Detention (1998) Poster

(I) (1998)

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DETENTION is a compelling independent film.
wilkinso30 August 1999
With his latest film, Andy Anderson proves once again that an engaging, entertaining movie can be made on a modest budget. Mainstream Hollywood movies have become increasingly predictable, but not Anderson's work. He swims in his own private river where quirkiness and surprises abound.

Is DETENTION a comedy? Black comedy? Social drama? Thriller? Don't even attempt to apply a label until you've watched this movie to the very end. This is part of the film's allure. It can't be categorized by genre.

DETENTION is a unique, satisfying film. It takes the viewer on a thought-provoking, thrill ride that won't soon be forgotten.
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Diamond in the rough
jonkalb27 January 2004
This film was obviously made on the cheap, but its low production values didn't prevent me from enjoying it. It is a dark comedy that is quirky and funny, but has enough of a hard edge to keep it out of the mainstream.

The movie is about a man that has accepted a teaching job at a high school where the students are out of control. What he decides to do about it is technically child abuse, but is fun and fascinating to watch.

"You my be right, but I may be crazy..."
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Hilarious and horrific satire
Massimo-420 March 2000
In the opening scene of this dark satire, a panning camera finds a man sitting alone in a room of fading photographs and antiques. A telephone rings. He picks it up just as men sent to take him to a mental institution are knocking at his door. His choice, to take a job as a substitute teacher, sets off an intriguing and provocative tale that takes us through deft riffs on Clockwork Orange, Blackboard Jungle, Heart of Darkness, Kafka, and Jonathan Swift, and I am not just dropping names; a meaningful discussion of this complex film would include all of these influences. What appears to be a conventional, yet both disturbing and comic, story about an idealistic instructor's attempts to reform wayward youth takes a startling turn and confronts the viewer with questions of the basic worth of human selfhood and dignity. Anyone concluding that the film espouses a certain "solution" should look for the irony and keep in mind that the director himself referenced Swift's "Modest Proposal" at a recent post-screening discussion. General release in August
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Wonderful Gritty Teacher's Fantasy
jon-carl26 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
As a person who works with kids with behavior problems, and am starting to teach special education, this movie provided a great, guilty, cathartic escape.

I thoroughly enjoyed the humorous but dead-on portrayals of the various problems with teaching "problem kids", and I really enjoyed seeing the kids get to find themselves when literally stripped of the distractions of material culture.

I found that the language and disturbing situations in the school were not very far off from my experiences in the classroom and hallways. I really have known homeless students. I really have known kids who went out on their own because a parent overdosed and died.

And, on the fantasy end, it was interesting to see the extreme application of brainwashing for a startling new effect. Sure, some scenes stretched credulity... (How do you pretend to shoot a student at point blank range without really killing them?) but I found it great entertainment with a deep truth to the core message of the film.

Although the production quality on the VHS I bought was poor, I intend on buying the DVD so I can watch my favorite scenes - the art scenes and the Heart of Darkness scene - repeatedly.

