You’re comparing apples to oranges, Santino. The Cabin in the Woods is a horror/comedy, not straight horror and not meant to be taken seriously. If you did not find it funny or entertaining that’s fair enough, but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize it for not being the kind of movie it never wanted to be. That there are some interesting themes to be found are the iceing on the cake, but its primary goal is to provide a good time, which I certainly had.
I agree, but look at the standards of your average movie goers and what is essentially popular now. You have torture films, horror comedies and your pov films. Since this is pretty much what people want to see, it’s basically what’s going to get made over a more intelligent film. We get an intelligent horror film every once in a while but I don’t think it’s enough to change things up. You really just have to take what you can get and deal with it. I think this is one of the better films we can get in the state of horror. But that’s really how I feel about American horror. There’s really a ton of good stuff elsewhere.
Ok, that’s cool. As I stated, I did find it entertaining and I was laughing most of the time. But what I was saying is that that’s where it ends for me. As a serious critique of anything, much less comparing it in ideas to Funny Games (a film that I didn’t even like) is a mistake, in my opinion. I think the film belongs right next to Piranha 3D, Scream, and Hobo With a Shotgun. That’s not a bad thing – in fact, I’d take it as a compliment.
The Funny Games thing is there. It’s announced with the title credit homage and both films are asking how we identify with violence on film. Funny Games condemns its own audience for being venal enough to watch the movie and proceeds to “punish” the viewer. Cabin in the Woods raises similar questions, but because they are the horror audience themselves, identifying with the viewer, they raise it in the context of an enjoyable genre exercise and don’t get all self-righteous about it.
SPOILERS FOR FUNNY GAMES ;)
For me, the most interesting thing was the look it took on it’s own gendra, both praising it and beeing more critical about it. There was the geek aspect and also the auto critical aspect that can please in my opinion both the geek and the cinephile. Not a big fan of horror films, I found my self having an really good time both in trying to decode the references and message and just plainly enjoying the movie. Being a big fan of funny Games, there surely is references to it, but the message about violence in media that is in FUnny Game isn’t really transposable here. They’re much more interested in what is in their horror gendra (wih is a part of Funny Games) and, while there isn’t a single scene of graphic violence in Funny Games (except the one that is «taken back by the director), there is plenty in THe Cabin in the woods.
I don’t see CABIN as a criticism of horror (perhaps a critique of certain recent trends in the genre), so much as an apologia for the genre as a whole.
The genre, just as the “watchers” in CABIN, perform rites wherein by sacrifice are satiated the “ancient gods” and our most primal and dark desires and fears are sublimated. The horror audience faces their fears and the evil of the world in a controlled, safe environment; in the same way, the watchers in CABIN manipulate events to keep the fears at bay and the darkness from overtaking and conquering the world.
As such, typical genre benchmarks (the destruction of the randiest teens first, the victims engaging in questionable survival strategies) become rites; the familiarity of the tropes becomes their strength.
Thankfully, the movie delivers these parallels via well-executed jokes and smartly dispensing its exposition through action, laughs, and the winking manifestation of crusty cliches. It all works because it delivers on an entertainment front (from a story structuring standpoint, having the competing stakes wherein we want our heroes to survive, yet are aware their survival will lead to the destruction of humanity, is a very nice touch that creates effective narrative tension).
The day after seeing this, I happened to watch RUBBER, which takes on a similar “meta” tactic, but with much less thought and much poorer results. It doesn’t help that, despite some moments of cleverness and inspiration, it becomes repetitive and boring, failing as much as entertainment in the end as it does as criticism.
“Cabin in the Woods raises similar questions, but because they are the horror audience themselves, identifying with the viewer, they raise it in the context of an enjoyable genre exercise and don’t get all self-righteous about it.”
Not sure about that. It’s just far less of an intelligent commentary. There’s no guilt or even consequence when anyone gets killed in Cabin. It’s not really very provocative either. It does not implicate the viewer in any sense that I understand it. It’s fun but let’s be fair here. As a critique of horror, the film is quite shallow and its targets are fairly obvious (hell, even the last Scream understood that horror has gotten over its virgin complex and many of the other tropes in Cabin which are more 80s than current)..
