Detention (2021)

Director: John Hsu

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Starring: Gingle Wang, Fu Meng-po, Tseng Ching-hua, Cecilia Choi, Hung Chang Chu, Hsia Ching-ting, Jessie Chang

Adapting the similarly named video-game, co-writer/director John Hsu tells a story set in 1962 during Taiwan's White Terror where all opposing ideas are banned and the culprits tortured or executed. During this time of extreme repression, Professor Chang (Fu Meng-Po) runs an underground literary club where he and his students learn about banned books and dream of freedom, only for the professor to disappear. One night, students Fang (Gingle Wang) and Wei (Tse Jing-Hua) wake up inside a distorted and decaying version of their school, intent on discovering what's happened.

It's unsettling seeing these students venture through this purgatorial state, unsure what horrors they'll pass by while exploring the atmospheric location. Between the creepy imagery and the notable tension, the horror elements are effectively delivered although one wishes the effects-work wasn't so glaring. It's also a shame some instances are revealed too early when holding them back would've built the tension considerably.

While covering this terrifying period of history, Hsu's politically-charged horror never forgets about the people who are shackled within these regressive rulings. Everybody is considered responsible for reporting espionage, which puts the people on edge as the prospect of torture and the death penalty looms over them. A gaze is cast at how the powerful will use the public and quickly discard them when they're no longer useful, while also highlighting the lengths people take for what they consider important and the ensuing consequences. At it's heart, this is a solid tale of trapped citizens living in the hope they'll one day be free.

Detention is available in U.S. Cinemas now