What a wonderful guilty pleasure. I plan on watching it while grading papers several times a semester!
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Hard to find...but worth it
mjm333333322 November 2004
I saw this one but it had been renamed "Learning Curve" and it's pretty hard to find. Still, it's worth the search if you like cute nymphettes running around in terror with very few clothes on. The cinematography is moody and atmospheric which lends extra punch to the suspense. The actors aren't stars, but most of the main leads have a charismatic charm that plays well in a movie like this. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the sound editing. In places it was hard to hear some of the dialog but it might just be the print I had. This movie actually has a taut plot, too, so it's not just valuable for its erotic qualities. Maybe I'm no highbrow cinema critic, but I know what I like. This movie was hot, fun and easy to get into.
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A brilliant dark comedy, not to be missed.
Wehner29 April 1999
"Detention" is a film that's as smart as it is entertaining. The dialogue puts the contrived clichés of the average Hollywood films to shame, while the cleaver plot twist keep the audience guessing right to the pictures end. (Stay for the credits) Andy Anderson and his mostly young cast confront the question of school violence and the crisis in our schools head-on in this dark comedy. The role of Bill Walmsley, played by John S. Davies, is a signature performance of a teacher who still manages to care in an impossible situation, maybe way too much. This is truly independent film, made for all the right reasons. Anderson is a teacher, and his passionate concern for students and education comes shining through in this brilliant comedy. This film places him solidly at the fore-front of current independent writer/directors and hopefully this film will be given the audience it richly deserves.
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Brainwashed by Education
claudio_carvalho25 October 2007
After some personal trauma, Wilson Walmsley (John S. Davies) is invited to work as a substitute teacher in a suburban public high school. He finds lack of authority and interest in the school direction and teacher body; uncontrolled and abusive students in an environment of disrespect and lack of discipline. He becomes close to the arts teacher Louise (Marsha Dietlein) and to the smart and abused student Joey (Forest Denbow). When he saves Louise from a sexual assault of the student Davey (Meason Wiley), Louise and he are sued by Davey's family lawyer; then Davey's girlfriend beats Louise. The upset Walmsley lures, drugs and kidnaps Joey and six troublemakers of his class and brings them to his isolate real estate in Alpine, Texas. When the seven students wake up, they are naked and caged in cages with electric fences. When Walmsley arrives, he advises that his class will begin, and any disrespect or lack of discipline will be duly punished, and shots Joey to make clear his intentions. And the class begins.

"Detention" is a surprisingly great low budget movie. The theme of a new arrival teacher in a school with troublemakers was originally explored in the masterpiece "To Sir With Love"; more recently I recall the good "Dangerous Minds", the reasonable "The Substitute" and some others. However, "Detention" uses in addition the concept of "The Collector", but with a teacher that seems to become temporarily deranged and resolves to brainwash the problematic students of his class with education and good manners. The final situation is predictable, and the greatest flaw in the plot is how he could afford to buy a trailer with a car if he seemed to be broken when he accepted the invitation and was stolen with only four dollars in the wallet. However, Walmsley is a mystery, since his private life, his trauma and his motives are never disclosed to the audience, only for Louise but in private. I liked his explanation how people is brainwashed everywhere and the mission of a teacher, therefore better off by a teacher. The acting is excellent and this film is a great entertainment. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Enjaulados" ("Caged")
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Worth watching
raptors22 December 2003
I have to admit that this did not turn out to be what I expected it to be. It was actually better. The script is well done and provides enough substance to make it worth watching. For the most part it is a believable story. The acting is not bad for the relatively unknown cast. If you are looking for something different, this is it.
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Brilliant dark comedy
NeelyO7 January 2000
A hilarious satire of contemporary education and today's coddled youth, this little-seen comedy rates as a real triumph for writer/director Anderson (whose "Positive ID" was pretty terrific, too).

Good luck finding it, though -- after some festivals, it's kind of disappeared.
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Dante's Independent School District
Mason-416 October 1999
The advance reviews of writer & director Andy Anderson's Detention prepared me for a '90s version of To Sir with Love, and indeed, the first part of this film is along that line, except that now we have not only uncontrollable kids but an adminstration that has lost the will and the power to do anything about them. The teachers are bound by political correctness, a starvation budget, fear of lawsuits, and a thousand other plagues on the education system. Even Sidney Poitier would be helpless were he bound this tightly by a legal system gone mad.

