Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cabin in the Woods (2012) dir Drew Goddard

I laughed, I cried, I jumped out of my skin, and generally had a rollicking good time during Cabin in the Woods.

Wait, no I didn't.

Now before you get all uppity and assume this is going to be a full on snark review, it isn't.  Cabin in the Woods was not a bad movie.  Technically and conceptually the movie is pretty solid.  Drew Goddard is a capable director and his script (co-written with producer Joss Whedon) is workable.  There were a number of moments I was pleasantly surprised by the asides and references.  It's a clever movie that managed to do something I hadn't seen before or thought of in a horror/comedy (sort of).

The two main reasons I'm not jumping on the Cabin wagon are:

  1. Hype fatigue.
  2. Cabin suffers from "too many notes".
I'm sure all of you are familiar with "hype fatigue".  By the time a movie comes out we've pretty much seen most of it through marketing, blogs, teasers, trailers, reviews, ad nauseum.  How many times have you seen a movie and that awesome part in the trailer didn't make it into the movie?  Now, yes I realize this is not a new phenom. Watch old trailers for horror movies and a good chunk of the time you know what's gonna happen before you buy your ticket and take the ride.  With Cabin a good deal of my fatigue came from digital word of mouth (facebook and twitter) fangirlism (of varying degrees).  I had a number of people tell me I wouldn't like it (probably for the reasons I'm expressing now).  I did my best to avoid reviews or spoilers because I was interested in seeing what the hype was about and wanted to at least attempt to go into the movie cold.  Unfortunately from the preview and catching blurbs that said something along the lines of "Evil Dead meets Truman Show" I kind of knew what was going on before I watched it.

"Too many notes" is a criticism Emperor Joseph II has for one of Amadeus's operas in Forman's Amadeus (1984).  It's akin to adding too many ingredients to a dish or blending to many colours on a palate. The end result is muddy and whatever elements of greatness there are get lost in the jumble.  For Cabin I feel the same sensation.  If Goddard and Whedon had allowed certain elements to develop or expanded on others while tightening a few bolts here and there then perhaps it might have been a stronger movie.  The way it is though feels like they took all the different themed LEGO and slapped them together based on what they thought would be awesome.  

Here's a few random thoughts of what I liked and didn't:
  • The monster design and execution was awesome.  I wanted more of that.
    • Yes, I know the extended uber-cut has more monsters.  I didn't watch that one.
  • It really wasn't that funny.  Moments of humor but not funny.  Tucker and Dale vs Evil is funny.  Trick or Treat is funny.  It didn't even have the psychotic "what the fuck" humor of Evil Dead II.  I'm understand why people are making some of the comparisons but ehhh, it's a stretch.
    • Most of the humor I took from the movie happened in the office - a humor of mundane, disenchanted, and desensitized employees in the face of horror - gallows' humor.  I bet coroners are fucking hilarious.
  • I appreciated that the characters were actually decent people.  I didn't feel connected to or particularly engaged with any of them but they seemed like perfectly reasonable folks.  
Ultimately, I guess I'm not sure what many of you fans are on about and there were moments during the movie I caught myself wondering that.  I found that I couldn't really get into the movie and by the end I thought (to paraphrase Peggy Lee), "Is that all there is to Cabin in the Woods?"

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