Tag Archives: 2012

CAPSULE: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

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DIRECTED BY: Drew Goddard

FEATURING: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, , Bradley Whitford, Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams

PLOT: Five college kids find themselves trapped inside an impossibly clichéd horror movie situation at the titular locale; if they somehow manage to survive the redneck zombies, they will still have to worry about the puppetmaster pulling the strings.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Cabin in the Woods is a brilliantly deconstructed, offbeat horror movie exercise, but even with its squiggly plotline it remains a bit too normal and mainstream for us. But if you’re a horror movie fan, Cabin is the can’t miss event of the year.

COMMENTS: You’ve seen it before. That’s the point. Five young archetypes—the virginal girl, her slutty best friend, the jock, the shy regular guy, and the anti-establishment stoner comic relief guy head out to the cabin in the woods for a weekend of fornicating and imbibing heavily while playing “truth or dare.” Instead, they get chopped up into teen sausage by some hungry revenant whose slumber they’ve disturbed. If you’ve been watching horror movies in the last twenty years, you’ve also seen plenty of films where the kids trapped in the cabin are horror movie experts who know the rules of the game (this one, for example); so, when the jock says “we should split up” and the stoner looks at him incredulously and says in disbelief, “really?,” you’ve seen that before, too. That, too, is the point.

In the self-aware horror movie subgenre The Cabin in the Woods is unique in that it doesn’t just parody slaughter flick conventions, it honors them at the same time—speculating about why it’s so crucial that the slutty girl takes off her top, why the chaste chick must outlive her, and about why the killings are so formulaic and so… ritualistic. To point out that Cabin is a genuine horror flick and not a simple parody of kill conventions isn’t to say that it isn’t as blackly comic as any horror-comedy to come down the pike in recent times. Every scare flick needs a crusty old gas station owner to act as Harbinger of Doom and give the kids an unheeded warning not to poke around at the old Miller (or wherever) place. Cabin gives us a Harbinger who’s crustier than the stuff that Freddy Krueger picks out of the corners of his eyes in the morning. And while he’s slyly amusing in his over-the-top tobacco-spitting spiel, Cabin brings him back for a hilarious pure-comedy cameo that shows how hard it is for a Harbinger to get out of character even when he’s not obliquely prophesying the death of college kids.

I laughed as much at Cabin the Woods as I did at last year’s full-bore gore-comedy outing Tucker and Dale vs. Evil; but, despite its winking jokes and metafictional flirtations, Cabin works because its postmodern conceits are side dishes, not the main course. It serves us a genuine and very rare course of scares, with real stakes for characters who are not as cardboard as they first appear. Cabin also feeds us the freaky images we go to horror movies to see. The monster design is a big draw, even though the creatures are glimpsed fairly briefly. A scene of a slut making out with a stuffed wolf’s head is icily strange and erotic, there’s the ghost of a Japanese schoolgirl flitting about the edge of the plot, and the carnage of the third act is something I can guarantee you haven’t seen on film before. Cabin‘s only caveat is that it’s aimed squarely at those who are already fans of what Joe Bob Briggs used to refer to as “Spam in a cabin” movies; if you’re not familiar with the tropes, this pop-autopsy of the genre might not win you over. But good horror films are rare, and horror films with original concepts are even rarer; when you find a movie that has both, it’s worth the trek into those dark woods to check it out.

Though helmed by co-scriptwriter Drew Goddard, who acquits himself brilliantly in his first time in the director’s chair, Cabin is most notable as part of a huge year for co-writer/co-producer Joss Whedon, who will have two hit films playing in theaters simultaneously when his comic book blockbuster The Avengers debuts next week.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…starts in familiar territory, then gets delightfully strange… the most inventive cabin-in-the-woods picture since The Evil Dead and the canniest genre deconstruction since Scream.”–Christopher Orr, The Atlantic (contemporaneous)

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012)

Who would have thought that Ed Wood  ((With sincere apologies to the late Ed. You were never this dull and, at least, everything you did was stamped with your quirky personality and offered some fun by way of camp value.)) was:

1. Alive and Well?

2.Working for Marvel Comics?

3. Making a 3-D movie with a mega-budget?

Only Ed himself could have produced such trailer trash cinema out of the pages of a comic book character; he seems to be doing just that in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).

Forget the period nostalgia of Captain America (2011) or Robert Downey’s inimitable personality underneath the armor of Iron Man (2008); the future of superhero movies may well just degenerate into the guttural hodgepodge found in this un-stylish, witless follow up to 2007’s Ghost Rider.