That there’s a thematic connection, doesn’t mean I’m suggesting their themes are identical. Of course, my prejudice here is my disdain for Funny Games, so its fairly easy for me to elevate Cabin in the Woods over it. We are asked to identify with Jenkins/Whitford as they cause/witness the mayhem, watching on a screen, just like they are. I’m particularly thinking of the scene where the final girl is fighting for her life in the background, while we focus on the crew’s celebrations. They’re casually enjoying the horror just as we are.
None of this is as direct and scathing as Haneke’s vision, but sometimes the nudge of an idea can be more effective than an all out assault. I’m reminded of Martin Scorsese talking about filmmakers who are “smugglers” in his Century of Cinema doc. He was referring to getting messages out through The Code era, but horror movies have turned out to be an effective means of smuggling in political ideas as Romero did with his Dead series. I don’t want to overstate the case because Cabin is first and foremost an entertainment, but there’s also a degree of substance on the edges.
Are we supposed to be identifying with Jenkins/Whitford? I didn’t get that. Maybe the new guy since we’re seeing things more from his point of view. I think what’s fun about the film is that they are the “bad” guys but of course in the end we have to be rooting for them to succeed (or the world ends). Of course, in the cinematic universe of the film, we don’t really care that the world is going to end as long as the protagonist “survives”.
Looking back, it appears I’m reiterating ALL THE BEST PEOPLE’s point, but anyway:
I think a lot of people get stuck on the idea that the film intends to satirize recent gore horror flicks. That’s really only half the film, and the less interesting half IMO. There’s also the implication that humans (not just the cabin-goers) are only vaguely conscious puppetlike organisms, that existence is nightmarish, and that all horror extends from that basic premise-consciously, unconsciously, or hyperconsciously (a la this film). I tend to agree.
This excerpt from an interview with Goddard is worth noting:
“The truth is, this movie does comment on a horror movie, but that wasn’t our goal. We wanted to comment more on who we are and what part horror plays in us as a people.”
Haneke would prefer if we were watching Bergman.
sometimes the nudge of an idea can be more effective than an all out assault.
YES!! Where Funny Games is all holier-than-thou and (dare I say) pretentious, Cabin in the Woods is fun and laid-back. They are definitely thematic cousins, but their methods and goals are very different.
Santino, The Orphanage is terrible. It was just a bunch of jump scares, creepy children, and half-assedly executed themes copped from Rosemary’s Baby. :/
One of my favorite parts of Cabin in the Woods:
Teenager: “Whatever we do, we have to stick together.”
Also, “show us some boobies!”
I don’t think Cabin goes far enough in it’s satire, at least not in how it concludes.
The antagonists and targets are unimaginative “directors”, who manipulate a very finely-tuned, restrictive set-up. Yet when they meet their comeuppance at the hands of their test mice, the film turns it’s back on the protagonists, and the audience, by effectively destroying all hopes of a life without them.
A bit pessimistic if you ask me! Horror can work well without adhering to the conventions, and this film itself is proof. So why would the film’s thesis be a simple embrace and justification of these well-worn tropes?
The Cabin in the Woods plays along with you. It is no more (and no less sophisticated) in its genre deconstruction than you or your friends. And this is why it seems to play well to a certain type of internet nerd audience that, above all else, likes to critique character motivation and certain elements of plot construction, just as I imagine many of us do when we watch a not-particularly-great horror film with a group of friends. On that level, I think it’s a success. Throwing a bunch of monsters from other horror movies together at the end isn’t particularly inventive, but at least it’s kind of fun to watch, despite Goddard’s directorial shortcomings.
My problem is that it’s being praised as if it were this wonderfully insightful piece of criticism, as if it were the last word on horror (or, even worse, that it might be some statement on human nature and why we seek out these horrors in our art/entertainment – if that was actually the goal of this film, as that Goddard quote Shaun provided above, then the film is hopelessly lost). It’s just not particularly insightful about anything. Which is fine, because, aside from some overreaching quotations from Goddard and Whedon, I don’t think it’s meant to be. Contrast this with Joe Dante who, in my opinion, is much better at smuggling critiques (of genre, society, politics, etc.) into seemingly superficial entertainments. Ostensible “kids movies” like Small Soldiers and Matinee each say more about our culture of violence than Cabin even attempts.
