Nightstream Film Festival Capsule Reviews — ‘Detention’ and ‘Hunted’

Detention

Directed by John Hsu

Screenplay by Shih-Keng Chien, Kai Ling-Fu, and John Hsu

When you break the rules in high school, you’re supposed to get detention, not end up tortured and killed because you joined a banned book club. Though based on a video game by Red Candle Games, Detention isn’t some dystopian fantasy; Taiwan was under martial law in 1962 and the penalty for reading banned books could be as severe as death. When the film begins, the club — led by Mr. Zhang (Meng-Po Fu) and Miss. Yin (Cecilia Choi) — hasn’t been discovered yet but, after some text explaining the historical context of the film, it returns to show one of the club members, Wei (Jing-Hua Tseng), being tortured. What happened in between the two scenes is what the film seeks to find out; and the focus on memory and use of a nonlinear narrative is where the film is most effective.

Less effective is the film’s use of dreams. Wei is supposed to be unconscious — but if this is Wei’s dream, why is Fang (Gingle Wang) in it too, and why can we see things from her point of view? Fang wasn’t in Mr. Zhang’s book club, but we learn she cared about him a lot. Like Wei, she can’t remember what happened, or how the book club got discovered, and maybe if the film had been told entirely as a dream it would’ve been easier to follow. In returning to the real world at the end, however, Detention throws certain details into question. The film doesn’t forget it’s supporting characters and the color grading looks intense, but it can be difficult to get your bearings with the plot.

Hunted

Directed by Vincent Paronnaud

Screenplay by Vincent Paronnaud and Léa Pernollet

Don’t go into the woods at night. If there’s one thing fairy tales have been pretty consistent about, it is that the woods are a dangerous place. It is why Hunted claiming the opposite (and in the form of a fairy tale) at the start is such an audacious way to begin. You could even argue Paronnaud and Pernollet don’t push it far enough and could’ve had the forest literally come to life instead of relying on animals. The reason Hunted is scary, though, is because it preys on very real fears about going out by yourself. As someone who’s very conscious of the worst-case scenario, what happens to Eve (Lucie Debay) in this movie is why a convenience store trip can be a terrifying prospect.

Kidnapped and forced into the trunk of a car, Eve manages to escape but ends up in the middle of the woods with her kidnappers close behind. Eve’s biggest mistake was leaving her cell phone at home (which, granted, should be something she’s allowed to do), but her reactions throughout the movie are spot-on and Debay is a very believable lead. It’s her situation the keeps proving impossible and the movie starts to lose control once Eve begins encountering other people. Whether it’s Eve not catching a break or the fact that people don’t react enough to her distress, the movie becomes farfetched, which is a shame because it opens strong.

Hunted will be coming to Shudder in 2021.

Nightstream runs from October 8th to October 11thClick here for the full lineup.

Detention Directed by John Hsu Screenplay by Shih-Keng Chien, Kai Ling-Fu, and John Hsu When you break the rules inCOMICONRead More

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