The Cabin in the Woods Drew Goddard (USA 2011) Kirsten Connolly; Chris Humsworth; Anna Hutchinson Viewed: Empire Cinema Newcastle 1 May 2012, ticket £3.50 (Tuesday special price)
On matters pertaining to the surface.
After viewing Cabin in the Woods (CW) I was trying to figure what it had all been about.? What message was Drew Goddard sending to his intended audience? The cinema was full (except the aisle seats) but the audience was muted (sic – many were eating big buckets of popcorn). They appeared neither particularly surprised scared nor amused by what they were seeing. The movie seemed to engage at a level of bland attention. Perhaps this was where it was pitched: a detached horror interface wrapped in a familiar frame: one for the cool generation.
A slew of Horror Gothic and Vampyre movies have artfully combined, ‘knowing’ referential image based self parody and detached distancing dialogue with visceral depiction of action, to create hybrid highly stylised forms of scary comic entertainment. Some movies in these genres tend towards spoofing the material, others veer away from spoof. Some degree of comedic parody is almost unavoidable in any action that references a prior production or type of production.
The mixed group of films that veer away from the spoof is difficult to categorise generically. There seems to be a strand of movies defined by the graphic visceral imagery they employ to lacerate mutilate and destroy the human body, where the safe harbours of parody are left behind by the film makers who sail out into the open seas of signification.
Oldies but goodies, Chainsaw and Night of the Living Dead can be viewed as parodies in the sense that they are comic book horror circuses in which their mutant murderous eponymous subjects are ascribed disingenuous disconcerting human traits and peccadilloes as they carry out their butchery. As depicted these monsters carry familiar discernable shards of ourselves. But there is a meta message contained in the unrelenting savagery of these films in their unpitying serial deliverance of death to ordinary suburban Americans. The films recall the uncompromising Revelations of John the Devine of the final holocaust: the ride of the 4 horsemen, mass death as a cleansing of the planet in preparation for the Second Coming. There are psychic reminders of the Nazi death machine. And the uncompromising comic savagery unleashed also brings to mind the massacres by the US army of innocent civilians at Mai Lai Haditha and Khadahar. American troops, men such as Cally and Bales must have seemed to their innocent victims like as to the Undead come out of the House of Bones. Horror movie as Death’s calling card.
Neither Hopper’s Texas Chainsaw nor Romero’s Zombie films pin down signification. Attached to them is a disturbing but non specific allegoric. Likewise in Horror films of the “80’s, such as the Elm St Series Poltergeist and Gremlins, the idea of the American Dream is given a compelling bloody make over, suggesting possible mutated readings to the spectacle of the consumer society. In the same way sci-fi American B movies of the ‘50’s, such as Night of the Living Dead pointed to the paranoid core of US politics.
These movies, fests of lacerated tissue and dismembered skewered body parts are characterised by the association of their latent ideas within mainstream Western Culture. These associations, like the camera angles that define their shots, lurk hidden behind and within the logic of the movies. They are not expressly stated.
In contrast Drew Goddard’s CiW is a tame experience who’s denouement in the form of Sigourney Weaver brings to the surface a derisory explanatory frame. The device of the Big Brother House, a mechanism with which the viewers will be very familiar is cast as a death trap a means of obtaining appropriate sacrifices for the ‘old gods’ who live in a puddle under the control rooms which are themselves beneath the cabin. Perhaps DG feels that the cool generation of horror film goers demands that everything be made visible. It is not an age of mysteries, it’s an age of pornography. Everything has to rise to the surface and present itself to the detached inspection of our gaze. The cool audience anticipated by DG has no desire to be disturbed by the need to engage with the material at either a psychic social or allegorical level. The corporation that runs the Cabin could be any one of any number of unspoken unexplained forces that potentially lead right back into the core of the viewer’s social matrix. But that’s uncomfortable so CiW defaults in its script to limp material. The explanatory frame invoked is safe and remote from anything that is proximate: it employs the old standby of ‘old primordial gods’ for whom the salary men work as paid employees, not as acolytes. CiW’s aetiological timidity has no interest in the culture’s jugular vein.
Excepting the continuous referencing of earlier schlock Horror movies CiW is not particularly strong on humour. The NASA control room set up that regulates and monitors the fate of those in the Cabin tries to be a parody. The problem is that NASA type control rooms became a parody of themselves years ago (think Strangelove) and in the parody stakes this leaves no where to go. You can’t parody a parody. Otherwise the quintet of stereotyped preppies are left alone as closed in victims of the script that DG sets into play. The script is short on the sort dialogue and other verbal devices that allow the trapped characters to step outside the self referential frame of the movie to comment in parenthesis on the action. The humour such as it is, comprises the one joke variety where Marty the pothead survivor lights up at strategic moments and sometimes doesn’t know if he’s in the movie or in the smoke.
When we cut through the Big Brother setting the devices and plot mechanics, the zombies and their nasty implements for killing we come to a realisation. CiW is actually a slasher preppie hybrid variation on Wizard of Oz meets Raiders of the Lost Arc. The setting makes it comfortable cool frame for it’s audience and the final revealed meaning is all laid out pat and prim, outside social relations, located in the comfort zone of a remote past with new age handles. adrin neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org New document