Another issue I have is that, as a love letter to horror fans — which I do think it is intended to be — it fails as a horror film. It’s not scary, gory, suspenseful, gross, inventive in its use of the genre or anything else that a horror fan would appreciate. I certainly don’t think the lack of scares is meant to be a Funny Games-like critique of the audience; it’s just that the filmmakers seem more interested in critiquing the genre than in displaying what the genre is good at. This is why, ultimately, I prefer Scream, which was funnier, fresher (at the time), and actually scary, or at least engaging, in its use of the genre. As a director, Goddard is certainly no Craven.
^It’s hard for me to disagree with any of that.
I’ll take it a step further. The Burbs is better.
Sad to say, I haven’t seen The ’Burbs. I gotta get around to that one.
I’m pretty sure I saw the Burbs in the theater when I was like 6…
EDIT: Oh, nevermind… no I didn’t.
I just saw this. (68/100)
Here are some thoughts and comments off the top of my head:
1. While watching it I thought of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, especially the way the film’s look and texture was so much scarier than this film, which almost seem to want to recreate an 80s/90s horror movie—not just in terms of the look and feel, but also the nature of the horror that was used (which wasn’t so scary as it seemed pretty dated)—and not just any horror film, but a bad one. The filmmaking and horror situations seemed cheap and not very creative—almost like a b-movie film. Now, given what I think the film is about all of this might be appropriate, but I must say it’s not my thing.
2. What is the film about? Here’s what I got. It seems to critique the horror genre—or maybe I should say it critiques the forces behind a horror genre. The film seems to offer three reasons for this: a) a envy or hatred of youth—with a somewhat interesting tie-in with human sacrifices in other cultures…; b)…horror films serve as a modern day sacrifice—maybe providing a civilized outlet for darker impulses (I just thought of that now, and I’m not sure I buy that); c) audience demand for horror films—represented by the Ancient Gods—i.e., if you don’t give kill off the characters (with the possible exception of the virgin female), then all Hell will break loose—i.e., the audience will revolt? (Uh, that doesn’t sound that convincing, but that’s what I got right now.)
3. I sort of wonder if the people behind the scenes represent the fim industry (although that doesn’t seem right, either).
4. A personal note, the film didn’t really engage me; the film seemed to be going through the motions until the ending. Now, this might have been intentional, but I felt bored and removed from the film. (The whole meta thing was a bit tiresome and the commentary on the genre or society seemed flat. Btw, the first Scream movie came to mind, while watching this, and I preferred that one a lot more.)
I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something, but I’ll read the thread, and see what others thought.
You really have it with C, and a bit with B, and A would be another meta conversation.
This is a film made for horror fans by horror fans who are fed up with mainstream horror. And I love it. I laughed a lot in this movie—a knowing kind of laugh, not really a comedic kind of laugh. I’ve seen all the films that precede this one (or 70/100, according to a recent facebook test thing), but I was raised on the horror section of my local video store, and this film was for me.
Yes, if you break the mold the audience—the Old Gods—revolt, and don’t buy tickets. The hand at the end that closes the film is the hand that changes the channel on the remote.
To your 1—Almost like a B movie? It IS a B movie, and reveling in it.
To your 2—You pretty much nailed it.
To your 3—the managers of the process are the writers Goddard and Wheadon.
To your 4—the ‘going through the motions’ was the point, the typical horror film that’s been made since the 70s. The movie gives us a reason for it. Scream’s commentary is weak compared to this.
More interesting is the way it implicates its own audience (a la Funny Games) and criticizes the horror tropes that it simultaneously celebrates. I’m curious what others think about how critical the film is of the state of filmmaking and watching in general. We are, after all, enjoying a film that’s about the predictability of its genre.
I guess I didn’t really find the criticism of the genre or the audience all that poignant or revelatory—almost like shooting fish in a barrel. (I felt similar to Funny Games, although I felt more annoyed at Haneke as it seemed empty, while offering pointed criticism.)
