Friday, 4 May 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

After watching this film, I'm slightly disappointed that I chose it as the subject of my first review. Not because its particularly bad, but because it doesn't really lend itself to any kind of in depth analysis.

A lot of reviews that I read give a paragraph or two to explain the plot or premise of the film. I don't really want to do that here. I think that these reviews should serve as an analysis of the film first and foremost. For a brief synopsis IMDB should be able to do a better job than I ever could:

The Cabin in the Woods(IMDB)

A note about the trailer: I watched it before I saw the film and it felt like a massive spoiler for some of the events that occur later on. Now that I've watched the film it doesn't seem that the trailer is a spoiler as such, but it certainly does reveal a great deal of the surprises to come. You might be better off skipping it if you want a completely 'fresh' experience.

The premise of this film is pretty obviously that it's taking a whole new angle on the teen slasher/monster movie. But what kind of angle exactly? That's what is hard to pin down. It seems as if the film makers weren't completely sure themselves.  From the trailer it's pitched as a horror, but as it goes along it becomes more of a black comedy. The trouble is that it falls somewhere between the two and doesn't completely work as either. As a horror it soon loses any kind of tension as to what the fate of the characters might be, due to it's insistence on knowing winks towards horror tropes over building tension. As a comedy it just isn't all that funny (though there a couple of funny scenes).
The pervading feeling that you get is that someone had a great idea and was able to sell it very well to the producers, but when it came to the act of actually fleshing out a paragraph long synopsis into a 90+ minute film they ran into problems.

Teen slasher films are generally very marketable, they are really cheap to produce and they pull in a large crowd of mainly young people. So pitching your first film as a slasher movie pretty much ensures that you have a reasonable chance of getting it made (and of ensuing box offices success). It's Drew Goddard's directorial debut and it must of been a nice introduction to the job. He's been given a fun idea(that he co-wrote), a moderate budget and a seasoned cinematographer to make a genre film that should easily make its money back at the box office.
The film has that feel about it. Its slickly made and the shots are very well set up, but many of the special effect shots could be better composed and integrated (this is probably down to the fact that they only had a budget of $30m to create a massive amount of special effects). It also feels like very by-the-numbers direction, with no real surprises or flourishes that you might expect from a film that attempts to bend genre conventions.
One shot in particular from near the beginning comes to mind as an example of the poor composition of  visual effects. It's the shot of the eagle crashing into a wall(the shot is also in the trailer). The shot starts very simply as it follows the path of the camper van up the mountainside, but from the very first frame there is something off about it. I know this may sounds reasonably petty, but it is exactly this kind of feeling that can draw you out of experiencing the film and into analysing it instead. After that, at least for me, I started watching the movie from a more detached viewpoint. Perhaps I've watched too many of these films.

The film feels like something that you won't appreciate on an emotional level, but rather on a detached one. Its clever, and has plenty of nods towards other horror movies. What it doesn't really try to do is construct any kind of emotional link with the audience, which in my view is one of the most important intentions of a film-maker.

So yeah, it's fun and it's clever, but for me it was another one of those films after which I walked away feeling like I hadn't really experienced anything that had made me think or feel differently (which is what I usually enjoy most about a good film).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


This blog has been set up to chart my film watching experiences.
I'll be watching a load of films (I'll try for 5 a week, which obviously isnt going to happen), I'll try to give as in-depth a review as possible and provide any interesting information about them too.
No point writing too much in this bit as it will sink to the bottom in no time!