Director: Alex Craig Mann
Writer: Alex Craig Mann (Based on a play by Rob Rinow)
Coming of age stories need to be handled with delicate hands. If not, you could have a preachy, sappy mess on your hands. For the most part I find this is the case for teen coming of age flicks. Yes I am aware that The Breakfast Club is a “classic” in certain age groups. AND Yes, I have seen the movie multiple times. That does not change the fact that The Breakfast Club is a film that was written with the typical teen stereotypes to the extreme. All with the hopes that its targeted demo ( my guess is tweens in the 80’s, pretty sure they were just called teens then…) would somehow relate to the cardboard cut out characters and then grow up to become executives at TBS and constantly insist that the film be played 36 times a month! At this point I know your asking, ” Hey man, what more do you want from it?”. How about zombies? Why the hell not! Seeing an undead ghoul gnawing into Jud Nelson’s jugular, now that’s a flick I can watch repeatedly! Sadly, we are probably never going to get that, but thanks to director Alex Craig Mann we get the next best thing.
Detention of the Dead starts out like a pretty typical teen horror flick. Your standard group of characters ( jocks, preppy cheerleader, nerd, etc) all landed after school detention on the same day. Not long into the film a recently infected student attacks the teacher and our unlikely band of characters unite to survive the zombie apocalypse. Between battling zombies our nerd hero Eddie lusts after head cheerleader Janet, avoids getting bullied by varsity jacket sporting Brad and is painfully oblivious to cute goth girl, Willows, feelings. Nothing new in the basic structure here, but has that ever stopped us from enjoying watching zombies for 90 plus minutes? Hell No!
For the most part DoD plays out just as you would suspect. How DoD separates its self from the zombie herd is with the characters. Yes, we have our cookie cutter horror characters here, but Mann doesn’t just use them as transparent characters waiting to be killed. Mann really plays off the stereotypes strength and gives us characters we actually want to see succeed. Not just waiting for them to become zombie poop. Most notably the nerd character Eddie (Jacob Zachar). This honest and endearing character is the driving force behind the plot. Sure there’s your standard character pitfalls here, but most are easily overlooked. Zachar does an excellent job of showing the struggles of adolescent turmoil and all the complex feelings that go along with trying to define the person you will become. If zombies aren’t a motivator for you to get your shit inline I don’t know what will do it.
Rest assure zombie fans this not just a teenage drama. The zombies here are brain hungry fiends and we get tons of good ole fashion zombie gore. We even get a zombified rat that calls to mind the Rat-Monkey from Dead Alive. Mann is not shy with displaying the red stuff and we get some really entertaining kills. Although I found the slow-mo action scene (mostly involving head cheerleader Janet) completely unnecessary and distracting. The film had a small budget but Mann works well within his means and leans on what he knows will work.
Overall Detention of the Dead is a hell of good time. Strong performances and impressive SFX make for a solid film. Not to mention a badass soundtrack. I had spent many high school classes day dreaming about a zombie attacks and how I would handle it. It’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one out there wasting my education….