I’m Drawing a Line in the Sand. Do NOT Read the Latin!
It’s time for another October Horrorthon! I had heard so much about today’s movie that I was very excited to see it finally come out, not only on DVD, but also on RedBox. When it finally arrived, I had already set my mind to go and pick it up when my roommate told me he had purchased the digital copy of it. Score! A few days later, when we both had the time to sit down and watch it, we prepared ourselves to watch the movie that our friends and many critics have been talking up since its original release. That movie is Cabin in the Woods, co-written by Joss Whedon, co-written and directed by Drew Goddard, and starring Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian J. White, Amy Acker, Jodelle Ferland, and Sigourney Weaver.
A very typical scenario unfolds as a group of college students decide that the best thing they can do with their time is to go to an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods for a vacation. The stereotypes involved are the nerdy quasi-virgin Dana (Kristen Connolly), the stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), the egghead who is actually a receiver on the football team Holden (Jesse Williams), the jock who is also on full academic scholarship Curt (Chris Hemsworth), and the whorish blonde who is actually only recently blondized Jules (Anna Hutchison). Okay, so they’re slightly off the normal stereotypes, but they get much closer as time goes on. As does the story, as the group find the basement of the cabin, filled with various items of creepy origin. They pick a journal and read Latin words aloud, which sets a zombie redneck pain-worshipping family on the loose to kill them. As typical as all of this sounds, there’s something very atypical happening behind the scenes…
A lot has been made of the idea of “the twist” in movies, mostly since M. Night Shyamalan made it super famous. We’ve also seen movies before that mock the cliché’s of horror movies while adhering to them themselves, such as the Scream movies. The twist to this movie takes that stuff to a new level. But here’s the question that brings people to my reviews: is it amazing? No, not really. I was not nearly as charmed by this movie as I expected to be, and certainly not as charmed as everyone made me think I would be. But I’m still trying to put my finger on why I didn’t like the thing. I’ve watched it twice already and I remain relatively confused. I’ll try to work it out as we go along. The writing was probably a big part of my dislike of this movie. I never really minded the idea of the twist in a movie, but when you spread that twist all the way through your movie, it hardly feels like a twist. I was just confused by the two seemingly-unrelated movies until the reason for both stories made itself clear. At that point I thought it was a really cool idea for a movie… and then the movie kept going. I get it already! You’re so clever for lampooning the entire horror movie genre. Now get to making a good movie. But the movie never salvaged itself as far as I was concerned. I’ve no intention of spoiling the twist in this movie for anyone as I was given the pleasure of not having the movie spoiled for me, but I took issue with the fact that the movie seemed to spoil itself. Hell, the movie actually starts with the twist before it gets into the typical dying college kids movie. But I also don’t know how they could have made this movie work for me. If the twist stuff wasn’t in the movie, it would have just been another underwhelming horror movie. Maybe I would’ve liked it if they didn’t reveal the twist stuff until Dana and Marty were in the middle of it, but I can’t really know that because that’s not the movie I watched. All I can really know is that this movie didn’t work for me, certainly not as much as I thought it would with Joss Whedon’s involvement. But where I did see his involvement in the writing, I liked it. I’m mainly referring to the clever and funny moments in the dialogue that really worked for me, though not enough to redeem the rest of the movie. You could see that stuff in the dialogue from pretty early on, like the, “I learned it from watching you!” interaction between Curt and Jules.
The look of the movie was mostly fine, but there were parts of it that were less than convincing. What made them better is that they were close to, but legally distinguishable from, many classic horror movie monsters, and that was fun to pick them out and recognize them. There were zombies, werewolves, ghosts, giant bats, and angry robots, but they also had some more specific monsters like a Cenobite reminiscent of Hellraiser, a killer clown reminiscent of Pennywise from It, and there was apparently even a Reaver from Firefly, but I didn’t see it. The main zombies were a bit of a problem from, but only because they were occasionally unconvincing and reminded me more of the creatures from the Thriller video. Otherwise there were no complaints about the looks.
I liked the greater majority of the performances in this movie, so anything I didn’t like about the movie was probably not their fault. I liked Kristen Connolly a lot, especially because she was really cute and opened the movie walking around in her panties. Would girls actually walk around in their underwear with all their windows open in a busy residential neighborhood? If they do, then I officially hate my mom for having us live on the outskirts of town. Anna Hutchison got her boobs out in the movie as well, but that was disappointing because I didn’t find her nearly as attractive as Connolly or Amy Acker … or Chris Hemsworth for that matter. I don’t wanna sound gay or nothin’, but I’d let that guy vacation in my cabin in the woods. Wink wink! I even liked Jodelle Ferland as Patience Buckner, but that may have been mostly because I seem to be inadvertently reviewing her entire career. She was in Silent Hill, one of the Twilight movies, and the second Bloodrayne abortion. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but four movies now for someone most people probably can’t name is pretty weird. Also, she did fine in the movie. The only performance I really took issue with was Fran Kranz. I realize that they were going for the super cliché pothead character, and he was even probably supposed to be a little bit annoying. If that was true, it worked. That dude got on my nerves.
I guess expectations hurt Cabin in the Woods with me more than anything else. When a movie is talked up too much, it will inevitably find a very difficult time matching those expectations. I expected to be blown away by the movie, but instead it was just okay. The idea of it was nifty, but it wasn’t surprising as I thought it might be because they put the twist of the movie right up front, the look was mostly hit but occasionally miss, and the performances were mostly excellent. I still feel like, if you want to watch a movie that turns the horror genre on its head, you’d be better off with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. It’s not a bad movie, it was just underwhelming to me. Pick it up at RedBox for a dollar so that you can find out for yourself. Cabin in the Woods gets “And you have no pants” out of “Cutting the flesh makes him have a husband’s bulge.”
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