Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review | The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

An overtly-clever horror film that doesn't redefine the genre. It kills it.
It was first stuck in a studio crisis. It was then saved by Lionsgate. It was shown to film festivals that are unlike Cannes or Venice. People loved it. It was shown to theatres. People hated it. I then watched it for the first time on DVD. And guess what? I don't love it and I don't like it either. It pissed me off.

For those who haven't watch the film, the pitch is four friends go to the cabin in the woods and where they're staying is not what it seems. Sounds familiar? Well you're not the only ones. so check this movie out if you can. Then email your thoughts to me about whether you loved this or hated it with a passion.

Actually this is not my full review, here's my deconstruction of it. WARNING: THIS FILM CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Cabin in the Woods focuses on a group of friends, the virgin, the slut, the jock, the genius and the stoner who goes to a cabin in the woods... Yeah I already outlined the plot for you, so you all know. But here's an attention grabber. A group of technicians, in which the males (one played by Richard Jenkins) dress as bureaucrats and the females a scientists (because you will always identify someone a scientist if he wears a lab coat) watches beneath the surface and manipulates the surroundings of these friends and killing them based on what kind of monsters suitable for their slain hence churning out the formula. If the virgin is not killed, then the humanity is threatened with extinction.

Look. I enjoy movies that are actual puzzles. Inception and Being John Malkovich are examples of this. I enjoy parody and meta humor. But Cabin in the Woods is so much of a puzzle and has so much meta that it is a mess disguised as a puzzle while everyone hails this as a masterpiece. I honestly can't blame anyone who is a fan of Joss Whedon enjoying this because of his name on it since it's fan loyalty. But to only enjoy a film because of someone's name is in the movie's credits is not at all legitimate. The excuse "I liked this film because of (insert name). He knows witty dialogue... he know what he's doing" is completely vague and you're encouraging him round out the same thing in his next film to please you. With that said, the person who deserves full responsibility for this film is Drew Goddard, the writer of Cloverfield, so I am going to take him as a target in this film.

Before you're going to jump on me and state that I don't understand the purpose, message or any aspect of the film, let me tell you that I have fully got this film and no one is right or wrong when it comes to interpreting a piece of work. I get that it is a critique on the horror genre. I get that the entire film is a metaphor for the Hollywood machine churning out the same generic brand of horror. I get the structure of the film. I understood that it's a comedy as well. But the problem with all of these mentioned is that it is not executed well for me to understand it. Or maybe the film has too much concept or that the concept is too high to enjoy.
Careful girl! Some pervert is watching you.
What Drew Goddard brings with this film is the high amount of invention of the film and I can actually admire that. As I mentioned before, Cabin in the Woods is perhaps an allegory in filmmaking. The drones, representing the creative force of the film, the director (played by.... I would hand out enough spoilers in this review, so I won't give out her name) the executive producer for the financial stress, the cabin in the woods - the production design, the fate of the world - the reaction of the audience regarding the film's content and that's all you have to know. My problem with this (and perhaps everything about the film) is that the setting is way too clever and how they pull it. Each time Goddard and Whedon brings in every horror cliche out, they do it in a way that Charles Manson would approve. It practically criticizes how its overused but puts it in the most tongue in cheek way imaginable. And I got some laughs out of it such as one scene with the foreboding guy at the petrol station. He picks up the phone, makes his cliche monologue and is spoken via speaker phone while the others laugh. That was funny. Or what about when two of the workers stare at the slut making out with the jock as she takes her shirt off? That was also funny. There are other moments that have become the saving grace of the film. But the film takes too much comedy into account that my problems with the film became transparent. Goddard and Whedon wants to mock at it and they want us to mock at it as well, but if we don't, we're not getting the puzzle completely. Right after the whole agency get eaten by every monster imaginable and once one of the workers say a cheesy line for the sake of humor and even a monster where it is completely random, I have completely abandoned all hope with this movie.

