Monday, April 30, 2012

Media Monday--Review of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

Perhaps a better title would be: Kind of a Review, But I Don't Want to Spoil the Entire Movie. Having said that, there will be spoilers below, and since I'm too damn lazy to write *SPOILER* before every single one, if you don't want to know anything about the movie, stop reading now.

If you don't care, read ahead.

Cabin is one of those movies where you watch the trailer, and you think you have everything figured out. "Oh, it's a horror movie, people are going to die, blah, blah, blah." Let me go ahead and tell you: YOU HAVE NOTHING FIGURED OUT. Are there horror elements? Absolutely. But there is something much, much bigger at play here and to be totally upfront and honest, it's the kind of thing that social historians/movie critics/hipster psychological majors love.

(If I've offended any historians or movie critics by lumping you in with the hipsters--I apologize. To you, not the hipsters.)

If you want to get super introspective (which I try not to do on a Monday, but what the hell), Cabin isn't so much about college students being massacred in various ways as it is about the viewing public's craving to watch it happen. Wes Craven did something along the same lines with Scream, poking fun at the cliches even while playing into them. The entire Scary Movie series (which I love with all my heart) didn't poke fun, but instead rather blew everything up and out of proportion, so you had to laugh at all the stupidity that seems to run rampant in horror movies.

And there is a lot of stupidity. Take I Know What You Did Last Summer. I'm sorry, but there were mistakes being made all over the place by those four knuckleheads. First mistake, if we want to go super prudish, was the entire drinking/sex sequence at the beach. Second, was not sticking the two guys in the backseat so sober boy could take care of drunk boy. Third mistake, obviously, not calling the police, because, really, the excuse about "nobody will believe I wasn't driving" is pretty much bullshit, tied in with the whole "there's alcohol everywhere" bit. The town looked a little rundown, but I'm pretty sure they had some sort of Breathalyzer test. Fourth mistake, not making sure the guy was dead. Really? Seems pretty fucking obvious to me. Fifth, dumping the body. Sixth, making a pact to never say anything--nice way to hem yourselves in, guys. Seventh, when crazy shit starts happening, not going to the police--again. I won't go on, because after that, they just start piling up more and more. The point is, there's a lot of stupidity.

Cabin's characters make mistakes, but I'm loathe to say they're stupid. To be honest, they seem like the kind of mistakes most people would make, even after they've outgrown their hormone-laden youth. Poking around an abandoned gas station? Yeah, I can see that happening. Poking fun at the crazy looking guy who's also pretty creepy? See that happening, too. Getting offended all to hell and back when said guy calls the perfectly nice female a derogatory term? I know people who would have started brawls over that. All they did was pay for the gas.

Other mistakes--hard to explain away. Me, I would have decided to vacation somewhere else when I saw the two-way mirror. I wouldn't have changed rooms than covered the damn thing back up. A little nutty there, don't you think? I also wouldn't have gone down into the cellar when the trap door "magically" opened the fuck up. Maybe I just haven't been in houses with cellars (since I live in Florida, this is a definite), but I don't think the non-blowing wind from outside can push open a door facing the front direction. Sorry, I'm not buying it. Finally, I sure as shit wouldn't have gone and started playing with stuff that looked really fucking out of place in a cellar, culminating in reading Latin words from a backwoods, uneducated girl's diary. Because the sudden appearance of a language that would have been completely out of her depth isn't suspicious at all.

And then--things get really interesting.

Now we start to see more and more of the standard horror movie conventions. The totally out of place and inappropriate sex scene, resulting in the death of at least one person (usually the bad girl/slut/whore--whatever you want to label a sexually free woman). Follow that up with a series of deaths and narrow escapes, culminating in the death or salvation of the paragon of virtue--the Virgin. There's a funny line later in the film where the Virgin references her non-virgin state and the Director replies, "We work with what we have." The only way to avert disaster is to follow these guidelines--otherwise you risk angering the Gods.

Which, of course, is what happens. The Virgin and the Fool (who is not foolish at all and someone I would totally hang out with) unveil the inner workings of the Cabin and set the entire plot on it's ear. There's a very funny scene involving a merman which I saw coming about three seconds before anyone else. And yes, I did laugh like a loon.

In the end, the world cannot be saved because the guidelines for the sacrifice--which, funnily enough, are the guidelines for a horror film--haven't been followed. The Gods rise up and smash humanity down.

There's been speculation--so much, I can't remember where I first read the idea--that the Gods are the film stand in for the audience. That we, the viewing public, require certain things in a film in order to be satisfied with the final product. When those guidelines are broken, we get all super pissy and wrathful and go apeshit. Having read more than a few reviews where a movie didn't fall into line and people got annoyed, I'd have to say it's a damn accurate theory. Even more, the standard stock characters of horror movies--the Whore, the Athlete, the Scholar, the Fool, the Virgin--are stereotypes found in society at large, and speak to our need to punish and reward based upon the breaking or accepting of societal standards. I'm not going to go any deeper than that, because this review is already super long, but suffice to say that I wouldn't be surprised if a thorough study of the genre were to reveal a live/die ratio related to societal approval of the various stock characters.

All in all, Cabin is a movie that entertains even while it makes you think. Those are a rarity in this day and age, so kudos to every person involved in the making. To quote myself (Yes, I'm going to do it), this movie is not fucking awesome.

It's awesomely fucked up.

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