Live Movie Review: Cabin in the Woods

I always wanted to try something like this. I was sitting around the house this evening, feeling pretty bored, and I had rented Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods earlier in the day, so I thought, what the hell. The following is my unvarnished opinions on the film, posted as I watched it.

(Note: there will be spoilers. Of course, this movie’s like a year old, so if you haven’t seen it by now, you probably don’t really care anyway, but I thought warning you would be the polite thing to do. Unless you actually wanted the surprise of finding out if there’s spoilers in here, in which case, I’m sorry for spoiling that.)

1:04

What the hell was that? Ominous generic horror movie music and credits opening to, what, public domain Dante’s Inferno artwork with blood dripping on it? Is this an allegory or a horror movie? God, I hope its a horror movie and not some attempt by Joss Whedon to make a point. By the way, how pissed do you think the dude who did the original artwork for The Divine Comedy is that he wasn’t born in a time with copyright? That guy’d be a billionaire by now on residuals from third rate horror flicks alone.

2:58

Ok, so generic male receding hairline corporate dude was entirely too confident blowing off the concerns of the hot scientist babe. Something tells me dire consequences lie in wait. Something like, oh, I don’t know, every horror movie ever made.

4:08

A conversation between a smoking hot blonde in a skimpy sundress and a smoking hot redhead in her panties in the film’s first five minutes? Bravo, Mr. Whedon! He certainly knows his audience.

5:05

Hey, is that Thor? Yes, yes it is. I bet he uses a hammer at some point. Chris Hemsworth has brandished a hammer at some point in every film he’s ever been in. Seriously, Thor, The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman…or was that an axe? Actually, I don’t know if that’s true…Thor!

7:07

Holy shit! Did they do any merchandising for this film? Because I’m pretty sure that two-foot bong that collapses into a to-go coffee mug is the single most brilliant invention in the history of civilization! These things should be available in a store near everyone! Strategically placed between the Maxwell House and the Doritos, naturally.

12:19

So we’ve got the stock crew for a horror movie–the jock, the slutty blonde, the black guy, the stoner and the survivor girl–in the stock situation of having a party weekend at some relative’s isolated cabin. They’ve even had the stock ominous warnings of the backwards country dude on the way. This is pretty much Horror 101 so far. So either Joss Whedon just needed a paycheck and mailed it in, or he’s trying to be clever.

13:19

WTF! Did that bird just fly into a forcefield? Yup, clever it is.

21:21

Uhhh…ok. That was just a gag scene, right out of a Scary Movie spoof with the Harbinger. A speaker phone gag, at that. What is going on? We’ve got a serious cliched horror film being controlled and directed by two guys straight out of Airplane? Dammit! Whedon’s being clever. I’m not going to say this has totally gone off the rails, but it’s teetering right on the edge.

24:27

Alright, Whedon brought it back a bit with that scene. These corporate lookin’ guys are controlling things but only to a point. “If they don’t transgress, they can’t be punished.” That sounds like all kinda bad news for Scooby and the gang. But still, bad, bad choice to go with that speaker phone gag.

27:53

Oh, poor Dana! Talk about awful timing. After steeling herself up and taking the dare when Thor called her a pussy, probably thinking she’d have to make out with the wolf head like the blonde did or flash her tits or something, bam! The mysterious cellar door flies open for no reason and that becomes the obvious dare. Sucks for her! She’ll be alright, though. She’s the survivor girl.

33:39

See, this is good kinda clever. The basement filled with creepy ass stuff, I’m presuming all of it cursed. Sort of like a choose your own adventure, but with a horrifying death at the end of each option.

38:19

So not only are the corporate dudes running the show and spying on their every move, they’re making them act even more stereotypical that they already are. I’m not really sure what’s happening again. They’re answering to what or who exactly? And since when do creatures like that want their sacrifices delivered up as horror movies? Zombie redneck torture family? What happens if they fail? Can I put any more questions in this paragraph? Is that microwave popcorn done yet?

44:00

Alright, now we’re getting down to brass tacks! But, honestly, almost 45 minutes before someone gets brutally murdered in a horror movie? Slacking, Whedon. I love the bear trap on a chain, though. That’s got a place in my “shit I really hope to god I never encounter in real life” list.

51:00

Oh, paranoid nihilist stoner dude, we hardly knew ya. I had a momentary hope that super coffee cup bong was gonna save the day, but that damn redneck zombie just took it in stride. And right after he noticed the hidden cameras, too. At least he died knowing there really was someone watching him. Go gentle into that good night, paranoid nihilist stoner dude.

54:40

That bear trap on a chain makes a reappearance! It’s climbing up my list of horrific items I never wanna see with a bullet! And for an instant there, I thought Thor grabbed a hammer, but it was just a 2 x 4. He’ll get one before this is over and done though, just you wait…

56:12

The Japanese dropped the ball and now Kiko’s spirit will live on in the happy frog. Sounds nice.