Also, maybe I missed some of the jokes, but I also noticed some (laughed at one—can’t remember which one now), but mostly didn’t really find the joke or the performances that entertaining. (Man, I apologize for being the party-pooper.)
Tommy said, I thought the saw headed guy would be that since he’s essentially Pinhead.
From the Hellraiser films. I’m almost sure that’s who he represented. He also has a puzzle sphere (instead of a cube) in his hand.
Ari said, The film’s commentary on why characters in horror films act so stupidly is quite right.
What was the film’s commentary?
Brad said (about House’s comment): As House said, the old gods are us, so the ending could be read as our wiping the slate clean and challenging horror movies to find uncharted territory, because Cabin in the Woods has made it clear that we see the man behind the curtain.
I like the idea of “wiping the slate clean,” and if that really fits, it improves my impression of the film.
Santino said, This is sooooo much easier than actually taking on a subject matter in a serious way. This is why a movie like Let the Right One In is light years more sophisticated than Cabin in the Woods. If you look at the best horror films – whether Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Shining – they try to take the genre to the next level.
Good point. (And I’m glad I’m not the only curmudgeon here. ;)
Wolf said, _(or, even worse, that it might be some statement on human nature and why we seek out these horrors in our art/entertainment – if that was actually the goal of this film, as that Goddard quote Shaun provided above, then the film is hopelessly lost.)
I don’t know if the film is “hopelessly lost,” but I would say it failed if it was trying to make a statement about human nature—so I agree with Wolf, here.
Wolf said, it’s just that the filmmakers seem more interested in critiquing the genre than in displaying what the genre is good at.
My sense was that it was trying to recreate horror films of the 80s/90s as a loving homage, but in doing so, it wasn’t scary at all (as you mentioned). (Btw, this quality makes me think of the way Coppola seemed to recreate the older horror films of the 30s and 40s when he made his version of Dracula—again, not scary at all.)
One last thing. I’m not really blaming Brad for this, so I don’t want what I’m about to say to be taken that way, but the thread title made me anticipate a meta/PoMo approach, so I was sort of ready for that angle, and that sort of took away from the film. (On the other hand, I might have got that pretty quick even without seeing the thread title.)
Oh, I like these observations. Nice.
Yeah, you’re probably right. Remove, “almost.”
To your 4—the ‘going through the motions’ was the point, the typical horror film that’s been made since the 70s.
OK, but then this is a double-edged sword: It helps make the point, but it’s also made the film hard to watch (read: I was bored).
Scream’s commentary is weak compared to this.
I don’t recall Scream making commentary as much as making references and jokes based on horror films and their conventions. That film was a lot more effective in terms of being scary, too. I haven’t seen it since it first came out, but I liked it a lot more. (I also had no idea what it was going to do—unlike this film.)
It’s not a horror film—it’s a black comedy.
The Funny Games reference is intentional—it’s in the title cards. This is Funny Games for people who would probably never watch Funny Games.
The film’s commentary is that horror writers are lazy, and so are the audiences (at least the ones that pay for shit like Hostel).
OK—not to be rude, but I didn’t think it was very funny.
I didn’t pick up the title cards thing, but I will say this film isn’t as self-righteous and chiding as Funny Games—at least it doesn’t chide and punish the audience for liking horror and violence; it chides them for liking bad horror movies (as well as chides the filmmakers that make them). (Btw, I think I have a better understanding of why FG and Haneke annoys me. It’s contemptuous of the audience in two different ways. First, it assumes the viewers don’t have any awareness that maybe they shouldn’t enjoy violence as much as they should. Second, it castigates them for this and for enjoying these type of escapist films. It’s like going into a movie theater and scolding the audience for taking Hollywood movies seriously and/or enjoying them. A lot of people know the films are silly, and I think it’s bad form to chide them for it—at least the way FG does it.)
