The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - The Cabin In The Woods: A Discussion, Rather Than A Review
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The Cabin In The Woods: A Discussion, Rather Than A Review|
Since the whole point of Cabin in the Woods is based around surprise, I'm gonna put most of my thoughts behind a cut. What I will say is that I think Cabin is two-thirds of a decent, if unexceptional, horror movie - and then the last third pays for all. If you don't like horror movies, I don't know how this will play for you, since it was written for those of us who grew up on steady streams of Fangoria and Tom Savini.
So let's dive behind a cut to discuss, you and I, who've seen it.
The problem with Cabin is that I was more intellectually than viscerally interested in the first two-thirds, where they're actually in the cabin. Joss has a tendency to undercut his horror with humor, to the point where he really misses out on the horror - the reason Buffy did so well as a show, I think, is that it wasn't really ever that scary (with rare exceptions such as Hush or Angel's killing of [redacted]).
So what I had going through the first bits of the film was, "Oh, that's interesting. That's a very clever way of making the blonde dumb. Look at that movie reference! Oh, and yes, she's getting killed."
I think part of the problem is that the pain-zombies just weren't that interesting to me from a horror perspective. One of the reasons the Friday the 13th series did as well as it did was that it promised - and usually delivered - a series of increasingly gruesome deaths, touching the "body horror" trope before it even had a name - and Cabin delivers a series of deaths that are, well, pretty mundane by horror standards. I'm hesitating to rewrite it, but I'm like, "Oh, man, they're not going to put that saw over her mouth and cut off her lower jaw, are they? That's - oh, no, it's just a neck cut. How mundane."
...maybe I have seen too many horror movies.
That said, Cabin kicks into gear in the final third - the scene where the crew is celebrating as the virgin gets killed, on screens, in the background is one of the most effective juxapositions of happy songs and terror since, well, the Wicker Man. (The original. Please.) And then the descent into madness, with the boxes full of monsters (so reminiscent of Cube), complete with Hellraiser parody, well.... it's a great visual. (That one giant spider skittering... ick.)
And I always, always, love a Portal Plot where the test subjects go off-script and into the nameless, strangely endless, industrial complexes.
That said, there's some damn lazy scriptwriting here: really? Why the hell did anyone install a "release all the monsters" button? What use could anyone possibly have for it? And Sigourney Weaver's job as the deliverer of final exposition would be fine, but you'd think for someone who clearly knew the teenagers would be coming to this room, she might have brought, you know, her own gun or something. There were just one too many "this is a movie" things for me to buy into the internal logic.
But who cares? It's a deconstruction of the horror tropes, and I was happy to see the "greatest hits" package of creepy movies destroying nameless soldiers and scientists. Any movie where the whole fucking world is destroyed at the end is a +3 on my 1-to-10 rating, and so I enjoyed it possibly more than I should have.
My biggest gripe is the hand at the end; why was it a human hand? Shouldn't the destroying hand of the Elder Gods have been a devil hand, or even better a tentacle? It just felt off.
Yeah, a human hand felt off to me too.
I'd have pulled back a little further/higher, to show the sun peeking over the horizon behind the cabin, and then had a tentacle erupt out of the ground in much the same way.
And I agree about the system purge button.
But it was just so much fun that I almost feel bad complaining about that!
It is goddamned creepy how similar our thoughts are on this one. Cube? The hand? The button? Sigourney not having a contingency plan? NOT CARING BECAUSE THIS IS SO MUCH FUN? Yep. Me too.
|Date:||April 18th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)|| |
Agreed pretty much on every point.
1. The anticipation of the kills being gruesome was very much, to me, a deliberate part of the movie, undercutting the expectations of the typical audience these days.. It's also worth remembering that, in their original form, most of the F13 kills were pretty bloodless and not very gruesome (not least because of the ratings board).
(Incidentally, I haven't seen any comments anywhere on the fact that all four post-Jules victims suffer a huge amount of damage, yet keep moving and fighting normally for huge periods of time afterwards. It's almost like an action movie trope got pasted into the pastiche by accident.)
2. As to the human hand at the end, since the human torture porn audience that keeps ratcheting things up is (from a metafictional standpoint) the "elder ones" whom the directors/scientists (you don't think it's a coincidence that Bradley Whitford's character acts and talks like a more handsome Joss Whedon, right?) are trying to appease, why wouldn't the hand be human?
Yeah, when you see people get stabbed, hacked, grabbed by bear traps, beaten to the point of throwing up blood (I think), and savaged by a werewolf, and still be able to function pretty much perfectly, they're clearly not going for realism :->
Oh, and I agree on the gruesomeness levels. They looked about the same as most 80s horror movies, rather than what you'd go for now if you wanted to push boundaries. Which is absolutely fine by me. I don't need to see someone's neck being sawed through, I'm happy for it to happen just off camera.
