Teens and homicidal maniacs go together like peanut butter and chocolate in Hollywood, so “Detention” seems to be the latest in the string of slashers to hit the big screen when it premieres April 13th. But according to actress Shanley Caswell, it’s more than that. Like the films of John Hughes in the eighties, it makes some sharp commentary on the current generation, as well as having a little fun with the horror genre — think “Scream” meets “The Breakfast Club.”
“The film is representational of this generation, my generation, and how fast everything is moving,” said Caswell in a recent interview. “I grew up in a generation where we had the internet and Google and we can know anything that we wanted to know just by going on the worldwide web, and it’s definitely shows how fast kids are moving nowadays.
“It’s really the ADHD generation where we can multi-task — where we can be watching something, and then typing something on our phone, and then reading something, and then talking to someone all at the same time. It’s definitely for the fast-paced generation.”
In “Detention,” her first major role, Caswell stars as the cynical high school outcast Riley Jones, who finds herself joining with some other students of Grizzly Lake High School to fight a slasher-movie killer who has come to life. Just one problem — they have to get out of detention.
The film, which created a lot of buzz at SXSW recently, also won the Youth Jury prize for best Future Wave Feature Film at the Seattle International Film Festival. Samuel Goldwyn Films describes it as a “apocalyptic fantasy, horror, science fiction, action thriller, body-swapping and time-traveling teen romantic comedy.”
“It’s got a little bit of everything in it,” says Caswell. “It’s not just one thing, and it’s so unique and different — it breaks a lot of rules which is interesting because it’s a film called ‘Detention,’ where you’re not supposed to break rules. But it doesn’t go by the normal movie script, the Hollywood formula, and it keeps throwing things at you so you’re constantly being surprised, you’re constantly being taken into a different world and the different back stories of the characters, and the characters are so interesting.
“It was just such a unique thing that I had never, ever read before, and that was why I really wanted to do it — it was so crazy, unlike anything I’ve ever heard of before.”
Of course, the fact that it was a major role in a feature film wasn’t exactly a downside, either. Although there is always that concern of being typecast as a “scream queen” by making your major debut in a horror film, but Caswell isn’t too concerned.
“I wouldn’t exactly describe ‘Detention’ as a horror movie. I mean it does have horror elements in it, but it’s got a lot more to it, and it’s not a typical horror movie,” says Caswell. “I hope I don’t fall into that (stereotype) because I’d love to do more dramas, but yeah, I do really enjoy doing horror movies, too.
Caswell plays a high school student in this movie, but she’s actually in college, studying anthropology at UCLA. While drama may seem to be the obvious choice, she wanted something else to fall back on, and anthropology also enhances the acting in understanding other people and cultures.
“I wanted to get something that was different and open my mind to the rest of the world and in anthropology, you are hearing about the psychology of people — learning about how they talk, why they say the certain things that they do, how culture affects people, and how people affect their culture, and you just learn how to observe really well, and that’s what you do in acting, too.
“So they kind of do help each other out, and I think I’m learning more and more of that. Like this morning in my linguistics class we were just talking about why people say certain things the way that they do. Not just the inflection as they say it, but the way that they grammatically put things together. And all of those little things like that make you realize that every person is different, and every part that you play is going to be different — you can never play them the same.”
While she may be quick to point out that “Detention” is not really just a horror film, her next project most definitely is.
“It’s called the ‘Warren Files,’ with James Wan, the director of ‘Saw,’ and it’s a horror movie but it’s the paranormal side of the horror, not the slasher horror. I like the paranormal side a lot, that’s my favorite kind of horror movie because it plays on your fear of the dark, and makes you go home, and you can’t sleep at night. So I’m really excited about the project. I saw the teaser trailer, and it was very, very scary looking so I’m excited for people to see that, especially if they’re a horror fan.”
“Detention” opens Friday, April 13 in theaters, and co-stars Spencer Locke, Dane Cook and Josh Hutcherson, who has another little movie out right now called “Hunger Games.” Maybe you’ve heard about it?