1:01:18

He’s not going to do what I think he is? No, no, no! Thor…no! He did. Well, you could say he “hammer”-ed that force field. With his face. I get it! It’s a metaphysical sort of thing. Hemsworth didn’t wield a hammer in this film, he became the hammer. Streak saved. (Again, I don’t really know if he had a streak.)

1:02:56

And then there was one…survivor girl. Good to know that the death of the virgin is optional, though. I’ll keep that stored away in case I ever need to appease some ancient diety. I’m really not digging the puppet master corporate types side of this movie. The tone is off. Either the horror movie side is took heavy or the puppet master side is too light. They’re clashing in an unenjoyable way.

1:06:58

Damn right! Paranoid nihilist stoner dude lives! And he saved survivor girl by finally overcoming that horribly frightening bear trap on a chain! The corporate folks do seem a bit disturbed by this development, however.

1:18:06

This is awesome! Just total chaos, every horror movie monster you can imagine and then some just running totally amok! They evidently had a sizable line item for fake blood in the budget of this film. This totally makes up for making me wait half the movie to see somebody offed.

1:19:00

A murderous unicorn? Really? Eh…

1:23:23

Ladies and gentlemen, Sigourney Weaver! Conveniently here to explain everything they couldn’t be bothered to present through actual narrative storytelling. Hoo-rah!

1:30:33

Giant evil gods. Huh. Has anyone checked on Joss Whedon lately? How’s he doin’? Maybe somebody oughta give him a call just to say hello or send him a cookie bouquet. Jesus, that was a cynical ending! Fuck it, humanity deserves to die so let’s just fire up a joint and watch the world burn. Man, I thought I had a low opinion of the state of things, but that movie was just…dark. And not in a good way. That’s the kinda shit where I wouldn’t be totally shocked to find out whoever wrote it offed themselves later.

Overall, not a good movie. The main plot device was too clever for its own good, and Whedon setting two different tones (horror and almost comedy) between the two halves of the film just didn’t work. And that ending, wow. I’ve seen and enjoyed unhappy endings where the heroes fail and the world crumbles but that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the protagonists, the good guys of the film, just decide to let the world end even when they easily could have stopped it. It’s just too callous of a disregard of basic humanity. The choice was he can die or he can die and cause every soul on the planet’s death, too. Cardboard as they were, and even with stoner dude’s obvious nihilism (which, in and of itself, was pretty unrealistic) I just don’t believe either one of those characters as established would have made that choice.

This whole movie felt forced. The different tones were forced together, the horror movie within a horror movie element came off as a smug, look-how-clever-I-am device. The over-the-top humor seemed awkward and out of place for the most part, and I don’t buy the ending at all.

So, that’s it. Even though the movie sucked, this was kinda fun. And I actually made it all the way through without getting bored and bailing to go get some nachos.

Final Conclusion: Stay away. Stay far away.

Published in: on February 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Second Thought, One Visit To Pandora Was More Than Enough

Last week, I wrote about the attempts to capitalize on the success of James Cameron’s film Avatar.  At that time, I hadn’t seen the movie.  Well, now I have.  At least, the first two hours before I finally got up and walked away.  I watch a lot of bad movies, and very rarely do I ever turn one off, but this one didn’t make it.  I don’t know what I was expecting, blockbusters are usually pretty limited story-wise anyway, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.  Well, not really bad, just juvenile.

If you haven’t seen it, you may not want to read on.  Of course, the story is so predictable and simplistic, there’s really nothing to give away that can’t be gleaned from the 30-second trailer.  There are much better things you can do with those three hours (yes, it is almost three hours long).  Sure, the effects are cool and all, but an even slightly coherent plot would be nice.  Basically, you have humans invading this alien world to steal an element called, believe it or not, unobtanium.  No joke.  I very nearly turned the movie off when they first said it.  Wasn’t unobtanium one of the three fundamental elements they needed to get the Cobra death ray to work in the old G.I. Joe cartoons?

Despite being armed to the teeth, and apparently having the will to blow this extra terrestrial paradise to pieces, the humans instead choose to grow mindless clone bodies of the native aliens, and then linking them by remote control to people.  My thought was they would do this for infiltration, you know, sneek into the enemy, gather intelligence, engage in a little sabotage, what have you.  But what do they do once they have these bodies?  They head down to the planet dressed up like the A-Team.  Nothing like subtlety.  They have an understanding of the alien language and culture.  Would a little native dress have killed them?

When the main character gets captured by an alien female, he discovers that they all speak reasonably good english.  And despite the fact that they know he came from the humans, and that the humans want to kill them, they inexplicably welcome him in, offering to teach him all of their secrets.  Sure, here’s all of our valuable information so you can go back and use it to better slaughter us.  Perfectly reasonable.

The aliens, which look a lot like a blue version of Shrek, possess the ability to connect with plants and animals of their planet through a built in USB cable in their pony tails.  And apparently, there’s this one tree that contains all the knowledge of the planet and tells the aliens what to do through floating jelly-fish looking spores.  I didn’t even see the ending and I can tell you that the aliens win.  Despite the fact that they have flying lizard looking things, big land animals that look like an elephant had a hot date with a hammerhead shark, and some bows and arrows against the best military technology humans can conceive of, even as far into the future as the film is set. Again, perfectly reasonable.  Everybody knows that you can defeat tanks by throwing rocks at them.  Haven’t you seen Return of the Jedi?