Point 2 is very, very smart.
It beats by several fathoms my speculation that the backstory says man was created in the image of the Ancient Ones, thus subverting the Book of Genesis; and that as a bonus it subverts the expectations of the audience who know (of) Lovecraft and are waiting for a tentacle or other inhuman appendage.
|Date:||April 18th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)|| |
Yes, and another thought I had while watching was that some of it was the meta of how a creator feels a certain attachment to his creations and there's a certain kind of dementedness involved in writing stories where one's characters are tortured, dismembered and killed. The hand is me is the creator is the audience are the ones creating awfulness in the name of entertainment.
The Ancient Ones are the typical horror audience that needs to watch all these murders, so a human hand makes sense from a thematic standpoint, although I'd originally assumed something more Lovecraftian as well.
They didn't ratchet up the gore precisely because this was an indictment of torture porn, and instead a homage to the quick cut to off-screen deaths your see in something like Halloween, giving them really gruesome deaths would make them guilty of their own criticism. They were also probably mindful that much of the audience will be Whedon fans instead of horror fans.
Given the point of the facility was to kill the 5 sacrifices to save the world, I can see a release all monsters button being a backup in case they enter the building. It may screw up the virgin dying last, but that's probably not as bad as the utter destruction.
I agree though, Sigourney Weaver ought to have had a gun. Or a fork lift.
My head canon (Amy Acker notwithstanding) is that this all happens concurrently with the series finale of Angel.
Yeah, it felt very much like this was yet another apocalyptic cult (with a twist) that could easily have fitted into the Buffy/Angel world.
Incidentally, the monster board: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cabin_in_the_Woods#Monster_Whiteboard
“Kevin”? I don’t get that one, though a faint tickling in my brain tells me I should.
|Date:||April 18th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)|| |
That, possibly combined with a reference to Kevin Williamson.
See, that made as much sense as the dialog in your usericon (long a fav, by the way). Jason’s name would seem to be Jason, not Kevin.
By the same measure, you could assume that Fornicus is Fornicus and therefore bears no resemblance to Hellraiser.
My first mental image of Kevin, however, was Kevin from The Office, which is probably not what they were hoping for.
Turns out it was none of these, though perhaps your first instinct was best: http://let-the-wookiee-win.tumblr.com/post/21560204698/among-the-various-possible-monsters-on-the-control
Think more along the lines of Kevin, Elijah Wood's character in Sin City. According to the script, anyway.
So they dolls were the guys with Doll masks on, not killer toy dolls like in Dollman?
The dolls were a reference to The Strangers, according to the horror film buff I watched it with.
Much like "release all the monsters", what the hell kind of aerosol chemical makes you want to split up? Most of the rest of the chemicals in the film were at least plausible, in keeping with the idea that there was a reason horror movie characters are promiscuous, stupid, jerks. On the other hand, that same logic invites nitpicking. (Why did the bird vaporize and Chris Hemsworth bounce off the barrier? How on earth did the controllers miss that Marty wasn't dead, when they had heartbeat readings? etc)
But there were things that I absolutely loved. I liked that they at least implied that whats-his-face went down on Jules, albeit while she was still wearing underwear. I loved that the female characters had on sensible shoes. I even loved that the "virgin" didn't have to be, although I was predicting that Marty was the virgin, skewering the "Final Girl" trope. Honestly, it awesomed my face off.
I, also, was expecting tentacles. You don't tease me for three quarters of a film with Lovecraftian horrors only to give me giant human hand.
although I was predicting that Marty was the virgin
Me too. I kept waiting for her to shoot Marty, only to realize too late that the fool was also the virgin and, whoops, world's still ending.
I thought the twist would be that they didn't know she wasn't a virgin, but they were all 'yeah, what are you gonna do?'
|Date:||April 18th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)|| |
Marty had gotten "behind the curtain" when they lost track of him. I'm assuming the sensors couldn't pick him up there, hence assumed dead.
Yes to both of these. I went, "Wait, what spritz in the face does that? And isn't that mind control, thus breaking their own rules?"
I figured it was some kind of hypertestosterone that leads most young males get all alpha and jocky and generally leads splitting up (because they can . That wouldn't have been breaking their own rules, considering that they used chemicals to make Jules a literal dumb blond, turned up the heat, pheromones and artificial moonlight to make for sex when GOING THE HELL BACK INSIDE!!! would have made much more sense, and did several other things that definitely aimed the five's free will to make for easier sacrifice.
