Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods*.

 

For a movie that was shot in 2009, The Cabin in the Woods surprisingly has its finger on 2012 zeitgeist’s pulse. Zombies, The Hunger Games-esque sacrifice, and a Hemsworth brother. But would you expect anything less from a Joss Whedon film?

I will give Whedon and fellow writer Drew Goddard credit for throwing pretty well every horror movie trope at the wall to see what sticks, as Clem Bastow puts it in her favourable review, but I just found it too unreal to suspend my disbelief, if that oxymoron makes sense.

But overall, I thought the premise was a clever one, it just wasn’t executed to my liking (the group of friends I went with all enjoyed it, however). I thought the group of five youths, which we are told are crucial to the story; the spooky setting; and the stereotypical characters (the whore, the virgin, the scholar, the jock and the clown) worked well to lull the audience into a scary movie state of mind. At this point I thought The Cabin in the Woods would be more like Scream; in what way I’m not entirely sure, as I’m still reeling from the violent severing of this idea from my imagination by the second half of the film.

This is where every horror movie villain, with an emphasis on the super natural, comes into play as the characters realise that the “inbred, redneck zombies” aren’t the only terrors they have to deal with: there’s some kind of government body orchestrating the events not just at the cabin, but in similar settings all over the world, whose employees take bets on which villain will be the death of them (head of the operation Hadley has his heart set on meremen. This will later come back to haunt him.) and offer up each fallen archetype as a sacrifice. Any similarities with The Hunger Games (sacrifice! Surveillance! A Hemsworth!) end here, though, when it is revealed that the sacrifices are for anything but the government: they’re to prevent the ancient gods from revolting and overrunning the earth as they did in ancient times.

The voice of reason, Truman (a reference to The Truman Show?), seems to be uncomfortable with his role in the sacrifice, and asks a fellow worker, “Should you really get used to monsters, magic and zombies?” It’s a poignant commentary on our desensitisation to violence: that the government is so willing to offer up five innocent youths as a sacrifice for the greater good is both sickeningly common and, for the sake of the story, noble. This is a sentiment Sigourney Weaver, who makes a fan-boys wet dream surprise appearance as The Director, reiterates at the bitter end.

Proving the virgin stays alive til then (in the vein of Scream’s Sidney Prescott and Halloween’s Laurie Strode, “the virigin’s death is optional, just as long as it’s last” and she—it’s always a she, because women are the ones who should suffer for the rest of their species’ carnal sins, right?—suffers), Dana and stoner Marty (the fact that his pot-smoking cancels out the effect the government’s manipulation has on him could be seen as a pro-stoner statement) piece together the fact that they’re trapped in some kind of “reality show”, and that Dana’s basement reading of a young girls’ diary from 1903 in which her father murders her family was the “choice” the group made as to which villain(s) would come after them. Later, when the two find a loophole and break into the government headquarters, they come face to face with just how many other options they could have “chosen” in the basement.

This is where I think The Cabin in the Woods failed. It was just too much. I loved that they used Anna Hutchison’s Jules as a modern-day Tatum Riley or sorority girl CiCi from Scream and Scream 2, respectively, and Chris Hemsworth, who at the time was a little known Aussie actor, and is now an avenging megastar, as the Janet Leigh or Drew Barrymore of the effort. I also loved that unless the characters “transgress” and buy into the tropes they’ve been manipulated to succumb to, they can’t be punished”. Stoner Marty points this out when he marvels at Jule’s sudden sluttiness and Hemsworth’s Curt’s alpha-male act. I think they could have played a bit more off of this, or the reality TV angle, instead of going the whole hog with government cover-ups, supernatural massacres and ancient god uprisings. Sure, it’s been done before, but I think The Cabin in the Woods had the potential to be the best in this genre. Instead, it’s created a genre of its own. To some, this is better.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: The Hunger Games Review.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Feminism!

Elsewhere: [TheVine] The Cabin in the Woods Movie Review.

Image via IMDb.

Movie Review: Captain America*.

 

I haven’t seen Iron Man. Or Iron Man 2. Or The Incredible Hulk. I hated Thor. I’m not looking forward to The Avengers, other than the fact it has the Chris’s (Evans and Hemsworth) in it.

So I went into Captain America with a little trepidation, but from the previews, I liked what I saw: minimal alien action. Hypereal World War II setting. Chris Evans.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

It was easy to get behind Evans (or, as I joked after the movie, for him to get behind me!) as the good-hearted and brave protagonist and title character.

And it was funny, too: my comic-book-geek friend Eddie laughed intermittently at jokes that only he got (we were in the Director’s Suite with about three other people). There was an enjoyable fondue shtick that we laughed at for about five minutes, missing the ensuing dialogue.

I quite enjoyed the imagery. I love mid-20th century Americana, and Captain America didn’t disappoint, with his humble beginnings as a cotton wool cartoon hero who performed for the troops rather than being one.

Ultimately, it was a no-frills story about good vs. evil. Who magazine’s review said that it “isn’t out to dig deep”. Perhaps not consciously, but I did notice some underlying messages when it came to male body image, which I’ll be blogging about this week. Without giving the ending away, I was thoroughly surprised by it, which perfectly sets up the interlude to 2012’s The Avengers which, dare I say, made me a tiny bit excited for it. You know, besides the Chris factor.

Related: Thor Review.

Super 8 Review.

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

Image via IMDb.