Detention (返校)is a psychological horror film based on a popular Taiwanese video game of the same name. It’s set during the White Terror era of the 60s – a dark period in history when martial law was in effect and one can be thrown in prison or even executed just for reading and disseminating banned books.
The movie, like the game, is set in an abandoned high school. While the game lets players find clues about the horrors that happened in the haunted school to piece together what happened, the film tells the story mainly through two students: Fang Ray-shin (played by Gingle Wang) and Wei Chung Ting (played by Tseng Ching-hua) who wake up in their abandoned school at night.
The film delivers classic horror elements in bits and pieces, from a ghostly female apparition to the creepy Slender Man-like creature. However, it focuses more on the mystery of why the two characters are there in the first place. The film flashes back in time, answering the questions one by one as the characters are reminded of what happened, and why their fellow classmates and teachers are dead.
Chung Ting is actually part of a student book group (led by teachers Ms Yin and Mr Zhang) that is actively copying banned books in the school attic – an illegal act that could send the entire group to the gallows. Enter Ray-shin’s character – a model student whose father is a close friend of the school’s discipline master – who Chung Ting has a crush on. But Ray-shin is already in love with Mr Zhang (played by Fu Meng-po), a teacher who leads the book group (unbeknownst to her). So, the movie is part love triangle, part mystery, and part horror.
Secrecy and trust are the two main themes in the film. Chung Ting is trying to figure out who spilled the beans, while Ray-shin (whose character is the more complex and developed) is struggling with a trust issue with her family and Mr. Zhang.
Both Chung Ting and Ray-shin carry guilt from their past actions, which they try to deny or forget. Towards the end of the film, the shocking truth about Ray-shin is revealed.
“Detention” is thoroughly enjoyable to watch, even if some parts don’t quite make sense (ie. how can this be a dream sequence for two people at the same time?), but fans of psychological horror and mystery-solving video games will not want to miss this.