Really, this film could have been better. And I am saying this with huge emphasis on COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER. If Goddard hadn't been writing the screenplay like an annoying fan boy who is trying to get out of film school quick by writing a rushed essay on horror and how they could fix it with the most ridiculous way possible, this COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER AND COULD REACH ANY POTENTIAL OF BEING GOOD. Cabin in the Woods cannot really have a storyline that is so diluted with the big brother concept that they could not bring across any interaction between the workers and the characters. Why are they in this place? Why are the technicians doing this to them? Does it have to do with the group is stupid while the workers are much smarter than them? I would rather have Cabin in the Woods be based off a similar plot device used greatly in The Truman Show or Minority Report or anything perceived by Phillip K. Dick in which a conflict between free will and determinism occurs any day now than Goddard and Whedon continually mocking cliches with no plot.

Also, Don't get me started on how painfully stupid the ending was, in where we have to stop and witness the apocalypse through a giant hand destroying the cabin in the woods. Watching it and trying to connect thoughts before writing the review, the ending paves out many plot holes that I could possibly identify. If the entire storyline of cabin in the woods serves as a threat to the rituals as operated by the technicians, why wasn't the whole earth is affected when a classroom in Japan can defeat a Grudge-lite parody or when the monster in Berlin was killed? Am I missing something here? How about this, Goddard? Try introducing the trope in which an angst-ridden girl/guy meets a vampire and if she doesn't feel happy with him in two days, insert an atomic bomb into her stomach and the whole town gets nuked if the timer stops. HOW'S THAT FOR A SCRIPT!? Or what about if you bring the ritual's possible apocalypse earlier in the film and we would've cared more for the technicians and not for the Scooby Doo live action cast.
Nice foreshadowing!
The characters also becomes the problem as we have no idea what they are like. As a result, they are just simply archetypes and the performances are brutally vague. The cast which consists of Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchinson are all stuck in predictable roles and then gets killed off when either of them do something stupid or are trying to get out. With Connolly playing the 'virgin' (hence she's the best out of the group) you would assume that she has a lot of heart, yet she doesn't have any character depth or overall bland. There's no tension between her or the technicians. She doesn't question and confront Jenkin's methods which is by far sadistic, so what was the entire point of this film when she doesn't do that?

Ultimately though, all of the flaws of the film all come from the screenplay, but other problems I have with this film are pretty minor including some dreadful cinematography in when the film is shot at night, you can't even watch anything or tell what is going on and the clumsy editing that makes the pacing so uneven. So my overall problem with this film is that it has nothing there to engage me or even care for the narrative, characters and the direction since it is beyond irritating. Horror movies are not about scaring you. It's about pulling the audience in extreme situations and confront it or escape it.

I do like to point out that of all the flaws Cabin in the Woods contained, there's some good points as I already mentioned that I liked the idea with Goddard and Whedon trying to convey the story enough and there are moments where I have some laughs, though not so geniune. But I didn't mentioned once about Richard Jenkins who puts in an okay performance in this film so that might perhaps provide the silver lining for me.

If you want to watch a better horror comedy, I suggest you start off with Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs Evil cos they have a consistent narrative and more funnier quips than this film. Here, Goddard and Whedon is just making an attempt about becoming cynical by being cynical to its audience. Watching Cabin in the Woods and saying that it was good because of someone's name is in it and with diehard and loyal support is not even a good excuse in defending the movie. It's like buying  the new technology from Apple because it's Apple. You have to buy it. With this, you're supposed to enjoy it. And if you think, readers, that I've been nitpicking so much, think about this. I went into the film without trying to know everything about the film, its release or any hype at all. I go to movies to be told stories and at least be entertained. This movie is not good at it. It practically throws its "high" concept in front of the audience's face if they won't understand it and its by far the most insulting thing about the film. And to sum up the entire film's accidental pretentiousness and my frustration, it's practically the scary movies rap from Regular Show played over 300 times in a row.

Cabin in the Woods is not a gamechanger. It's a disaster. Period.

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