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Out today is Joseph Kahn’s manic teen horror/comedy,
DETENTION. A hyperkinetic blend of tone, genre and idea, it sees young actress
Shanley Caswell anchor us through it all as hapless, hilarious and resilient heroine
Riley Jones. Caswell spoke with Fango about the meditation on current teen/pop
culture and her current stint shooting the paranormal true story THE WARREN
FILES for INSIDIOUS’ James Wan…
In DETENTION, Caswell plays Riley Jones, one of the many students at Grizzly Lake High School, facing the many perils of simply being teen aged. That is, prom, detention, a slasher and time travel.
FANGORIA: DETENTION is so visual and stimulating in its
storytelling. How did that come across in the script stage? What were you
SHANLEY CASWELL: Well, you knew it was very kinetic and you
knew it was going to move pretty fast. You could totally visualize how kinetic
it was going to be, for sure. After meeting Joseph, and also looking at his
past work, his music videos, I kind of got a sense of how colorful and how
vivid all the characters were going to be. And then once we got to the fitting,
when I tried on all the clothes, it came together more and more and more. He
could see exactly how it was going to cut together. When I did read the script,
the dialogue is so back and forth, and all the characters are so out there, you
kind of get that. He painted the picture for us, of how crazy the movie was.
FANG: The film is such a picture of 2011 in a way—it’s even
already a little dated—but it also feels like a rumination on the more things
change, the more they stay the same, especially in regards to teenagers. How
much did you look at previous teen cinema and the like?
CASWELL: I know that John Hughes movies were a big influence
on it. I, personally, didn’t really think about other movies. I just watched
Joseph’s videos, and how quickly he worked, especially his old Eminem videos
and Britney Spears videos, they’re all so quirky. He had such character in
them, so that’s what I saw in DETENTION as well.
FANG: I think you, in the film, take on this old school John
Cusack quality in your role.
CASWELL: Yea, I’m totally John [laughs].
FANG: You hit this
sweet spot of when you’re a teenager and trying to label yourself, or be
something. How much of that did you bring yourself, still being so young?
CASWELL: I related to Riley a lot. Every teenager has gone
through that phase where they’re trying to figure themselves out, trying weird
things. So, they’re vulnerable and trying to fit in, but can’t seem to find
exactly where their place is. I definitely felt that in my life, and I’ve been
out of my places many times; moving across the country, and not knowing exactly
what I believed in. She tries out this whole vegetarian thing. Every teenager
has to go through that stage of trying new and different things. Riley does
stick to what she thinks is right, though.
FANG: So much is happening in DETENTION, it’s such a blend
of genre and tone, from the horror/comedy, to the monster bit, to just the teen
vibe. Riley is kind of weaving in and out of all of it. What’s your favorite little
corner of the film?
CASWELL: I like the time traveling bear! I did like that the
cool part of the film is that Riley is throughout the whole thing, and the
element that keeps it together; the one that’s relatable to everyone. It’s so
weird, and so out there, that it’s nice to have Riley as the thing that’s
FANG: And you get to experience it all, you get to do so
many things at once.
CASWELL: There’s a lot going on. I loved it. I’d be climbing
into the belly of a grizzly bear and think to myself, “I’m never going to this
FANG: Unless you’re camping, and get eaten.
CASWELL: Well, there’s always that.
FANG: DETENTION is so of the moment, but you’re also
currently filming WARREN FILES, where you bring it back a bit to a 70s
teenager. What’s that like, inhabiting a kid in period detail?
CASWELL: It’s really cool. This is my first big movie, and
it’s cool because everything is so detailed on set. It just helps that Ron
Livingston has all this extra hair, and the costumes are perfect. It helps when
you have all of that to transform.
FANG: That film is obviously much more of a pure horror than
DETENTION. What have you been put through so far?
CASWELL: Oh, I don’t know what exactly I can say, but very
creepy, skin-crawling stuff. DETENTION was more of a thriller where there’s a
guy in a mask chasing after you. This is stuff that you’re scared of when you
go to sleep at night. So, I’ve had a couple of nightmares. I’m a huge horror
movie fan, so I like it and it never gets me, but when I saw some of the things
on set—I don’t want to say it, I don’t think I can say it—I was having some
nightmares, for sure.
FANG: There’s something about the supernatural, and
paranormal that can creep under the toughest of fans.
CASWELL: Well, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who the story is
about, they’ve had these investigations and we’ve all been reading their book.
To read that book—I’m part of the family that has these hauntings—and to have
this timeline of the hauntings and read it, and make it real, and that’s
something that really happened, it creeps on me.
We actually met Lorraine Warren. It’s real, she’s done it.
She knew some very personal things about people on set that they hadn’t told
anyone, so everyone was kind of shell shocked when she left. It’s crazy.
FANG: How did she seem to feel about biopic-ing her life
into a horror movie?
CASWELL: I don’t know. I didn’t talk to her about that, but
their whole career, it’s never been about the hype. They just want to help
people and their houses, so it was never really about “we’re the Ghostbusters.”
I think, for her, she thought it was cool being there and seeing the actors,
but it’s not necessarily what she thinks. It’s not like she was pushing for it.
FANG: I think it’s really interesting seeing DETENTION a
year removed from its premiere, and just how of the moment it is. Do you feel
removed DETENTION and where you were then? Are you interested in seeing how it
plays now, in how rapidly the pop culture moves?
CASWELL: Yea, I’m
definitely interested in what people think of it, but no matter what time it’s
in, and even if it is dated, it’s a fun movie.
FANG: That possibly dated quality adds even more insight
into how the film works and what it’s about. Seeing something only a couple of
months old and laughing at a reference that’s already out of fashion, it
informs the film even more.
CASWELL: We feel like DETENTION is such a long time ago. We
feel like were babies, then. Everyone who worked on it was completely awesome,
and I’m very proud of it. We all feel like it was such a long time ago, so we’re
excited it’s finally coming out. I think people will enjoy it, even with the
FANG: You said you loved horror, were there any films you
grew up on that got you excited to work on things like DETENTION and THE WARREN
CASWELL: Yea, the first scary movie I ever saw was THE RING,
and it just scared the crap out of me. And so, I like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST
SUMMER [laughs]. Those were two big movies I really liked. I think I like the
adrenaline rush. Horror movies affect people so much when they leave, and that’s
why we like to make these movies. Any movie that can get me jumping and scared
in the middle of the night, is good in my book.
For more on DETENTION, catch Fango's review here, and pick up FANGORIA #312 for our in-depth chat with director Joseph Kahn.
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