Detention ★★★★

Based on the popular indie horror game, John Hsu’s Detention is the best video game adaptation yet, the best Silent Hill movie that never was, and an eerie politically-charged nightmare by its own merits.

Set during Taiwan’s totalitarian “White Terror” period, Detention follows Fang and Wei, two students who study banned material in an underground book club with other pupils and teachers. When they awaken in a nightmarish otherworld, the horrors of occult and oppression meld, bringing fears and guilt to the surface.

Made for an equivalent of $3,000,000, Detention has a palette of decay that belies its budget. As Fang and Wei try to escape the school grounds, the film uses effective VFX and candlelit atmosphere to create an unearthly mood where very human sins materialize as a personalized hell. Nightmare logic, unfolding through flashback chapters, gradually clarify into a denouncement of suppressive rule and its lingering trauma. The imagery may be supernatural, but Detention’s real terror is worse than any ghost or specter. Occasional pacing dips and a sense of familiarity lessened the suspense, but the ending resonated.

(And seriously, if there’s another Silent Hill adaptation, John Hsu’s name needs to be on the shortlist)

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