Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Jason Tammemagi's DETAINED, a 2004 short film from Ireland, is a compact, often entertaining homage to the classic zombie film (Tammemagi even names his movie A Zombies Don't Run Production). Though far from perfect, one gets the impression that this is intended to be a promotional reel used to raise money for a bigger, more polished feature, a la SAW.

Told in flashback, DETAINED's premise is straight and to the point: Tommy Doyle (Ciaran O'Brien) is stuck in detention when a lumbering zombie staggers into class and munches upon the teacher. Tommy must then escape his school, which is quickly overflowing with the undead.

Tammemagi could comfortably work this material into feature length, even if only to answer the myriad questions that pop up during its 15-minute running time. We know this is Tommy's first day of detention, so he's not a problem student like the others apparently are, why did he get detention in the first place? And though it's not neccesary to explain why the dead are coming back to life, it would've been nice to at least see how the first student came to be infected.

Also, as the flashback nears its end Tommy defiantly cries "I'm not like you!" to the horde of zombies--an outcry that, given is high school millieu, sounds at first like simple adolescent non-conformity (if we knew why it was so important Tommy be different, or perhaps knew the circumstances of his being in detention, there could've been a chance to explore class conflicts, the nature of cliques, etc.). When we return to the frame story to find a grown Tommy now a corporate drone in an office staffed with zombies, it becomes a statement of alienation--though I've got to say, as working class metaphors are concerned, it's a pretty weak and overdone idea.

Despite a slow start, DETAINED works up a suitably creepy atmosphere. Its dimly-lit halls help set a fun, spookhouse tone while underplaying the splattery moments (and there are a few, done with admirable restraint). With some character development and a more complicated storyline (not to mention the deeper pockets of a studio producer), Tammemagi could very well bring us a zombie film on the level of SHAUN OF THE DEAD or 28 DAYS LATER.

Are you listening, Lionsgate?

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