Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cabin In The Woods

I cannot get this film out of my head! I watched it again this weekend to get a better look at the infamous white board. All I can say is that CABIN is an orgasmic delight for any horror fan. Just when I condemned American Horror to the pits of Uwe Boll hell, here comes one of the most refreshing game changing films I've seen in a long time. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical in the beginning. I followed the progress of this film because Joss Whedon wrote the script and Drew Goodard was directing. Everyone knows Joss as the Patron Saint of Sci-Fi, soon to be golden boy of the comic world. Goodard got his start writing episodes for the greatest show on Earth, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I decided to put my trust and faith in Joss and give this film a shot. He hasn't let us down yet.
This film was shot in 2009, but sat on the shelf due to conflicts between the studio and Joss Whedon. The studio initially wanted the film to be in 3D and Joss would not have it. The film is perfect without 3D. When will people learn that 3D does not make things better!? Flash forward to Friday the 13th of April 2012: I went in to the theater with no clue what to expect. I refused to read spoilers and I had only seen one trailer. I even missed the Alamo pre-show upon first screening so I couldn't even draw conclusions from that. The first introductory scene of the five young people was nothing out of the ordinary. As soon as I heard Jules & Curt joking about the famous 80s drug PSA, I immediately remembered I was in Whedon's World and all would be right. Aw yes, there's that classic Whedon-speak that we have all grown to love. Seriously, not since John Hughes has one man come to understand young people and vernacular so well. Another special treat was seeing old favorites Amy Acker (Fred from Angel) and Tom Lenk (Andrew from Buffy).
Joss and Goodard obviously have a lot of love and respect for the horror genre. This film is sort of a homage to horror of the past. I think it also does a great job of calling out the current sad state of American Horror. CABIN is a testament to the banal formula of horror films that have come from the US in the last twenty years. It definitely pokes fun of the unoriginality that has become a steady flow in Hollywood. Here's what Joss had to say about it:
"On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction."
Ok, on to the monsters! There's a scene where Amy Acker explains that the monsters are something our nightmares are from. I read one message board post about how it felt like when we were kids and we made GI Joe, He-Man, Ninja Turtles, Batman, and Thundercats action figures battle it out all at once. I love that instead of re-creating THE EVIL DEAD, they wrote a love letter to it and all the other slasher films we grew up with. Did you notice the Deadites on the white board? How about the rape tree? All the references really warmed my heart. I love the HELLRAISER hints, the FRIDAY THE 13TH nods, and especially the Ripley cameo. And what can I say about the unicorn or merman other than BRAVO! I like to think that the giant snake is a nod to Mayor Wilkins from season 3 of Buffy. I also believe the Cabin signifies the ultimate Hellmouth containing the biggest bad we ever saw since The First. There were so many wonderful innuendos that I thought my head would explode from excitement.
I just wanna thank Joss Whedon for restoring my hope in my all time favorite film genre. I would expect no less from such an extraordinary filmmaker. He's one of the few people who create, as a fan for other fans. CABIN truly is a beautiful puzzle for horror fans to study and critique. Take notes Zack Snyder and James Wan! Don't be surprised to see CABIN IN THE WOODS on my Best of 2012 List. PS- I actually might watch THE AVENGERS now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Hunger Games

A lot of people were surprised that I actually saw this film. I figured I'd give my take on it since everyone seems to have an opinion on the number one film currently at the box office.

I guess THE HUNGER GAMES isn't the typical film I would be interested in, but I really wouldn't be a true film enthusiast if I only watched Tarantino productions. My main apprehension about watching it was specifically the director, Gary Ross. I wasn't so convinced about seeing a film directed by the man that brought us SEABISCUIT and PLEASANTVILLE. Let me get this clear; I love film. I pride myself in an extensive knowledge of a wide range of film. It's true I love the usual suspects (Jarmusch, Lynch, Kubrick, Miike), but I also love Cameron Crowe, Gus Van Sant, Scorsese, Gregg Araki, and on occasion Harold Ramis. I'm currently on an Ingmar Bergman kick. Sometimes I have to watch things I normally wouldn't. Films are not always what you expect them to be. For example, no one knew Kubrick's final film would be a steamy pile of turds. By the way, I blame Scientology for that failure. No one knew WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER would be a masterpiece in comedy. Cult classics are notoriously box office bombs upon release or panned by critics. No one realizes that they will be appreciated much later down the line. Who knows, we may be sitting on a goldmine with THE ROOM.

Back to THE HUNGER GAMES. I heard about the books before the film a while ago from my friend Ruth, and they sounded really interesting. Dystopian society themes aren't my thing, but the concept really caught my attention. Also, the fact that such a heavy topic was illustrated for a young adult audience. I will not argue semantics over whether or not Suzanne Collins really knew about BATTLE ROYALE before or after she wrote her novels. Most naysayers have yet to even watch both films to legitimately discuss the two on any sophisticated level.

Yes, I realize there are startling similarities. As I said before, it's really comparing apples and oranges. I love BATTLE ROYALE, possibly even more than the average fanboy. One of my greatest passions is Asian Horror. I do not think it's a valid argument to compare THE HUNGER GAMES to BATTLE ROYALE. Although they exist in parallel universes, these films/books are intended for two completely different audiences. They also have two completely different messages. The impression I get from HUNGER GAMES is that it's more about class struggle. BATTLE ROYALE is more of an examination of the pure savagery of the human psyche.

Here's some things I liked about THE HUNGER GAMES: Jennifer Lawrence! I cannot remember the last time I saw a young actress with such talent. I became a fan of Lawrence after watching her chilling performance in WINTER'S BONE which earned her an Oscar nomination. This girl is gonna go very far. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz are also great in their supporting roles. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Banks and Wes Bentley. I like how the relevancy of the current Occupy Movement tied in so well with the storyline. It almost creates a mirror to our own society's strife.

Some things I did not like: the two male love interests! Her partner in the game fell a little short (no pun intended) for me. It's almost as if the director went to great lengths to portray him extra feeble compared to Katniss. This was completely unnecessary since her character stands out on her own without any assistance. I think it's really fucked up that a lot of critics are saying Jennifer Lawrence looked "too healthy" to be a poor, starving kid. She's an actress not a Trollson Twin! Also, the brooding boy back home was a bit too cardboard cutout. He seemed to be thrown in just for teenage eye candy. The other villain-esque contestants came off very one dimensional. I understand it's hard to develop so many characters without creating time constraints. However, this underdevelopment portrayed the pack as foolish & asinine distractions.

With all that said, did I think THE HUNGER GAMES was the worst movie ever? Certainly not! Was it the best movie ever? No, but it is worth seeing at least once. Since this is a film based on a young adult novel, you should always keep that in mind. When I was a kid, I admired mutant turtles and millionaire playboys who dressed up as bats. It's definitely a breath of fresh air to see a character young girls can actually relate to; a character who is strong, smart, stubborn, and honest. This is a much better example to look up to than some dense, damsel in distress who's trying to bang a werewolf & vampire at the same time.

It's true I am extremely opinionated when it comes to film. I usually trust my instincts when choosing something to watch and I'm usually right. For the most part, I try to give everything (within reason) a chance. Except for James Cameron, he doesn't deserve shit. Anyhow, I enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES, but I'm not gonna run to Hot Topic to buy a t-shirt. I am curious to see how the next two installments play out after the success of this one. Stay tuned!