Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2020
Images from the Internet
Famine (aka Detention Night and Stupid Teens Must Die!)
Directed by Ryan Nicholson (d. 2019)
Gruesome Twosome Studios / New Image Entertainment / Unearthed Films / MVD Entertainment
77 minutes, 2011 / 2019
Boy, I haven’t seen a good slasher comedy in… well, too long. If you have any doubts about this one, it’s original title is “Stupid Teens Must Die!” (as opposed to Kids Go to the Woods…Kids Get Dead, 2009; reviewed elsewhere in this blog, or another film called Stupid Teenagers Must Die, 2006; this one I have not yet seen). I’m not quite sure why it was briefly changed to Detention Night at some point as that is so not accurate to the story.
|Christine Wallace, Michelle Sabiene|
If you have any doubts that this Canadian release is a comedy, it takes place in the Sloppy Secondary School. And what exactly is a “Famine?” Many institutions, especially religious ones) have charities for the poor, where the students do not eat for a day, and much like marathons, they get donations if they last the whole time (or as we used to call it, Yom Kippur). This is supposed to help the students empathize with the poor by helping them understand what it is like to be hungry. Of course, odds are they will never really know starvation, and there is a difference. Anyway, I’m on a soapbox, so let’s get back to the film.
Five years after a tragic accident during a Famine – shown in a flashback, rather than a prologue, go figure! – the students at this high school are once again setting foot on a slippery slope, and are paying the price for it.
Our central character (don’t quite know if I would call her or anyone else here a heroine/hero), is cute Jenny (Christine Wallace), who is runway model tall and thin, and throwin’ a lot of cleavage (thank you). She’s the one non-stereotypical character in that she’s obviously the sweet girl, but man he gets hyper-angry at the drop of a corn dog, and then is sweet again a second later. Definitely in need of some mood stabilizers. All the others who attend the school are either women dressed in high heels and ripped “Famine” tee shirts to expose – or give hints of – body parts, or men who are annoyingly macho without looking at all machismo (irony noted, mister director). For example, the main male lead, Nick (Christopher Lomas), looks a bit like a scrawny Matthew McConaughey, but with big and crooked teeth.
The Famine has been revived by sexy new volunteer teacher Miss Vickers (Michelle Sabiene), who looks about 5 years older than the actors playing the students. This is all under the supervision of the literal German Nazi principal (Glenn Hoffmann), riffing off Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove (etc., 1964) and others that I’m blanking on at the moment.
As the night wears on, someone is killing the participating students while wearing the oversized team mascot costume known as… wait for it… The Nailer. As you can tell, the humor in this comedy is quite broad, being closer to the outlandish style of National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982) than the homage-centric Scary Movie franchise (started in 2000). This film is definitely crass and brassy, and especially overly profane. An example of an insult is Jenny angrily throwing, “Why don’t you remove the dildo so all the stupid can run out?!” The F-word, the B-word and/or C-word are in nearly every sentence, and loses its shock value pretty fast.
Now, when it comes to the gore, well, that’s amazing. It looks good, it’s gooey as all get out, and over the top; the blood is way more than there would be in reality, which made me smile. In fact, we are introduced to lots of different bodily fluids, especially those from below the waist, making themselves known throughout. Everything is bigly and in excess here, with nearly all the people being overly sexualized, with men who have obviously never heard of MeToo and women in their clothing and movements (e.g., it seems like Jenny is always bending over, giving a downblouse shot for the camera).
The question is, of course, is this good cinema? the answer for me was mixed. I mean, as it was filmed in Canada, when Jenny very naturally says “aboot” in a sentence, well, that definitely made me laugh, even though unintentional. My biggest problem with it is it fights between being trying hard to be subtly amusing while at the same time being big and broad. Sometimes it works really well, others not as much. It’s going to be hit and miss, depending on your sense of humor style. If you liked the National Lampoon oeuvre, you may like this. If you’re interested in a higher level of it, such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), you may be more like me and find it a mixed bag. Perhaps you just need to be stoned to really enjoy it.
For me, the weakest point was the acting. And that is not to say these are bad actors, in any kind of way. What I’m saying is that rather than playing it straight and let the humor shine through in juxtaposition, which is the way I believe it should be to be most effective, they use what I call the John Lithgow sitcom acting style: Lithgow is an amazing actor, but I could barely watch him on Third Rock from the Sun (no matter how many Emmy’s he won for the role), where everything was too exaggerated.
The extras are a half-dozen trailers (including this one) – all of films I’ve now reviewed – chapters, and stills. For the latter, they are nearly all behind the scenes shots for 4:05 with a change every 3 seconds, and no soundtrack.
I am hoping you are not getting the impression this is a bad film, because it’s not. What I am trying to say is that it may depend on your sense of humor to determine how much you like it. I say watch it twice: one stoned and once… not. Make up your own opinion. Me, I’m straight-edge, and accept it for what it is.