I kept waiting for Bill Walmsley, the hero teacher of this movie, confidently played by John Davies, to work the Stand and Deliver miracle, but it doesn't come, and the movie slows, when suddenly Walmsley tries an approach that rips the conventions right out from under this movie. No, this isn't To Sir with Love or Stand and Deliver or even The Dead Poets Society. Yet in one fell swoop, the movie becomes darkly funny while raising some serious questions about how difficult public education is in a world run by lawyers. It's a sure sign of how crazy the education system has become when the craziest arguments for reform make the most sense I've heard in years.
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A-List Unknowns (The Cast) / with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Potential
dudleypapa11 October 2004
I Had No Idea What To Expect of this Indie..But the Beginning was a little slow, but it was very important because that's where all of the clues are.Then Bang!!!!a turn of events that no one would expect and talking about a Cast of unknowns that Held their Own and should be some of the most sought after Talent in Hollywood..They were Extraordinary, Especially Compared to what you see @ Theaters Today and Boy does this cast have Guts... This Movie Deserves to Be Theatricality Released Nationally Soon...there is a truly Important message for all to be Learned in "Learning Curve". I am Myself Bi-Racial as the one cast Members "Tony" (Kirk Kelley-Kahn) or so I've Read, and I can totally relate to his Character..America Isn't so different Than France as far as the way the students were casted.Although I found that some important scenes of his work was in the deleted scenes (Wonder Why). He Has a "Star Presence" as we Call It Here. The other student "The Bitch Tracey"(Brandy Little) was so Typical but played with no Limits. Davey (Meason Wylie) was a total Looser but his performance was so believable, Everyone should own a copy of this Whirlwind of a film ,Buy this One!!!! It would Probably be a Cult type following Flick..I am Sure of It. The Best Film of 2004
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Wonderful Film
kcrhinehart30 November 2001
Anderson changed the name of his dark comedy to "Very Special Ed" to avoid the confusion with an awful movie also produced in 1998 with the same title of "Detention." This has lead to major confusion, and may be part of the reason that this great film has had problems securing a decent distribution deal.

The other problem was the Columbine High School murders, which scared the chickens at the studios away from touching this bold film.

It sad, this is one of the best independent films made in the decade, and Andy Anderson has the rare insight as both a writer and director to respect his audience's intelligence, while making a very funny film. "Very Special Ed" is a thinking comedy, instead to a moronic film for teenagers. It is a rare film indeed.
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Kirk Kelley-Kahn, Brandy Little & Jonanthan Brent....................
cartusa2 February 2006
This is a Film of a Lot of Unknowns Up & Comers. Most are Oscar Bound. The Actress who portrays "Tracy" (Brandy Little), Is Just a Power House. She has an Impressive List of Accomplishments. I am a Writer and have visited the States and as most Movie Goers, we seek out the unknowns who have the Guts and Determination to make the Long Haul and Endure the Hollywood Career on the Silver Screen. She is one as is Jonanthan Brent & Kirk Kelley-Kahn. Jonanthan can be seen in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" starring "Leonardo DiCaprio". Jonanthan has a Wide Range of Talent and one to look out for. The Entire Cast was Just Outstanding and Young Talent that is soon to be say the Least. I viewed this film and was Just Beside myself to see the Deep Dark side that Indie Films can Deliver, when in fact all of the Millions that are being poured into the BIG STUDIO films and most are next to worthless!!! NO Meaning at all. Well this Film "Learning Curve" is a Film to View and to Shelf. I am in agreement with other writers in Quoting that "Learning Curve" is for sure a Collectors Item and a Film where a Lesson will be Learned. The Film does has a surprise ending and one that no One would expect. This Video is pretty much available in all video stores and hopefully to be seen on Cable channels Soon if not in the states yet, Hopefully it will be viewed Over Seas. I happen to dig deep enough and after Burning Some midnight Oil, I was able to come up with some interesting Factual Information on one of the Stars of the Film who I have seen on Telemundo (Hispanic Television), and Commercials. Kirk Kelley-Kahn is in Fact one of the more Versatile Actors and with his Background we can all understand why. I can't wait to see his performance in the film "In Her Shoes". I am a Fan of all of the Stars of the film, but Kirk really Stuck out and as a Fan , I would love to see more of Him.