Not that big a horror fan and really hate torture porn and I loved the movie. Now, to be fair, I really, really enjoy deconstructions -- and while the primary purpose of the movie was to tell a FUN PLOT (from the interviews I've seen with Goddard and Whedon), there was lot of critique buried within the movie. For example, using the title card as a cheap scare to point out how cheap cheap-pop-out-scares actually are.
And they did a bunch of stuff with the music. The make-out-with-the-wolf-head scene had me squirming because, due to the music and the setup, I was almost positive it was going to come alive and eat her face. There were a couple of additional points where they just set Scary Music over innocuous happenings and the scenes got tense, but the main one for me was the wolf-head.
I want to watch it again, because I feel like there was subtle stuff in there I missed.
Also, I assume the rituals at the other stations are different from the US one? Which would make sense, since in movies from different regions we expect different kinds of horror.
(And, kinda sad that the Sexy Witches never made an appearance.)
Sigourney mentions that different cultures do things differently, I think.
And yeah, I was watching the wolf's head scene through fingers.
Sigourney Weaver says at the end that the only thing the rituals have in common is the sacrifice of youth. Presumably the Athlete-Scholar-Whore-Virgin-Fool setup is specific to America(n culture). Hence the roomful of nine-year-olds in Japan; different cultural values, but still the suffering and death of youth (except that all of them survived - I wonder if the Ancient Ones would have been placated if some of them had died before they bound the ghost?).
|Date:||April 22nd, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)|| |
I think it's more specific to Western culture - Amy Acker says they get their 'stuff' from the Old World.
Not reading the whole post, just whining about how irritating it is that everyone over my flist are saying how amazing this movie is (I've been wanting to see it ever since we saw the first trailer), and it doesn't come out in Australia until July. July!! Argh this is so very unfair...
I agree with the hand. I feel a tentacle would have been better. Hell, a guy leaving the theater before the session I went to pretty much said that exact thing. If they spent so long hinting at a Cthulhu thing, why not just got for Cthulhu.
Personally, I think it would have been more effective to not show any of the elder god at all. Leave the viewer to imagine what they want to. Everyone knows the best horror is the horror in your own head.
|Date:||April 22nd, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)|| |
Was it just me that got a Scooby Doo vibe from this?
Dana = Velma
Curt = Freddy
Jules = Daphne
Marty = Shaggy
(It falls down unless you assume that Scooby is a scholar, unfortunately.)
Have finally seen this: My sense was that if you were looking for inexorable logic, this really wasn't the movie for that. The hidden story was as much governed by silly tropes as the story it spoofed. (I mean, what turns out to be the raison d'etre for the entire situation constitutes one of the oldest horror tropes around.) But governed in a smart way. The convenient "release all the monsters" button existed because, well, isn't that what we wanted to see? Why have such a wonderful variety of monsters if we don't get to see them kill off the extras?
I adored the tribute to Clive Barker.
When I came out of the "Cabin" I was thinking of "Evil Dead II," specifically the first time I saw it, when it was released in theaters. "Cabin" is too strapped to its agenda to match the sheer joyous anarchy of its spiritual predecessor, which "Evil Dead II" surely is, but I think all of its gory meta-layers make it a comparable achievement.
Also feel the need to note, this makes the second movie I've seen where Sigourney Weaver is revealed to be the boss of a vast conspiracy, the other one being Paul. Interesting trend, that.
Yeah, I thought of that, too.
Although as someone else noted, it really should have been Jamie Lee Curtis.
THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME!!!
I haven't seen a new horror movie (except psychological stuff like Black Swan) since The Blair Witch Project, My most-of-college boyfriend was VERY into horror movies, and would scour Fangoria and its ilk and say "I think THIS one is going to be a Beth Movie," meaning it was going to be smarter than average and could even scare me (Re-Animator is an example of a then-current Beth Movie.).
I spent half of The Cabin in the Woods grinning or out-and-out laughing and half cringing. You know how you reacted to the spider. That was the ballerina girl for me. I have HATED things without a face since I can remember. I appreciated the fact that they gave us both a giant bunch o' parodies and Something to Scare Everybody
I wasn't thrilled with the ending, I like the idea that Marty was the Virgin better than the canonical "Screw it, let us all die", but I was OK with the human hand (As much as I thought about it, I went with the idea that the Ancient Ones take physical forms that humans can take in, and after Purge All The Things, a giant human hand was more than enough).
Anyway, it wasn't a perfect movie, by far, but I enjoyed it veryvery much. I went alone instead of going to Pirates: Band of Misfits with friends because Aardman animation creeps me into the Uncanny Valley. So I got the response from someone who'd seen both "So, you can't stand lips that don't quite move like human lips, but you're OK with EVERY HORROR FOR DECADES?"
Yeah, kind of.