Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Cabin in the Woods
The best thing that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's film The Cabin in the Woods has going for it is its originality. And sure, as Jeff and John touched on, there's plenty of convention within the film. However, I do respect and give points to Whedon and Goddard for what they've done here. Their commentary on the genre wasn't so clever that it changed something in me, but it definitely held my attention and stimulated my intrigue. But more so than providing a commentary, I'm sure Whedon and Goddard's primary goal was to entertain. And unlike John, I do see a large audience for this film...from the "smug, hipster" Buffy fans to the morons who are so easily amused by the Ted trailer; they can all take enjoyment away from The Cabin in the Woods.
So yes, that's as far as I'm taking it...the movie is a fun way to kill an hour and a half (more puns!). You're right, John, there are no lessons learned; though we cringe (some more than others...referring to myself), we do walk away unchanged. But that doesn't mean we (or more accurately, I) can't give the film points for doing some interesting things along the way.
Like Jeff, I can appreciate the self-awareness about the character's conformity to the horror archetypes. These characters are definitely processed into their roles. The word "puppets" is used multiple times, so the film is fully aware that these characters aren't fit for John Carter's script. Yes, Whedon and Goddard have pulled on the strings, but they've also given life to surrogate puppet masters in the form of characters played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford; the two characters also serve as directors for a horror film that's been made hundreds of times and will continue to be made. In that sense, we have a meta-horror flick, and I like both the idea of that and the actual execution in film.
And with that last bit in mind, I like to think that the Company exists to create our horror movies. One thought I had while trying to figure out the mystery of the film was that this was some sort of near-futuristic story where society has become so obsessed with reality television that eventually we wanted to capture that "reality" in our films as well. That would also help to explain why the Company thrives to stick to the modern horror formula; they're looking to give the people what they want/expect. But I also understand that the script makes it clear that there's a need for specific sacrifices to be made (a whore, a fool, etc.).
The Twilight Zone also came to mind as I attempted to solve the mystery. I think Rod Serling would be a fan of some aspects. The mystery element drives the film and kept me interested. Having said that, the reveal at the end does come as something of a disappointment for me. While I do feel that it's a road that very few writers/filmmakers would have gone down, I admit that I don't care much for Elder God subplots. I would've preferred something a little more Rod Serling-esque. But that's me - a Twilight Zone fan who's never seen an episode of Buffy. But the larger point is that the mystery worked for me.
I like to think that Whedon and Goddard wrote back-stories for each of their monsters (the ones that could've shown up at the cabin, that is). I had the same thought as Jeff, too, that the DVD would be amazing if they had alternate scenes with those various monsters.
One thing that Jeff enjoyed that I did not was the "purge" sequence toward the end, where the monsters were unleashed on the Company. Granted, I, too, chuckled at the Merman sequence, but I didn't care for the rest of it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't like torture. Sure, most of us don't like torture, but I have an strongly adverse reaction to seeing it simulated in a film. I would never put this film on par with Saw or Human Centipede or any of the "torture porn" bullshit movies, but I hate that kind of chaotic bloodshed. So really, I wasn't able to enjoy that part as much as others, and even if those deaths were deserved, I still didn't like it.
Like John, I prefer swashbuckler adventure romances to horror, and I can't enjoy watching teens get butchered (even if they're a bit on the douchey side). I like my violence in movies when there's a fair playing field and when justice is served. In most modern horror films, premarital sex is usually the only thing the characters are guilty of. How is that worthy of death at the hands of a psychopath wielding a blade or a family of redneck zombies with farm tools? The moral and message doesn't resonate with me either, because I'm not exactly sure what the message is in all of that. With Cabin in the Woods, the commentary provides more of a message for me, but right, it doesn't mean as much to me as something like Seven Samurai or Young Mr. Lincoln (the two films I watched before seeing Cabin on Friday).
Lastly, I want to address John's line about the hero of Cabin in the Woods. He identifies the stoner, Marty, who throughout the film, questions appearances and digs deeper to find truth. I find it funny that the hero of the story is also a guy who selfishly wants the world to be destroyed along with him. I'm not challenging what you wrote, John, I just think it's interesting that our "hero" doesn't display a shred of heroism at the end of the film.