Here is a Bit of Information or Trivia as we writers say> Here's Movie Trivia 4 U...What Does Kirk Kelley-Kahn, Legendary Academy Actress "Juanita Moore", Academy Director's "Paul & Chris Weitz" (In Good Company & About A Boy) and Academy Actress "Susan Kohner "Have in Common?..ANSWER........"Juanita Moore" & "Susan Kohner" were Mother & Daughter in the BlockBuster Film "Imitation of Life" the Film the Saved Universal Studios from going Bankrupt (Footnote- Film "The Universal Story)..and "Paul and Chris Weitz" are "Susan Kohner" Son's...and The NewComer "Kirk Kelley-Kahn" is "Juanita Moore's" Grandson (Footnote - Los Angeles Times July 2000 Calendar Issue- Variety and other Publications) Now that's Trivia for you also Kirk is Starring in the Offbeat Indie Film "Learning Curve" and was name after "Ms. Juanita Moore's" Good Friend "Kirk Douglas". "Kirk Kelley-Kahn" will be Seen in the 20th Century Fox Film "In Her Shoes" Starring "Cameron Diaz" & "Shirley McLaine".


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They Don't make em like this
mistyhpcheer22 November 2004
Just simply out of this world,This Film was something else. Learning Curve puts a whole new meaning to the word.The Teacher "John S. Davies" was actually a RETARD. It's a pleasure to see Knew Gifted Actors.I'm a Fan of Movie Trivia and to find out that the Actor who Plays "Tony" is a Third Generation Actor/Dancer/Model of an Academy Actress, was a surprise.

>His Grandmother is the Legendary "Juanita

Moore" The Oscar Nominated, Golden Globe Nominated, Actress

> for the 1959 Re-make "Imitation of life" Starring "Lana Turner" "Sandra Dee" and "Susan Kohner" (Whose sons are "Chris & Paul Weitz" - Producer Directors of "About A Boy", American Pie, Ants, Nutty Professor and et cetra). I've seen him (Kirk Kelley-Khan) on Commercials..Print Ads &

> on The Spanish Station Quite a few times but Never put the

> two together, as well as other projects.. this kid will go

> places it's just a matter of time. The Film Presence of this Kid is

> Just something, and his subtle acting ability is just so unique

> and outstanding.I read the Article on Miss Moore in the Los

> Angeles Times in July 2000 where they mention the Grandson

> but no Name for Him. So, this is truly a Godsend to see. Let's Just

> hope that we'll see way more of him and maybe Kirk & Juanita

> Together Soon. This Film "Learning Curve" is just one in a

> Million and a Must see flick. "Jonantan Brent" (Catch ME If You Can) was very good and so Natural. Actually all of the Students in the "Cage" were Great but some you wanted to see more of Like "Kelley-Khan" (In Her Shoes), & Brandy Little (The Life Of David Gale) and the Student that's Gets Killed -"Forrest Denbow" who plays "Joey". The Students held the film and everyone I know is Catching On and Not Only Renting It, But Buying IT Also. Must Remember to Pause to take Relief Breaks and food Breaks. I didn't know Hollywood had the GUTS to make such a Brave Film with Such GIFTED young Talent that are well trained and all are Great Looking (Oops)...What Could I Be Thinking, Hollywood didn't Have the Guts..I Forgot it's an Indie, thank God for Indies, and Distributors that know what Good Film Making Is all About.Rent It won't believe It.
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Very Disappointing
mvance-121 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In addition to being a blatant rip-off of a young adult novel called (I think) HOUSE OF STAIRS, this film is rather despicable in its own right. Plus it's slow enough in execution to really telegraph its supposed "surprises." (SPOILER AHEAD!) Did anyone really think that "Joey" was dead? My rented copy of this flick came from the Netflix people, who tried to present it as another "massacre the teens" effort rather than the "dark comedy/satire/sociological examination" that it struggles to be. Had it been even a tired impression of one of the "Freddy" entries, I believe I could have given it one more star than I was able to dig up for this disappointing bit of self-indulgence. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for certain films being difficult to find. Steve.
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Exceptional story and acting marred by gratuitous nudity
MartinHafer9 August 2006
Hmmm,...this COULD have been an exceptional film for ages teen to adult. However, because the writers and producers decided to include a lot of gratuitous nudity (including genitalia and people urinating), this is NOT a movie for the kids or even the teens--which is a shame, as the movie could have been enjoyed by teens, but I assume most responsible parents wouldn't let their kids see this. In fact, up until the long nude sequence, my 16 year-old was watching the film with me, but I had to turn it off and see it when she went to bed. While I COULD understand the extensive use of a lot of profanity, it would have been easy to do the film without so much skin. Plus, the fact that all these nude scenes are supposed to involve kids about 16 or so, it seems pretty disturbing. Perhaps a pedophile could find the movie very arousing. And all this is a REAL shame, as the film was written and acted so well and really was exceptionally original and interesting.

