Saturday, April 14, 2012
'Cabin in the Woods': Joss Whedon is a smartass and I'm docking his allowance
"All I ask," exulted the usher at the Arclight, "is that you sit back, relax and prepare to have your faces rocked off." There is no better way to predispose me against a movie!
But yeah, it was Friday night and I was at a midnight show. I wanted to see what the fuss was about too. I've been driving for weeks past the "Cabin in the Woods" billboards, with their Krazy-Mixed-Up Cabin! design and the slogan "You think you know the story," and just clenching my teeth. I love cabins in the woods. I love creepy stuff on the walls and in the basement. I love the twig snapping outside. I grew up right next to the woods -- I always knew there was something lurking out there. That stuff resonates with me, dammit. I don't need to see it reinvented! But here we are. Spoilers ahead.
I tried to get into it, I did. The bold editing is quite admirable. The dialogue, of course, is excellent and makes the characters -- stock figures, all of them -- into human beings. For a while, it does an OK job of being a movie within a movie: there's a framing device of professionals in a lab, watching the kids go into the cabin, and both those scenarios are watchable and interesting in their own ways. But I kept thinking, "What is the point? Why do this?"
Then the plot takes a twist or two, and you realize you're watching a much larger-scale horror scenario than you thought. That's fun for a little while, and the payoff is a tremendous 20-minute comedy sequence that's just a blast to watch. I'm sure some critic or other has already roared, "Horror fans will want to sit through this movie again and again just to get all the references!" and maybe they will -- the references are fun! If only that were enough to carry an entire movie. It is not.
This movie's being compared to "Scream" because it picks apart horror cliches: the cabin is scary, the redneck locals know something you don't, the teenagers who enjoy sex will die. But it builds itself on an even bigger cliche: that people who watch horror movies do it because they're brutal and savage and awful. By building itself as a meta-movie, "Cabin in the Woods" primly positions itself above this sort of thing. You end up feeling good about yourself because the movie eventually makes you root against the characters who set up the sadistic cabin scenario. But dammit, you idiot, you still paid money to see a gory horror movie! Joss Whedon has no resolution for you; the best he can offer is a couple of pot-smoking survivors, surveying the carnage and snarking, "Sorry about the end of the world." That's not a movie; that's a flipoff.
I know, it's 2012 and lots of movies are sarcastic about the fact that they're movies. But why bother making a movie, then? Why not just stay home and smoke pot? (Cut to Joss Whedon, counting his "Avengers" money and smoking a giant blunt: "Yep, that's my plan," he smirks. Aaaargh!)
Here's another thing. Why zero in on cabin-in-the-woods movies? How many of those are there? When was the last one made? You're really just picking on "Evil Dead." I don't like that. That's not picking on a giant, corny studio release - that's picking on a bunch of scrappy film students who put together something that turned out to be hugely influential. Go pick on Pepsi or something.
The timing of this movie just feels off to me, and I guess that's fitting since it's been on the shelf for a while. It doesn't seem to have been inspired by any horror zeitgeist. It's just randomly here.
I can't believe I haven't blogged in a year and a half and this is what brought me back. See, everything about this movie is enraging!