A Serbian Film, American, analysis, Ancient Ones, Anna Hutchison, Bun Man, Chris Hemsworth, Cold Fish, comedy, critique, drew Goddard, film, Fran Kranz, gore, Hellraiser, horror, Hunger Games, it, Jesse Williams, Joss Wheddon, Kirsten Connolley, monsters, movie industry, review, ritual, Sprski, Stephen King, The Cabin in the Woods, The Rite
I’ve never been a fan of horror and gore flicks, but it’s just too bad that the person I spent over half my waking days together with is. Over the past three weeks, the boyfriend’s already put me the ordeal of:
Cold Fish – A sick Japanese psycho-thriller serial killer gore film directed by Sion Sono about how one massively wealthy (and twisted) fish shop owner turns the life of his more humble counterpart, along with his family’s lives, topsy turvy-upside down.
Bun Man: The Untold Story - Some 1993 Hong Kong flick about a murderer effectively getting rid of his evidence by putting the meat of his victim’s through a grinder, then making them into pork buns for unsuspecting restaurant patrons to polish them up for him.
The Rite - Another creepy ‘based on a true story’ American account of possession, exorcism and religion. There’s something about Anthony Hopkins that just makes this film so sexy, though.
A Serbian Film (Sprski) – Don’t ever think of watching this torture porn flick if you wish to cling on to any ounce of your libido. If it were possible for visual stimuli to trigger a pass-out, this would be it.
And the list goes on. Believe me when I say I’ve seen my share of steaming entrails, popped eyeballs, blood fountains and spinning heads. On screen, that is.
Stephen King argues that us people crave the media experience of horror to keep our latent violent tendencies in check. Deprive us of those simple pleasures, and we might go running amok and stabbing our friends and neighbors in the faces. But how long can a general audience so desensitized by violence – such as my friend’s nephew who’s four and a half, and already quite the pro at Team Fortress – truly continue to take pleasure in the ‘thrill’ of watching human beings cut up and decapitated, haunted by ghouls and monsters, or plagued by a mysterious and incurable disease?
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by the latest ‘horror’ comedy flick in town that’s gotten critics raving to no end. I’m sure bloggers and reviewers alike are tired of recycling adjectives for films in this genre as “shocking” or “scary” – which is what the poster image of The Cabin in the Woods suggests to have in store for its audience, but does not unfold according to at all. It’s freshness factor lies in the delightfully complex combination of sci-fi, satire and in-genre references that are careful not to be over-represented by atypical CG effects.
Think Hunger Games and reality-TV when Drew Goddard and Joss Wheddon introduces the concept of victims being tortured and environmentally manipulated through the buttons of high-tech set-ups and controls. Along with the extended metaphoric depiction of horror as an ‘ ancient ritual’; terrorized plot characters as sacrifices to the ‘gods’ (essentially, the audience); and middlemen making it happen from a safe distance in an external control room, as movie-makers and directors serving up senseless visual narratives of sex and violence to us, the audience, who demand for it. There’s no need to further emphasize on the genius of these plot sub-layers, given that critics are repeatedly screaming their heads off: CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT THIS FILM IS ALL ABOUT?
Even for viewers who are just in for the entertainment and fail to see through the intricacies and meta-critique on the subject of modern day cultural horror, this film is a joy to sit through; especially for fans of the genre who’d be thrilled to witness the fast-paced carnival of massacration that takes place at the climax. Look forward to charming ‘cameos’ with a delicious monster-mash, featuring much-loved characters such as from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Stephen King’s It. It’s a hilarious take on the clichés of American horror, and even more so when the middlemen subtly compare their ‘scare’ attempts with Japan’s.
I also especially love how upon unveiling the ‘ritual’ (a.k.a. the entire point of this show) by the appearance of the company’s Director, it all makes sense when picking apart American horror films of today. Plots would typically put elect a group of friends as victims, and proceed to bring these stereotypical characters down, one-by-one until there is a sole survivor or no one left at the end:
*** SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE YET TO WATCH THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ***
1. The Whore: It’s mentioned that ‘the whore’ character is quintessentially the first one to be killed off. There’s a slutty bimbo in every group of friends, usually blonde, who provides certain titillation to the audience - but is quickly annihilated because she is the most despised. It’s considered pretty fun to see Jules (Anna Hutchison) make out passionately with a stuffed wolf and rendered topless before she is brutally mutilated by a random zombie wandering around outdoors.
2. The Athlete: Male counterpart to the Whore. This ‘himbo’ again holds less importance because of his all-brawn-and-no-brains image. In the case of The Cabin in the Woods, Curt (Chris Hemsworth) was originally a scholar; but then chemically manipulated by the middlemen into portraying the alpha-male behaviour of a high-school jockey.
3. The Scholar: Obviously intellectual and of good nature, Holden (Jesse Williams) appears to be the perfect match for The Virgin in terms of an ideal romance. But romance is not what this film is about, and so the death of this character hints at a certain extent of tragedy and loss when The Scholar kicks the bucket.
4. The Fool: Every plot requires an obnoxious character to provide comic relief. Marty (Fran Kranz) is the strange-looking, boisterous, mega-bong smoking pothead – what’s a comedic story without drugs? – to entice peals of laughter from the audience. It also makes sense that The Fool stays alive until almost the very end, because the elimination of this character would take the humour out of ‘horror comedy’.
5. The Virgin: A favourite role among the audience, even the middleman scientist who sympathizes with this naive/innocent character. Of course, the word ‘virgin’ is not meant to be taken literally because an actual one is hard to find in this day and age. It is implied by the Director that The Virgin will always be the last to be killed off (if she is to be), and may or may not survive. The ultimate heroine of the show, Dana (Kirsten Connolley) does indeed effectively struggle to live against the senseless terrors raining upon her.
Why is there a massive hand that emerges at the very end as the ‘Ancient Ones’ rise up from below to destroy them all? It’s probably because since The Fool refuses to be killed off, there’s really not much left to the story to proceed with. Thus the hand as a symbol of massive power and demand for death, overriding the characters’ resilience against their fates, to announce: The End.
The only bone I have to pick would be with the poorly delivered acting, which at times can be painful to watch. Especially one scene after the characters are introduced to the Cabin, and Holden/Dana hold awkward soliloquies upon the discovery of a creepy spy window/mirror. It can probably be argued that the amateurish and detached acting was intentionally brought about to undermine the ‘serious’ tone of the movie. Intentional or not, I found these certain scenes to be particularly cringe-inducing.
*** END OF SPOILER ***
The reason why I love this film so much is because it masquerades under the genre of ‘horror’ while subsequently unveiling witty social commentary on the film-making industry today. There are just so many ways to read into it, while still being thrilled, tickled and captivated. I’m giving this masterpiece a 8.5/10 and probably a full score if not for the unnaturally exaggerated (yet characteristic for an American film) portrayal of the characters at times.
And guess what I’ll be doing later on today? Heading down to cinemas for my second shot of The Cabin in the Woods.