Friday, December 7, 2012

Dubious Cocktails & Genre Movie Night™ | Cabin in the Woods and Monster-n-Cherry Vodka

I came to Goddard & Whedon's Cabin in the Woods with some trepidation. Horror movies just don't do it for me.  The exception that proves the rule has always been Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, a film I still think is one of his most entertaining. Oh, wait ...  that was true for years and years but there's also been Shaun of the Dead, Scream, and Attack the Block. Crap, I like the first couple Alien movies, too.  Are these considered horror? Do I actually like horror movies and just dislike the torture-porn & slasher sub-genres? It's my natural, susceptibility-enhanced aversion to nightmares (thanks, brain) that fuels my dislike; that aversion response has been on a hair-trigger since I saw the original Salem's Lot when I almost certainly to young to watch even tame, cheesy horror.

Anyways, my generalized distrust of the horror label did leave some wiggle room for the potential to enjoy a film that tweaks the tropes and gets all meta about the enterprise. It helped that it promised some humor and featured a strong cast with long-time faves Amy Acker and Bradley Whitford. Still, this wasn't going to be lowbrow easy laughs, like a Top Secret! sending up spy flicks and teen rock musicals because of course those are two genres we always link and it's natural they should be spoofed at one time. The trailers and everything I'd read about the movie indicated it would be using the tropes as much to practice them as for critique.

Cabin in the Woods bw
Cabin in the Woods
So, with the dubious cocktail of the evening, Cherry Smirnoff and Monster, poured and some popcorn handy, I settled in to see if Joss & Co. would capture my interest in the deconstruction of a genre I'd just as soon leave unconstructed.

At the film's conclusion, when [highlight to see the invisible text in case I'm not the last person for whom it could have been spoiled] the giant hand of ancient evil ripped up through the cabin to begin the end of the world, as far as humanity is concerned at least, and the return of the reign of ancient evil I was satisfied. I didn't feel like I'd wasted my time, I didn't feel insulted or like I'd been condescended to. That's what most horror I've seen has done to me. It's either too stupid, ill-constructed, cynical, and/or transparently misogynist to be entertained by at all. Or, it's just too brutal. (Just remembered another horror movie, I suppose, that didn't disappoint: Let the Right One In.) Cabin was certainly brutal, but it took a cue, I think, from Dead Alive and cranked the dial to 11 -- so over-the-top without being mean-spirited towards any character that had been humanized -- that we could chuckle at the wall-to-wall gore, the images of horror with multiple smaller horror vignettes playing in the background, and release the tension that had been accrued while the characters we did get invested were being ruthlessly hunted.

What helped me look past some of the elements that didn't work as well for me, was the dilemma Connolly's Dana and Kanz's Marty character, the Fool archetype (a Fool, but not foolish), found themselves in at the end. It called to mind a sentiment I expressed, and stand by, back during the Wikileaks saga. The tl;dr version of that link is we don't sacrifice the innocent to appease evil because, if we do, then we are the evil that has taken dominion of the world and we deserved to be destroyed in the first place. That Cabin basically brings us to that dilemma made it more than just a superior horror movie, it made it an important movie. I suspect many will argue that Dana, once the Director (Sigourney Weaver!), explained the situation, should have pulled the trigger and the fun of it is that while I feel like I've got the better argument, the argument for integrity, there is definitely an argument reasonable people can have about what the most virtuous action for each character would have been as all hell started breaking loose downstairs.


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