Saturday, October 26, 2013

30 Days of Halloween - Day 25: Choose-Your-Own-Monster Meta-Horror Fun


Since my approach is mostly literary, and I've dealt with films only twice in this series (Day 7 and Day 19), I think today I'll throw in one more cinematic entry.  The director of The Avengers brought the same panache, intelligence, and humour he applied to that iconic superhero tale to the iconic horror tale he took on in Cabin in the Woods.  The fact that the two films evince almost opposite worldviews (heroic redemption vs. anti-heroic nihilism respectively) is a huge credit to the existential ultimates Joss Whedon is willing to explore.

I don't always like the aesthetics in Cabin, but it's good film-making and a wonderfully fresh take on the genre.  It's at one and the same time an ode to that genre and a critique of it - a critique, that is, of its makers and audiences.

The film is, as they say, 'very meta'.  But terms like 'meta-fiction' or 'meta-horror' can sometimes summon connotations of hyper-intellectual snobbery and general douchiness.  Cabin didn't come across that way to me at all.  It was a downright good time.  Very funny and mystifying and thought-provoking in equal measure.  And it's the kind of film you want to re-watch almost immediately.  You want to go back now that you grasp what was happening.  And the director has woven in tons of little references and tributes to classics of horror that horror-nerds may enjoy freeze-framing and cataloguing.

Last night I had several friends watch it who aren't into horror like I am.  I promised them only that it would probably not be at all what they expected.  Within the first five minutes of the film each of them couldn't stop exclaiming: 'This is not at all what I expected!'  That feeling only increased for them as the film proceeded and climaxed.

It's hard to say anything at all about the plot and theme without creating various expectations or without giving away crucial aspects that are best left unanticipated.  If you haven't seen it yet, I'd rather you go into it cold.  The next paragraph contains spoilers and is only meant for those who have already seen the film.  If you haven't, I can only beg you not to read on.  For you, the review is finished.  Go and view.


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All I want to do now is enthuse about some things I liked:

* The two head technicians played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford!  They stole the show for me and gave the film a slight Coen brothers injection.  In fact, every scene that took place at Control was exquisite, especially spliced so beautifully and cleverly into the goings on at the Cabin.  (The monitors showing the efforts of Japan and other countries added yet another genius - and often hilarious/terrifying - layer.)

* 'Marty' as a character and his performance by Fran Kranz.  (I cringe at the Libertarian Hemp for Victory 'sub'text, but he was so hilarious!)

* The way the control room had to manipulate the college students chemically and otherwise to fit their stereotypes for sacrifice.

* The whole Lovecraftian Ancient Ones plot machinery and the worldview meditations it heaved up.

* The 'inspirational' build up to the absolutely fantastic motorcycle jump scene!

* The giant glass cubework of nightmares-made-flesh and the chaos they wrought when loosed (and the great opening of that sequence by the simultaneous ringing of the elevator chimes!).  I resonate with the film's uncomplicated love of monsters beneath which resides the deeper complexities.

I'm sure there are many more aspects I liked, but this is off the top of my head.  The fact that such a clever and entertaining film is also so philosophical and theological, of course, crowns it for me. Maybe another time I'll write on those aspects.