It is little wonder that the indie movie scene, more often than not, offers nothing more than the most execrable rubbish that would make anyone either throw up or roll onto the floor laughing. Because it is Hollywood’s taste, class, and professional entertainment standards that offer them their role model.

The directing/writing team of  Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have a resume straight from the Jerry Springer school of film (or, more aptly, music videos with bad music). Crank (2006), Gamer (2009), and Jonah Hex (2010) should have been warning enough. But, it does to go to show that with the right background and connections, together with the right deal, the most talentless, juvenile hacks can shmooze and ink their way into the latest Hollywood fads.

Still from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)The Ghost Rider character, for those who care, is a sort of the Exorcist meets Evel Knieval. He’s a bottom-of-the-barrel superhero from Marvel Comics. The superhero tag is somewhat questionable—from what I recall of the 70’s comic, he was merely a leather clad flaming skull who rode a chopper from hell and hung out with Spiderman and the X-Men. Apart from his appearance, he fit right in with the rest of the tight-wearing crowd and battled super-villains. That’s not exactly fodder for a unique character, but a matter-of-fact demon as superhero, Continue reading GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012)

CAPSULE: TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (2012)

DIRECTED BY: ,

FEATURING: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, , Twink Caplan, , William Atherton

PLOT: Two filmmakers in debt to their patrons take over management of a run-down shopping mall, hoping to make back the money they owe and lose their fake Hollywood attitudes.

Still from Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Heidecker and Wareheim’s recently-ended television series Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was one of the outright weirdest shows on air, but their short skit format doesn’t translate as well to a feature-length film. There are various hilarious and strange moments, but as a whole it’s a disappointment compared to the show.

COMMENTS: Formatting itself as a film-within-a-film—which allows for several fourth wall-breaking moments and sarcastic plot breaks—Billion Dollar Movie is essentially a combination of several sketches dragged out into a clumsy, broken narrative feature. It opens with a series of infomercials of products to improve your viewing experience, segues into a fake 3-minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator, then finally brings us to our unflappable stars Tim and Eric, casting themselves as over-tanned Hollywood hacks who wasted a billion dollars on an unsellable movie that doesn’t even really star Johnny Depp. In debt to the Schlaaang Corporation who funded them and distraught over losing their extravagant lifestyle—which included the employment of personal guru Jim Joe Kelly (Zach Galifianakis)—the guys take a job as mall managers under the belief that they’ll receive a billion dollars for it. Their financial backers assume they’ve skipped town and go to violent lengths to track them down.

The mall itself is essentially a building-size set-up for several typical Tim and Eric characters and short sketches, only with more recognizable supporting cast members (which means fewer of their more disarming amateur regulars, though James Quall and few others make appearances). There’s the Top Gun-obsessed mall owner (Will Ferrell) and his sickly nephew of an indeterminate age (John C. Reilly), a man (Will Forte) who gets paid not to sell swords from his sword store, a mysterious cult leader (Ray Wise) promoting enlightenment through “Shrim”, a woman (Twink Caplan) who somehow is sexually attracted to both Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and a proud seller of used toilet paper who passively allows his son to be unofficially adopted by a stranger. Oh, and don’t forget the man-eating wolf. He’ll get ya.

Flush with weird, unsettling jokes and plenty of gross visual gags, Billion Dollar Movie offers the type of humor and characters anyone familiar with Tim and Eric’s output might expect. There are moments that seem to blend horror and comedy in such an uncomfortable way as to produce only confused, visceral reactions (a feeling surely recognizable to fans of their work). There are moments that are truly bizarre and hilarious, including Jeff Goldblum’s introduction (as “Chef” Goldblum), the ridiculous digs at Hollywood culture, and the whole Shrim thing. Then, there are moments that just don’t work. Considering their brand of non sequitur, gross-out weirdness is hit and miss in short formats, it’s no surprise that a feature-length film doesn’t really suit Tim and Eric’s skills. There’s no driving force, with a flimsy plot structure and haphazard script that plods along from good joke to bad joke and boring segments in between. Even at its weirdest moments it seems tame compared to some of the sketches in the show, probably because everything is given more context and presented in more familiar terms.

For fans of the show it will likely be a disappointment, but it’s also hard to resist seeing for yourself. Just be ready for surprising amounts of nudity- even for them. I saw a lot of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim that I didn’t expect to ever see.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Cult weirdoes Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim define their small-screen oeuvre with delirious excess and unrepentant weirdness, but their cult television shows look positively austere compared to their cinematic directorial and starring debut, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.” –Nathan Rubin, The Onion AV Club (contemporaneous)