But that’s obvious as to be banal, isn’t it? (Hence, my shooting fish in the barrel comment.) You could say the same thing about many Hollywood genre films (e.g. action movies, rom-coms, etc.), and it’s too easy a target
Black comedy—well, by definition not everyone’s going to get it. It;;s for a specific audience, in this case, the 70s-90s horror fan.
And I happen to think that Haneke’s Funny Games‘s so-called “chiding” was well-deserved—for the audience for which it was intended (most of which did not see the film, of course). His point is obvious, even if you don;t like the finger pointing there’s no denying that he was onto something.
And as far as it being banal—yes, it is—to a certain audience. You, me, the prople who post on this site—YES! Of course. But this film was made to make the masses think, and if you read some of the mainstream blogs it has succeeded.
Hmm, I’m going to have to question that “audience to which it was intended” comment to some degree there House, as it suggests either Haneke is lacking some awareness over who his audience really tends to be, or, more likely to my mind, it did give the audience what they wanted, but that intended audience is the one that does see Haneke films and loves that sort of chiding. It’s basically the same deal as teen couples going to Friday the 13th movies to watch teen couples like themselves get bumped off, Haneke’s “arthouse” audience likes to watch their own values attacked by Haneke.
No, no—no absolutes here. I;m not reducing Haneke’s audience, nor talking down to them (and I don;t think Haneke is, wither).
Need to sleep now, but I will return…
I’m not closed to the possibility that I didn’t get it, but I noticed the funny moments, but I just didn’t find them really funny. Btw, fwiw, while the film isn’t exactly a spoof, it’s somewhat similar, and I’m not a big fan of spoofs.
(most of which did not see the film, of course)
But if most of the intended audience didn’t—and wouldn’t—have seen the film, that diminishes the film a bit, right? If you make a film for an audience that you know will not likely see the film, does that make any sense?
His point is obvious, even if you don;t like the finger pointing there’s no denying that he was onto something.
But if it is obvious why does he need to point the finger? Doesn’t that make him seem like a sanctimonious jerk? Would it be cool if someone went into a theater of playing a rom-com scolding the viewers for watching something so unrealistic and silly? Rom-coms are unrealistic and often pretty silly—and deep down many viewers know this—so it’s not like pointing this out is really doing them any favors. And to scold people while they’re watching the film—you’d have to be a real jerk to do that, wouldn’t you?
@Hol and Greg
If we do continue discussing Funny Games, maybe we should do so in a thread dedicated to the film, instead of potentially derailing the thread here. Just a thought.
I wanted to touch on the way hatred and envy of youth might be driver of horror films. I believe Sigourney Weaver’s character (The Director) explicitly mentions this when the two teen characters ask her why they have were chosen. I recall her mentioning sacrifices of young people in other cultures throughout time as well. Also, in the film recall that the sacrifices occur in many different countries. To me, this suggests that the movie isn’t just critiquing Hollywood horror filmmaking (unless it’s saying that the Hollywood approach has spread across the world), but that there is a universal need for violence, particularly violence against youth (because of resentment towards youth).
Btw, how do people interpret the meaning and significance of the title? Off the top of my head, I’d say it’s mainly referring to a horror cliche, while also sounding like the beginning of a story (e.g., “Once upon a time…”)
Jazz, sorry you ended up disappointed. When you said you weren’t into horror, I should have figured that would happen, but then I had hope when you said you liked Joss Whedon. Just as the quality of Mel Brooks’ spoofs varied depending on how much affection he had for the genre, I think The Cabin in the Woods works better for those who share an appreciation for 80’s style horror movies in the Halloween or Evil Dead mode. It’s this undelying affection that keeps the film criticisms from being high and mighty because it points a finger at itself as well.
sorry you ended up disappointed.
Can’t win ‘em all. The concept was interesting, and there’s no reason the humor couldn’t have worked for me. Indeed, I generally like Whedon’s witty dialogue, so I was surprised that aspect didn’t work so well. (Maybe it was a combination of the actors and the horror references.)
…_I think The Cabin in the Woods works better for those who share an appreciation for 80’s style horror movies in the Halloween or Evil Dead mode.
I definitely agree with this (especially WRT Evil Dead—a film I didn’t like). Btw, horror-comedies don’t generally work for me