Watched Apr 12, 2012
Corey Pierce’s review:
Seeing as we're not supposed to be spoiler-y on this thing lest we offend the horde, I will use this space mostly to work out my feelings on Joss Whedon.
I'm not a fan. I've seen a lot of Buffy, just a bit of Angel, just a bit of Firefly (apathetic), Serenity (just cause), Dr Horrible (apathetic). I like Alien 4 for Jeunet mostly.
I heard it opined once that theres a couple kinds of male nerds. One is the manboy who likes metal, hard sci fi, robots... he's still a nerd but he likes his swords and his boobs. Then there's the more effeminate wussy nerd who likes cutesy Nintendo stuff, and anime, Death Cab for Cutie, and loves him some Joss Whedon. This is an offensive simplification but if there is any truth to be had here, I'm surely in the former camp.
I feel like Whedon is the Ryan Murphy of nerd culture. Catty, campy, with an obnoxious LA sheen over everything. He's too concerned with switcheroos and obvious callbacks. Even his jocks and sluts are catty. For me his characters run together more than Kevin Smith's can, always speaking in the authors voice, but unlike Smith, reeking of an overabundance of effort, and overacting instead of not acting. And like Murphy, the quality of his writing from episode to episode, project to project, varies VERY widely. I can't connect with his characters, his casting gravitating to plastic people he can toss in whatever clothes supposedly fit the broad character archetype he is aiming for. Their line readings are almost always overrehearsed, the dialogue is decidedly mass appeal but never hit my sweet spot, as I always see the ironically distant wink, and always see how much better they could be if he brought in naturally funny people to elevate them, rather than hope against hope that his models will be funny.
Even his skeevy loser stoner is a model dreamboat he's just shoved into the right clothes, tossing a joint in his mouth and saying "Yep, done!" - This guy - www.lostinthemultiplex.com/images/fran-kranz.jpg - Doesn't he just scream skeevy stoner you guys? Right? People complain about Michael Bay's Maxim model casting, but don't speak up about Whedon. Why? Because his models are sensitive?
SPOILER STUFF STARTS NOW:
And Cabin in the Woods is packed with these jokes, undermining any tension or frightening elements, just barely elevating itself over the usual witless horror movie bullshit. Being a subversive horror movie should not come at the price of the horror no longer being horrific. Scream managed to pull it off, but this fails hard. For all the mystery of what is being concealed in the cabin, it's just another meta-horror-comedy. After 4 Scream films,New Nightmare, Behind the Mask, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Rubber, Tucker and Dale, countless Simpsons Halloween specials, and more... it's getting tired, and CITW offers nothing new other than attaching it to the increasingly stale Truman Show/reality show format. (In horror specifically apparently this has been done in 2002's My Little Eye and the late 00s show "Persons Unknown", but I have not watched either and can't properly compare)
Through the first 2 acts, CITW doesn't make comedic associations to the tropes through seemingly unrelated events (as in Shaun of the Dead), it just bluntly lets its characters point out the cliches as they happen. Once it has smarmed its way through yet another zombie spoof (with uncreative kills and bad looking zombies), Whedon and Goddard up the ante by turning it into EVERY horror movie. I got some mild amusement here by the sheer excess of it all, but at the same time, through the Whedon filter it still comes across as much more tame than warranted, and is really just Whedon playing out the horror version of South Park's Imaginationland episode. About the only thing I found truly funny were references to Japanese horror, where I suppose he was required to cast outside the American Apparel rolodex.
And in the end of course like other Whedon stuff this localized hellmouth of a cabin is really an OMG WORLD CONSPIRACY with everything at stake that climaxes with a really shitty cameo that is even more offensive if you were one of the dozen people who saw a certain meta-alien-comedy last year.
What's weird through all of this is that sometimes the characters matter, and sometimes they are clearly 2nd banana to genre nerd inside jokes and subversion. Whedon and Goddard can't make up their mind about if we should be caring for any of these people. At one point our main character is brutally assaulted on a video screen while the control room parties away. The character's journey becomes a joke. This kind of stuff is probably the biggest problem with the movie. I don't feel like I was given a fair shake at being invested in anyone. When it comes to character, Cabin in the Woods isn't really about anything. Shaun of the Dead wasn't just about zombie tropes, it was about modern routine, growing up. and taking charge. Cabin in the Woods is about congratulating yourself for noticing already-observed and obvious cliches, and eventually tossing them all into a gimmick battle royale. That's not a game-changer, that's just fantasy football.
So yeah yeah yeah, I'm outside the majority here, again, but come on folks. If this is progressive horror filmmaking, then modern horror really is in the shitter. Everything has to be found footage or a meta commentary on its cliches. I'm sure by Paranormal Activity 6 we'll have our meta-commentary on that too... or did Scream 4 already cover that? I don't know, I skipped that for good reasons. Cabin in the Woods is not offensively bad, it's just so safe, and so typically Whedon, and that's offensive enough for my taste.
WATCH THIS INSTEAD: Community season 2 episode 6 "Epidemiology" (The zombie episode)