Detention 返校 (Fantasia Fest 2020)

Detention (返校) is a 2019 Taiwanese ghost story directed by John Hsu 徐漢強 that is based on the PC Game of the same name that came out in 2017 and became and instant hit in Asia. Detention tells the story of a group of students in Taiwan during the period of years known as White Terror, specifically in 1962. White Terror lasted for 38 years and was a time period of martial law being in effect, people were oppressed, pursued by the government, and many times executed or put into hard labour. The setting of the film and game is the Greenwood High School 翠華中學, and our main characters are Wei Chung-ting 魏仲廷 and Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣. Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣 awakens in the highschool after falling asleep during a lesson, and much like the “otherworld” in the Silent Hill series of games and film adaptations of the same name, Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣 finds herself in a strange and strangely hostile world that is cloaked in darkness.

She finds Wei Chung-ting 魏仲廷 in the school as she tries to put together what has happened to her, and the two of them attempt to leave the school, and like in Silent Hill find that the only way out of the school, a bridge has been flooded. In the game, the cause of the flash flood is a bloody river seemingly caused by a “monsoon”. The pair return to the high school and find themselves encountering ghostly figures referred to in the game as the ‘lingered’魍魎. Some of the ghostly figures take twisted shapes of guards, teachers and students.

Wei Chung-ting 魏仲廷 relates the story of the school’s illegal book club where teachers assist students in the reading and understanding of “banned” books – specifically leftist thought, poetry, and philosophy. The punishment for engaging in activities such as these could be severe, as any affront to the government is seen as “espionage”. What Wei Chung-ting 魏仲廷 does not know right away is that Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣 has secrets of her own, and she has been engaged in a romantic emotional affair with school counsellor Chang Ming-hui 張明暉 who in the game she is sent to for depression. One day while at school, before her black out, she overhears a conversation between Chang Ming-hui 張明暉 and teacher Miss Yin Tsui-han 殷翠涵 who urges the counsellor to end his relationship with the schoolgirl. Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣 begins to see Miss Yin Tsui-han 殷翠涵 as an enemy and she plots to reveal secrets about the bookclub that the teacher is running to the local government officials in hopes of ousting a woman that she now sees as a rival with obvious disastrous results.

Like the game, as the pair of students work their way through the school, solving puzzles, and seemingly staggering deeping into Hell, it is revealed the true depth of Fang Ray-shin 方芮欣’s betrayal.

Director John Hsu 徐漢強, who is a lifelong gamer, was a rabid fan of the game before directing the film, and he stated in our interview with him that he found himself struggling to balance his role as game player and director, and how to stay faithful to the story while not engaging too deeply into the deep political and religious elements of the Detention 返校 game. He magnificently crafts a film that is faithful to the original game while being accessible to non-gamers. The political themes are present, but not so intense as to become offputting. At the end of the day Detention 返校 is a story about love, loss, and finding the will to keep on living. It was a completely magnificent watch as part of our pre-Fantasia screenings, and is truly not a film to miss. Fans of Asian cinema and the stories of hungry ghosts will be completely bowled over with the fantastical and horrifying visuals and totally arresting score. The film plays out like a Silent Hill game – completely devastating. The Hell that we fear to walk in, is usually one of our own creation.

DIAG RATING 6/6 – a fully realized and completely gorgeous ghost story that beautifully captures the pain and horror of the game. This is one of the most faithful video game adaptations ever. BEST OF THE FEST FOR ROBIN.

You can check out more of our Fantasia coverage here:

The Drunk in a Graveyard guide to the TEN FILMS we are most psyched about at Fantasia Fest 2020.

Our interview with Detention (返校) director John Hsu 徐漢強 is here, coverage of YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is here, Brea Grant’s 12 HOUR SHIFT and Ryan Spindell’s THE MORTUARY COLLECTION can be found on our latest podcast episode, and coverage of Amelia Moses’s BLEED WITH ME, 上田慎一郎 Shinichiro Ueda’s SPECIAL ACTORS, Neil Marshall’s THE RECKONING, short film DOPPELBÅNGER here, as well as our podcast episode on Justin McConnell’s documentary Clapboard Jungle here. And be sure to stay tuned for more coverage coming up soon, and follow our social media to keep up!

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