The story involves a bizarre but very likable substitute teacher who works in a school that is full of rich, pampered punks who run the place and make the adults live in fear. While this aspect seemed a bit over-the-top in this regard, it did make for a VERY satisfying sadistic solution by the sub. Instead of betraying the manner in which he corrects several bad kids' behavior, it's really best you see it yourself--just be sure it's without the kids!

One reviewer said they felt that the acting was bad, though I actually thought John Davies in particular (in the lead) was exceptional. I really liked the job he did in the film and hope to see more of him in other films.

By the way, I usually am not obsessed with minute mistakes in movies, but I did notice a problem with the sequence where the two teachers drink a beer. Before the lady opens her bottle of beer, it already has about 1/3 of the contents missing.
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OK, it's no-budget...does it have to scream it?
bob_meg22 March 2011
I'm always looking for independent films from fledgling directors. I've often thought that it is easy to hide behind big budgets and that, when you don't have one, the flaws in your film will either sink the effort completely or drive it to some kind of legendary cult status, ala John Waters "Pink Flamingos." And many times, that low budget indeed does drive the crew to great things, spurring more originality, more energy, and more effort to do one's best.

Having seen Detention, however, Texas auteur Andy Anderson's third full-length opus, I'm tempted to revise my opinions a bit. Frankly, I don't think ANY budget could cover up the Rio Grande-size gapers in his script. I even went so far as to BUY a used copy of "Positive ID," Anderson's second film, on the off chance he was having an off day. Alas, he wasn't.

Let's assume Anderson's scripts are dynamite gems in the rough (they aren't, but let's pretend). The look of both films is sludgy and amateurish. They have dipped-in-crap looks that remind one of "Eraserhead," shot poorly on home video. The acting is either flat or wildly expressionistic.

It's obvious Detention wants to be a satire on the PC-crazed hyper-legalistic stranglehold imposed on the public school system, and with this banner it takes huge liberties: all textbooks have been banned by the ultra-right school board. The "kids" (the youngest of which has to be 25) are sewer-mouthed, willfully-stupid louts. The cowed teachers are content to be beaten and raped in the halls. Satire is supposed to be clever and sharp folks...this script is about as pointed as a dull butter knife.

Yes, there are a few inspired moments (the audio torture of Toni Basil's "Mickey" played round the clock, is one) but when the film finally swings underway, the "points" it attempts to make are equally weak, dunderheaded, and simplistic. Detention sets up a situation that is so ridiculous, it has no choice but to be parodied and then attempts to take itself seriously, which is even funnier.

It even includes a "feel good" ending to heighten the artifice even more. This is obviously a movie that was made with a lot of passion, and that's the sad part. In the hands of someone who can actually write and shoot films, it might have been really good.

"Positive ID" shares many of these same failures. I'm left wondering if Andy Anderson's long absence from the industry isn't proof that he himself can learn something, albeit slowly.

No/low budget doesn't have to mean a film will suck. Take Kevin Smith's "Clerks," fellow-Texan Richard Linklater's "Slacker," or Lizzie Borden's "Working Girls": all made on a shoestring but not looking a bit like it, mostly due to the inventiveness of what the directors were doing with the script and film they had at their disposal. This is talent AND ambition. And sadly, you need both to make a good low-budget film.
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If you're looking for something different....
sunznc20 December 2009
.....then this is it! The film is about a teacher who has had enough of uncivil students and their bad behavior including the use of vulgar language, harassment, threats and rudeness in a system that has failed just about everyone. The teacher constructs an elaborate scheme to teach his troubled students a lesson once and for all. Under his control, the students will be forced to learn or suffer the consequences.

