Film Review: “I’ve Got the Harbinger on Line 2?”

review

Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote September 19, 2012, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else.

The Cabin in the Woods, written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard; directed by Drew Goddard. Copyright 2011. Seen September 18, 2012. Buy at Amazon.com.

Someone needs to invent Whedon bingo. The card squares would be a random selection of the various actors (and crew) he likes to work with (Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, etc.), the various tropes he likes to play with (smart/strong woman, for example), and extras like ‘downer ending’, ‘pop culture reference’, and ‘witty dialogue’ be your automatic free space. If such a game exists (or if there’s a drinking game version of it), then The Cabin in the Woods would be the easiest win of said game. (If drinking game, I think you’d be drunk by the end of the first 30 minutes – dead from alcohol poisoning by the end of it.)

To paraphrase the TV Tropes page on it, it’s virtually impossible to give you any kind of semblance of plot or characterization without spoiling damn near the whole movie. The basic setup is taking the standard horror movie trope of five college age friends going to a cabin in an isolated woods for a weekend vacation and – as only Joss Whedon can do – turning it inside out and upside down.

I went in as blind as I could be, having only seen the trailer. Any articles and reviews about the movie went unread, and as odd as it sounds since I am writing this review, I recommend the same for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It is the type of movie that going in blind will make it more enjoyable, but watching it again will undoubtedly lead to seeing things I didn’t previously.

Filled with Whedon’s patented humor and genre savvyness (“Ok, I’m drawing a line in the fucking sand. Do NOT read the Latin!”), he takes the fourth wall … and the fourth wall only partially enjoys it. The movie is so meta, that I was actually disappointed in the ending (which, of course, I can’t go into detail here due to spoilers). I was expecting one final twist of tropes, one final layer of mind-fuckery, and instead was left with an ending that made me go, “Really? REALLY?” instead.

But up until that time, it was a highly enjoyable movie that delves deep into horror movie tropes as well as the overall tropes they are based on, from religion to fairy tales. And there’s more Whedon allusions than you can shake a stick at. I’m middle of the road when it comes to horror movies – I don’t stay away from them necessarily, but wouldn’t consider myself a fan of them either. I own Saw and Kingdom Hospital, and both Ju-On (what The Grudge was based on) and 28 Days Later scared the crap out of me in a good way. I love the ones that make you think, and that end up saying something about society (other than, that is, ‘sex is bad’). Ones that use humor and recognizing what came before, like Sean of the Dead and the Scream trilogy (I haven’t seen Scream 4 yet), are even better for me. This is all the above and moreso, and has some of the best special effects I’ve seen in a long time.

If you like things meta, I recommend you check it out. I know it will end up on my DVD shelf eventually. (Note: I did end up buying the DVD.)

“It wasn’t all by your ‘numbers’; the Reveler nearly derailed the invocation with his insolence. Your futures are murky; you’d do well to heed my – I’m still on speakerphone, aren’t I?” Mordecai, the Harbinger.