones, and needless ones. But a good one? That's another story.
Detention of the Dead is a well-produced but wholly unnecessary zombie flick. It's not quite a parody of the Breakfast Club or zombie movies; it doesn't have the comedic chops to evoke chuckles or groans; and it isn't scary in any way. If I were seeing this on stage, as I can imagine the original play was conceived, it would probably be a fun experience. You don't see a ton of zombie theater, even today as the undead shuffle casually through the zeitgeist. But the moment you enter the world of film, where these tales are a dime a dozen, you have to work a little harder to be unique.
It seems obvious that Detention of the Dead was embracing the absurd stereotypes of its characters. Just looking at the box art on the DVD gives away the broad strokes used to paint "Eddie the Nerd" and "Willow the Goth-Chick." Unfortunately, the film never moves beyond those cliches. There are lengthy scenes in the movie's second act where everyone sits around spilling their guts (metaphorically). The viewer is never compelled to care.
Beyond that, the characters in the film barely seem to care about the undead overtaking the school. Eddie and Willow know all about zombie movies while everyone else has apparently never even heard the word before (the film's logic is a little scattered). Early on the in the film, after the outbreak, the students burst out of the detention room and are greeted by a scene of grotesque chaos in the hall. This moment, in some form or another, exists in all zombie films—when the epic reality and horror of the situation is finally revealed to the protagonist(s). Instead of the gang reacting in any real way, we get an emotionally detached one-liner from Eddie…and it sets the tone for the movie. If Shaun of the Dead taught us anything about the zombie comedy, it's that you can be funny but still have emotional resonance.
Detention of the Dead isn't awful, mind you. For zombie fans looking for gore and over the top kill scenes, this movie has buckets. A creative use of a paper cutter and a MacGyver-ed library cart rank as some of the best moments in the movie. While I wish the gore was more practical than CGI, the effects overall are good.
This standard def DVD transfer is solid. The film's cinematic qualities translate with a sharp transfer and vivid colors; plus, the music, sound effects, and dialogue are all balanced nicely in Dolby Surround. The disc also has a 45-minute behind the scenes featurette and a commentary track with the writer/director.
Detention of the Dead is a serviceable, if somewhat generic, zombie comedy. It's clear that the folks making it were passionate about the project, and that comes through in the production values. At the end of the day, it just isn't that funny, emotionally engaging, or unique…it's just another lifeless body amongst the shambling hoards.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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