This movie might fall into the video game adaptation category, but I would rather review it as its own thing. It is a movie about survival and horror with strong political overtones based on historic events that happened in Taiwan 1962. It also ends up being a story about triumph overcoming tragedy and romance in a time of suffering. I think this film has a very violent background that is reflected in its fantastic horror but also wraps up its story rather well. This movie uses horror to tell a story and does it right.
Detention was directed by John Hsu, who wrote the screenplay with Fu Kai-Ling, Chien Shih-Keng. We’re in Taiwan, 1962. It is a time of martial law and even talking about freedom can get you killed. Reading and distributing books copied by hand is considered conspiracy and punishable with torture. We start, however, somewhere else. We’re in a hell resembling a decrepit high school, were Fang Rui-xin (Gingle Wang) is waking up without a memory how she got there. Wei Zhong-ting (Tseng Ching-hua) will also find himself there without remembering why.
Through memories that sprung as they traverse the dark corridors, we will learn of their backgrounds. Fang has a father that works for the police and mother that is constantly getting beat up. Wei is part of an underground book club that copies books by hand, supervised by teachers Mr. Zhang Ming-hui (Fu Meng-po) and Miss Yin Cui-han (Cecilia Choi). Mr. Zhang rescues Fang from one the sadistic instructors and takes her under his wing. This leads to Fang starts developing feelings for her teacher.
All the while, these stories are inserted into the strange hellish school corridors where Fang and Wei keep getting chased by ghouls of both human and inhuman appearance. As memories are discovered, there’s a lot of hope squished by oppression and painful recrimination and accusations of betrayal. The supernatural sequences are painted in dark colors but candlelight does illuminate things to the point that colors jump around it. This is the way the movie shows us hope exists.
Highly recommended as a dramatic film of pain, loss and personal tragedy in a time of civil unrest. Despite the material also being used in a video game, I think the movie elevates the subject to very compelling historical drama that stands alone. It’s fantastic horror rooted in historical one, which might turn off the casual viewer. The finale wraps up at least one tragic romance, which I feel was very tastefully done albeit painful to watch. This one is a Fantasia winner in my book.
That will do for now.