There are some movies you just like right off the bat, and some movies that you think you should’ve liked and didn’t. There was just something about them that was off-putting in some way, and you need to dig deeper to figure out why.
Star Trek Into Darkness was one of those technically competent but off-putting films, but the reason was simple: it was a 9/11 Truther allegory. I’m disgusted that I paid to see it.
The Cabin in the Woods was another. This discussion is predicated upon the reader having seen the film; if you haven’t, what follows won’t make much sense.
On the surface, it was a black comedy/horror film, exposing traditional horror movie tropes, making fun of them, and turning them upside-down. Lots of people liked it: it got a 7.1 out of 10 on the IMDB scale, and a 91% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. In today’s “we’re all so over everything” post-modern culture, it was hailed as an achievement in meta-filmmaking.
In reality, it was a thumb in the eye from Hollywood to every horror fan. Few of us go to the movies to have our intelligence insulted by pseudo-intellectuals, but that’s what The Cabin in the Woods did. The writers, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, are as culpable as anyone for the shallow, lifeless tripe Hollywood foists upon an undiscriminating public, but with this ha-ha-wink-wink film, they try to distance themselves from the mess they helped create.
The slasher movie archetypes they lampoon as necessary to the ritual weren’t created by Hollywood: they’re high-concept. The Scholar, the Whore, the Virgin, the Athlete, the Fool: they’re people we can all identify with, because all of us have been one or more of them at one time or other. They work, and it can be argued that most films of any genre contain these characters. So the attempt to mock them as overdone tropes falls short.
As for the formulaic nature of slasher films, which is the largest target of TCitW, we only have Hollywood to blame. The lack of imagination, the attempts to appeal to the widest audience possible through bowdlerizing material, and the sheer number of remakes shows even the most casual observer that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Last summer’s box office take was down, and it can’t all be blamed on the economy. If you put out the same, already-done crap over and over again, eventually we’ll stop going to the movies altogether. But until we do, don’t make us out to be the idiots for going to see your movies.
These Ancient Ones that demand the ritual be performed in a certain way, you see, are us: the stupid movie-going public. If the Whore isn’t killed, if the Athlete doesn’t die horribly, then the ritual fails, and the Ancient Ones destroy the world. That’s the filmmakers’ way of washing their hands of the mess Hollywood created. They’ve fed us crap for so long they think we expect crap, and if we don’t get crap, we’ll complain. Think about the sheer chutzpah of that, the superiority inherent in that way of thinking. That’s what galls me: they blame their own lack of imagination on us.
They’re not that clever. And we’re not so stupid.