Detention [Fantasia Fest]

Sometimes, finding the right opening film for a film festival helps set the entire mood for the whole festival. So, yes, the opening night film helps do that because it’s a statement on the tone of the festival – but not everyone always startsx with that opening film. So while I will be seeing The Reckoning, The first film I got to see was Detention, and it was phenomonal. It makes for a perfect opener. At least for me.

Also, I recently wrote about how Scott Pilgrim was one of my favourite Video Game adaptations, and how it’s not actually accurate, I’m going to start mentioning Detention in its place instead.

Detention is a Taiwanese film based on the game of the same name that was released in 2017. Both the game and the film take place in the early 1960’s during the White Terror period of Taiwan and they follow two students at a school who have found themselves trapped in their high school.

Both the game and the film follow two characters, Fang Ray-shin and Wei Chung-ting. Wei is a part of secret book club organised by two of the teachers Miss Yin, and Chang Ming-hui. During the White Terror period, there were many things that were banned, such as many books. Chang and Miss Yin helped organize the club for some of the students. They had a secret room in which some would read, and some would recreate them. Wei Chung-ting was part of the club, but Fang wasn’t.

Fang was a great student, but she came from an abusive household. This changed how good of a student Fang ended up being and let her to meeting Chang, who was a student counsellor. Over time, Fang develops feelings for Chang. This is all the things that led up to Fang and Wei to be stuck in the school after hours.

The film is a great adaptation to the mood and atmosphere that is found in the side-scrolling horror game. Both of them are gorgeous and actively spooky, but always aware of the other layers of the severity of the White Terror period in Taiwan.

Detention‘s ghosts and spirit that roam the halls of the school have so much impact on each of their appearances. With other ghost films, you almost never feel the impact of each spirit. Seeing these students and teachers who were wrongfully killed due to the state of their own country. While Canada or the States are near the same horrors that is Taiwan or Syria under martial law, but it’s hard not to see the similarities of death due to wanting to fight a form of the system.

In other famous ghost horror films like Ringu, you get to see a form of the innocent victim doomed to live in a form of purgatory while stuck in an object, like a VHS tape. But, in Detention the stakes feel high as these children try to understand the world that is too cruel for them to have to deal with. On one hand, Wei is aware of the world they’re in, but not the cruel one that exists in Fang’s own home. It’s these ghosts that we have to live with as we go on, and sometimes, they haunt us to the point where we can’t be set free, and sometimes, it allows to live. In whatever sad or happy reality that may be.

Detention played the festival circuit and played at the 56th Golden Horse Awards, where it won Best New Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, and also, Best Original Film Song. It’s a film to keep on your radar, either at this festival, or out of it.

I am very happy I began my festival with Detention.