But all of this is a moot point because I went into the movie expecting something more.  I’d read review after review touting the great story line, and the message Cameron was telling us about respecting nature and the dangers of colonialism and all.  I thought this might actually be a somewhat intelligent movie.  Hey, I liked Terminator.  I enjoyed The Abyss.  Aliens was even pretty good.  Didn’t care much for Titanic, but I’m no Cameron hater.  I was just misled.

For all its great effects, Avatar is little more than a high-tech cartoon with a plot designed for the sensibilities of a 12-year-old.  For a movie repeatedly described as groundbreaking, it’s shockingly unimaginative, amounting to little more than a mash up of various other sci-fi movies set to a fancy background.  Why are there floating mountains?  And why, exactly are there waterfalls cascading from them?  Where is that water coming from?  It’s a giant floating rock in the sky connected to nothing but air, how can there be a steady river of water up there?  See, I tried to bring an actual adult sense of reality to the film, because that’s what I thought it was, but it’s a Saturday morning cartoon.  And that’s okay, if you just want to watch some interesting visuals for three long hours with only a modest plot to drive you from background to background.  But if I’m going to spend three hours watching a cartoon, I’d still rather see Scooby Doo.

Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Movie Review: Paranormal (Lack Of) Activities

Let me get this out of the way:  I liked The Blair Witch Project.  I thought it was original for its time, creative and genuinely creepy.  I never really understood the backlash that came out against the movie later on.  I kind of enjoyed Cloverfield, with the giant unexplained creature trashing New York.  I was somewhat indifferent about REC (and appalled by the Americanized version, Quaratine).  So, suffice it to say, after seeing the new hot movie of the moment, Paranormal Activities, can we please knock off the pseudo-documentary, hand-held camera schtick?  Ten years ago, it may have been clever and original.  Today, it’s just a lazy way to look edgy.

I was really looking forward to seeing this film.  I bought into the hype, and had heard from numerous people that this was a genuinely frightening film.  I saw it with a girl who doesn’t go to many horror movies.  I had to talk her in to going, convincing her that a good scare isn’t a bad thing.  When it was over, on the way out of the theater, she turned to me and said, echoing my own thoughts, “What the hell was that? That wasn’t scary at all.”

If you don’t know by now, Paranormal Activities details the experiences of Micah and Katie, a couple who have experienced strange goings on in their home.  Micah even went out and bought a video camera to document the bizarre acts, setting it up on a tripod in their bedroom to keep vigil over their sleep.  The movie starts out slowly, with only a few loud noises, occasional unexplained footsteps, and a bedroom door that opens and closes a few inches on its own.

After consulting a psychic for help, we learn that Katie has been followed by these types of things her entire life.  The psychic, who’s appearance later in the film is actually a genuinely funny moment, informs Katie that she’s being stalked by a demon and leaving the house won’t help because the creature will just find her again.  It’s a setup to explain why the pair doesn’t just flee at the first sign of trouble, but it’s an unconvincing one as she explained that the odd things happened when she was 8 years old, then again when she was 13, then periodically over the years.  It seems to me that it made more sense to move and buy some time for the demon to find her again rather than just hole up exactly where it knew she was, especially when the strange happenings started to escalate.

Early in the film, the nighttime scenes in the bedroom were somewhat scary, but by the 14th or 15th time, it was pretty clear that when the counter at the bottom of the screen stopped moving in time lapse speed into real-time, something was bound to happen.  There was never any real tension in the film precisely because of this.  Every demonic moment was clearly telegraphed and predictable.  It was like watching a flip book horror film, with each night progressing slightly more than the one before, from softer to louder footsteps, light shadows to darker, more defined ones, and the actual physical activities, like bed sheets moving on their own or doors slamming getting slightly stronger with each occurrence.  By the film’s end, the conclusion had been foreshadowing to within an inch of its life, leading to what seemed more like the inevitable rather than genuinely surprising.  In fact, the only thing that surprised me was that Katie never snatched the video camera from Micah’s hands and smacked him upside the head with it.

I will say that last few minutes of the film does have the only two  “jump” moments, and the very end is at least somewhat creepy, if predictable.  The only real tension in the entire film came after it was over.  A short copyright notice came onto the screen, Followed by black with the slight freight-train sounding buzz in the background, leaving me to wonder if something was coming.  The black screen lasted for almost two minutes, the lights still dimmed in the theater, all the while steeled up for something to appear and shock us, but nothing ever happened.  Just like the film itself, waiting and waiting and waiting for something scary or unexpected to happen, only to be left disappointed.

That being said, this isn’t a horrible film, just bland and a little slow.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s probably worth a look for a buck from a DVD vending machine down the line, but don’t waste the high price of a theater ticket.  I have a feeling that the theater experience actually detracted from this movie anyway, and it might be more effective watched alone in a dark room.

Published in: on October 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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