Some of the scenes are very satisfying to watch. Probably many teachers were cheering this on. A lot of it though is very unrealistic and you have to take it with a grain of salt. You have to just go along for the ride.

The film is low budget and slightly amateurish. There are a couple of scenes where the dialogue didn't match the movement of the actor's mouths. There are times when the production is cheap and it's a bit hard to take however, most people who like comedy or something offbeat will enjoy this. It's worth seeing.
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A substitute teacher decides to take matter into his own hands regarding the school's worst kids.
ltlacey7 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is labeled as a thriller, but it is anything but. It's actually a comedy with some thrilling and suspenseful elements tossed in. For those who have ever taught, and especially for those who have been a substitute teacher, you're going to love this one. And more so if your school is not unlike the one portrayed in this movie. The idiocy that is our public school system in cahoots, so to speak, with the legal system, is downright hilarious, even if for some of us all too real. And the reason why books are not used will have many laughing so hard it hurts. There are no very well-known actors, but maybe that's what makes it work as well as it does: We do not expect a certain performance. But the actors in this flick do a fairly good job, and everything is believable (see above comment of what it is like to be a teacher). A little jerky camera movement here and there, and I would have liked a tad more back story about Mr. W, but that's my only complaint. Nice ending by the way.
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Bad acting...worse writing...genius idea
Rowi11123 October 2003
If I were to give this almost-worthless waste of time any sort of credit, it would be that someone finally wrote what a lot of teachers out there have been thinking and feeling for decades. I will admit, I had this one pegged for another B version "Dangerous Minds" or "Stand and Deliver." But no, this movie doesn't deliver anything but a good shock for about 10 minutes. After that, the worthlessness sets in and I couldn't seem to get past the high school drama team they hired to "act" in this movie. At times, the script is so corny that this movie makes the "Jason" movies look like literary works of genius. Also, the pacing is terrible (I fell asleep, if that's any hint). The use of nudity is odd and unconventional; I can't seem to decide whether it is fighting social biases against male nudity, or if the director is simply fascinated with the male organ. Either way, it is disturbing.

If Hollywood would hire a REAL director, have the screenplay completely rewritten, and find a decent set of actors and actresses, there MIGHT be something good about the plot line.

(Side note: I do give credit where it's due.....the soundtrack is fitting as it creates not only disturbance on-screen but almost gave me psychological issues.) 3 out of 10
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Rebel Without a Clue
stevemc18 September 1998
It's not often that a film can be called both sophomoric and pedophilic, but the "daring" Andy Anderson has achieved that dubious status with his latest pornographic diatribe, "Detention." With absolutely no social or entertainment value whatsoever, this film makes it painfully clear why Texas filmmakers seldom receive respect in the industry. I attended a staged reading of the screenplay and I was genuinely embarrassed, both for the writer and for the Texas film industry. The work is not just shocking, it's shockingly bad, and is an insult to both the industry and to those of us who pay our money to see garbage like this. Mr. Anderson, a college professor in the Dallas area, proves the old saw that, "Those who can, do. And those who can't..." Well, you know the rest.
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You naked kids shall learn!!!!!
Arlis9 October 2006
I just watched this one for the first time not really knowing what to expect. I was interested from the get go. I thought the acting really needed work, but it wasn't so bad that it took away from the story.

When it starts out you find a substitute teacher thrown into a school full of uncontrollable students. I thought it was gonna go in the direction of so many movies before, Dangerous Minds, The Substitute etc.. I finally got thrown for a loop when I found naked kids everywhere in cages and then an amazing original plot started to unfold. I liked it a lot.

The acting never did get much better, the direction and entire production of the film was a bit tacky but I think in a way the low budget added so much to the story. I also loved the nudity, not for reasons many would think. I just think it was nice to see it uncut showing everything and showing these boys stripped bare in front of girls and vice versa and forced to bare it all with no where to hide and also it helped to get the point of fear across in a metaphorical way showing they are stripped down with nothing. On top of that fact, they were left to burn in the blistering sun.

Very good entertaining movie with a very original story.
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