Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cabin In The Woods

Does anybody else remember the trailer to Hook when it was first announced?

Here, let me help you out.

Now, I'm not just remembering this because I still feel the passing of Robin Williams (which I do), but because I need to illustrate a point.  A movie trailer is a piece of production meant to share the key idea behind a movie, the "elevator pitch," as they say in Hollywood.  It's there to get the audience to want to see the film, and you can usually tell a lot about a film based on how honest the trailer is.  For instance, the movie Drive portrayed itself as the next Fast And The Furious.  When it instead became a deep, good movie, with lots of slow moments, people got so upset that one woman actually sued the filmmakers.  Bridge To Terabithia doesn't touch at all upon the seriously dark story the book actually tells. Life promised a wacky buddy comedy with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, and ...well, okay, it had some funny moments, but still.  It wasn't what the trailer promised.

Now, in some instances, you lie about the content of the movie in the trailer because you want to hook people, and you don't think your actual story or film will bring in the mass audiences.  That's probably what Drive was thinking.  The same with Bridge to Terabithia, since what kid is going to be excited to go to a movie where the most important part of the story is dealing with harsh emotional issues such as loss and loneliness?

Hook I have no idea about.  That's a slasher/horror film mixed with Labyrinth, and that's certainly not what we got.

Why am I spending all this time talking about trailers?  Because if you watched the trailer for Cabin In The Woods and then went in expecting to see that movie...man, the fact that Drive got sued and this movie didn't amazes me.

The key lesson to take from The Cabin In The Woods is "don't mess with the stuff lying around in someone's basement."

Okay, I wanted to talk about how the film manages to deconstruct the horror movie genre while still staying true to the "rules" of the film but since this movie came out in 2012, everybody and their mother has already done that in such a way as to make it sound like they took six years of film history and three years of film production classes.

So we're going to skip that.  If you've seen the movie, you know all the big twists, if you haven't, well, you likely aren't going to anyway.  So what am I going to talk about?

Let's talk about the story first.  Five teenagers (?) head up to a cabin owned by the cousin of one of our youthful protagonists.  On the way they meet a creepy old guy at a gas station, have some fun at the cabin, and wind up unleashing a terrible horror on themselves that starts butchering them one by one.

Okay, that's the trailer pitch.  Now let's talk about the film's twist, which you know because your coworkers told you about it.

There's a secret facility organizing and planning everything that happens to these teenagers.  If they start to go the wrong way, the guys at the control booth coax (or force) them back.  These guys have a copy of the script, and they're making sure their (unwilling) actors stick to it.

Now, there were a few things about the film that made me pause.  When you're doing a movie that essentially amounts do a break down of horror movies and those who watch them, I have to say that the death of Chris Hemsworth didn't sit right.  The watchers of this whole business are expecting, like any audience, to be drawn in to the picture.  They don't want constant reminders that they're watching a film.  So imagine someone is swimming as fast as they can away from a shark.  They grab hold of the dock, start to pull themselves up, and then the fall mat someone put on the dock suddenly lifts up from how they set their weight, and smacks them in the face.  The person grabs at one of the pillars, but because it's made of Styrofoam and string, it just falls apart in their hand, and they fall back in and get eaten.

It'd kind of pull you out of the scene and ruin the immersion.  That's what I figured the Chris Hemsworth death would do for the "watchers" what my description would do for us.  Also, I'm sorry, there's no way that monster got into the RV and waited that long to do anything before...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, yeah, monsters kill people, we expect that from the film.  But here's what I'm interested in.  A multitude of monsters are presented caged in cells, from true monsters to demonic forces to winking nods to other horror matter.  However, there are clearly some "human" creatures in there.  A "giant woman," a floating head (okay, "humanesque"), and, presumably somewhere in there are "sexy witches."

I'd like to see more of what happens after the end of the movie.  Sure, we all know that there really isn't much hope for, well, anybody, but suppose the "watchers" found themselves entertained by another type of film.  After all, we have Megashark vs. Giant Octopus or all the other wacky films that have replaced classic horror in our, the public, eyes...

If the movie somehow was going to have a sequel, I think that's the tactic you'd want to take.  People who know how movie tropes work are teamed up with the more "human" and, presumably, reasonable monsters to try to take down the other monsters for the enjoyment of the "watchers."  Let them make actual smart decisions and have the classic "tropes" need to take on new life and new creativity to allow there to be any real sense of danger.

So, this didn't really work out to much of a review.  I'll try to wrap it up here at the end.


The Cabin In The Woods is unashamedly self-aware, and more than willing to point out the dumb decisions that people make for the sake of keeping the story going.  While it does feel like it's needlessly stacking on little "events" for the viewers toward the end, the twists and ideas it presents do manage to keep what would be an otherwise boring horror movie fresh and somewhat original.  It's not perfect, and the placement of a "purge" button towards the end does beg some serious questions about "why would you even HAVE that, much less where anybody can get to it?"

Overall, it's a quite enjoyable movie for people who like film more than they do horror films.  It also leaves me wondering why on earth anybody would think wielding a bear trap on a chain is a good idea for a weapon.  There's never any guarantee that thing's going to hit in such a way that it would snap shut.  You could just as easily bonk somebody on the head with the flat of the side of it.

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