Joseph Kahn’s Detention opens today (April 13th) and while this is one of those movies where the star is sort of the film itself, it would be unwise to overlook the work Shanley Caswell does in the lead role of Riley Jones. The movie is many things. It’s a slasher, a comedy, a romance, and a time travel adventure. But, most significantly, it presents a bracing picture of the speed at which Generation Y lives their lives. Caswell is tasked with providing the audience an access point into a world they’re not familiar with, and she more than pulls it off.
Co-scripted by Kahn and Mark Palermo “‘Detention’ tells the story of the senior class at Grizzly Lake high school. The road to graduation is never an easy one, but it’s further complicated for these students by the arrival of a slasher movie killer who has seemingly come to life. The only ones who can stop the killer are a handful of students, but they’ll have to cut out of detention if they’re to stand a chance at saving the world.”
I recently hopped on the phone with Caswell to talk about her work in the film and what it’s like trying to ground a movie for the ADD generation. I also tried to pry a little bit out of her in regard to James Wan’s latest, The Warren Files, but she was wisely tight-lipped. Head inside for the interview.
The movie has so much going on, and as the lead you’re the audience’s access point into the film. It’s a really complex role. What was your response to it when you read the script?
My first thought was that I had to read it again. My second thought was that it was such an interesting movie. I’d never read anything like it. It seemed very cool. Also, the character of Riley I could relate a lot to. She’s a little more embarrassed and vulnerable than I am at most times, but I really liked her. The script was just so unique, I’d never read anything like it before. So I was just really excited to work on it.
You mentioned that Riley is vulnerable. And she certainly starts off the movie at a low place and becomes empowered throughout. But so much crazy stuff happens, what was your approach to staying grounded throughout the performance?
That is one of the things I really liked about the character. There’s so much crazy stuff going on that when people watch it they’ll want to relate to Riley. I definitely had to toss some of my inhibitions aside, I couldn’t be embarrassed while making Detention. At all.
With the action and horror components, what was it like dealing with the practical effects and being in those scenarios?
It was fun. I love those kinds of movies, I love to scream. I like filming action stuff because I’m a little bit of a adrenaline junkie. So anything with running or doing something that involves adrenaline like jumping over fences or falling in pools, I find that very fun. So I really enjoyed doing those scenes even though they were hard work. In my skateboard scene with Josh [Hutcherson] we were actually skateboarding. I was actually on the skateboard, that’s not some double.
I just got off the phone with [director] Joseph [Kahn] and he spoke about how he saw this film as being a really positive and empowering presentation of Generation Y. But there’s also the chance that a lot of people watching the film are going to be horrified by it. Do you see the film as being an accurate and positive representation of your generation?
I think that it’s an accurate representation for sure because everyone who’s in my generation has multi-tasking galore. They have ADD. I have ADD where I’m doing five different things at once and I can handle the technology. I grew up in the information generation where computers are something we’re used to and text messaging is everywhere. If I have questions about something I can just look it up. I think it’s an accurate representation of how fast kids are nowadays. Everything’s very, very fast.
But as far as positive and negative goes, I don’t think it’s a positive or negative view of kids. I don’t think it’s a bad thing or necessarily a good thing. I guess if anything I think it’s better because they know more about the world and they can find out more about the world.
You have James Wan’s The Warren Files coming up next. What’s your role in that?
I play the oldest daughter in the Perron family. It was this actual family in 1971 that moved into this country house and they experienced some odd stuff happening [laughs]. And the presence in their house was so strong that they had to call in the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren [played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga] who were demonologists. They come in and try to help figure out what’s going on and some bad stuff happens. I don’t really know if I’m allowed to say.
Detention opens today in limited release. Be sure to check your local listings. It’s insane in a good way!