Monday, April 16, 2012

Elder Gods Don't Need a Punchline


Thanks, Jeff, for starting off the Cabin talk. I've been playing up disliking the film, but the truth is probably that I'm closer to ambivalence than any sort of active disgust. I'm having a hard time mustering up the energy to write anything at all.

I'll also admit that I haven't seen most of the horror films from the last decade (or any decade). In the abstract, I'm a huge horror fan. Once we get into specific films, though, it turns out that I hate most of them. This is also the case with RomComs. These two genres hold such promise yet are also the most constantly flubbed up.

I can't "just enjoy" losers being hacked apart in the same way that I can just enjoy a silly swashbuckling adventure romance. I don't think that John Carter will hold up as anything more than a solid 3-star entertainment. I'll look back on it fondly the way that I look at Willow or Star Wars, but I won't really care all that much if I pop the DVD in. I might have it on in the background while writing a blog post about something else. But, it's still a marvelous entertainment. The message/moral may be simple (fight for a cause, get the girl), but those simple things resonate with me in a way that clever hipster horror doesn't and can't.

Like Adrienne, I want my horror to mean something. Otherwise, watching simulated deaths, no matter how ingeniously executed (pun!), is a waste of time.

Horror films want to be transgressive, but they often just reinforce comfortable smugness. Cabin doesn't fail here. Its target audience is smart hipsters who fancy themselves as seeing deeper than others and being more clever. They're Buffy fans, after all; of course they know what's what. Is it no surprise, then, that the hero of the film is finally identified as the one who questioned appearances and dug deeper? That he's the only one who refuses to compromise his principles for some nebulous greater good? The film really is no different than Piranha 3D at this point or any number of recent films that I haven't seen, but nonetheless feel safe generalizing about.

Transgressions must be punished in these types of horror films, but the audience gets a pass. We get to enjoy others being punished while we sit safe and smug and identify with the folks getting away. We squirm a little, but walk away unchanged.

On to some of what Jeff liked:

"Definitely commenting on how horror films can become rote or over-processed to the point of being pure formula."

Yet Cabin celebrates this formula by framing it as an ancient play-acting pre-ritual-sacrifice ritual. As somehow essential in satiating demonic appetites (like Jason's) [yes, that's a joke, Jason, unbunch your panties already]. Those of us who think that this cliched horror movie set-up/scenario is ridiculously boring don't much care for commentary on it. I love some "formulas" (about a dozen oater plots spring to mind). This isn't one of them.

"I loved the introduction of the Japanese footage"

Maybe the only things worse than modern American horror films are Japanese horror films. I admit that these parodies were funny.

"The multiple screen shot where we see all the various monsters torturing the employees of the company."

I wanted to like the whole "batshit crazy" ending. I didn't. Maybe because everything was rushed. There's a flurry of monstrous violence, but no real stakes. I didn't care about any of those employees and, as I've already stated, I don't really care about "interesting kills" apart from a greater context. (and, please, let me remind everyone that I'm a fan of Breaking Bad, which has an astonishingly high number of "interesting kills" that never fail to delight).


Yup. Sure. I won't argue.

I won't really comment on your dislikes. That'd be too easy to just agree with you.

In the end, I never connected emotionally with the film and that's a big deal. I didn't care about any of the characters and the action felt clever and contrived instead of a lived reality (which is important even in fantasies). John Carter struggles with his identity. Even if we know that he is fated to be the Hero, he seems like a real person with a real personality. The Fool and The Virgin do what Whedon tells them to do. They are not so much creations/characters as they are automatons at the service of that most ancient of evil horrors, the clever screenwriter drawing attention to the man behind the curtain instead of the drama on stage.

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