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Remote and Controlled

MOVIE REVIEW
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The-cabin-in-the-woods-chris-hemsworth-jesse-williams-anna-hutchison-fran-kranz-kristen-connolly
Diyah Pera/Lionsgate

Five years ago in a review of “28 Weeks Later,” I extolled the virtues of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” describing it as “genre busting” and praising it for reviving and redefining the horror genre — even going so far as to call it “a wake up call” to the industry. Well, if Mr. Boyle’s intelligent and sophisticated zombie romp did indeed succeed in doing that, then Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” can only be described as a landmark, watershed moment in film history, because this is such an innovative, brave, inspired and original entry into the horror oeuvre that nothing will ever be the same again.

Whereas Wes Craven’s self-referential, genre-mocking “Scream” played with convention, “The Cabin in the Woods” positively delights and revels in it, indulging in knowing nods and winks to the history of the genre. Ostensibly, its premise is the typical clichéd collection of kids-go-down-to-the-woods-and-get-into-all-manner-of-scrapes type fare, but this is in fact so much more than your standard slasher film.

It’s impossible to delve into any details about the plot without giving away what makes “The Cabin in the Woods” such a winner, but let’s just say that the suitably creaky cabin and the identikit harbinger our heroes encounter en route are not all that they seem. Tonally, Messrs. Whedon and Goddard’s script is incredibly self-aware and tongue-in-cheek; and there are numerous laugh-out-loud moments, the majority of which come from stoner Marty (a superb Fran Kranz).

As events play out, jaws will invariably hit floors as Messrs. Whedon and Goddard continuously turned the genre on its head, picked it up, spun it round and kicked it up the ass. It’s a subversive, deliciously violent, hilarious roller coaster that is expertly realized and superbly played. As chaos ensues in the final act, it’s obvious that Messrs. Whedon and Goodard were luxuriating in an unbelievably frenzied celebration of horror. It’s unrelenting, frenetic and tremendous fun; and crucially, it always remains the right side of the farcical.

Messrs. Whedon and Goddard have done what Mr. Craven did 16 years ago, but with bells the size of Big Ben on. They’ve broken new ground in what was rapidly — and not for the first time — becoming a staid genre. “The Cabin in the Woods” hasn’t just re-energized the genre; it’s positively and completely reinvented it. This is game-changing stuff and an absolutely essential piece of filmmaking.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

Opens on April 13 in the United States and Britain.

Directed by Drew Goddard; written by Joss Whedon and Mr. Goddard; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Lisa Lassek; music by David Julyan; production design by Martin Whist; costumes by Shawna Trpcic; produced by Mr. Whedon; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Kristen Connolly (Dana), Chris Hemsworth (Curt), Anna Hutchison (Jules), Fran Kranz (Marty), Jesse Williams (Holden), Richard Jenkins (Sitterson), Bradley Whitford (Hadley), Brian White (Truman) and Amy Acker (Lin).

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Comments

So does this useless nerdgasm come from the NYU or BFI part of your site?

Simon,

Thanks for your insightful feedback. Would you care to expand on your critique of my review?

I probably wasn't clear, but it's a simple question. My understanding is that the writers for this site are trained and/or accredited by NYU and/or BFI. This writer is apparently unaware that repeating subjective hyperbole for 400 words without once having the skill or grace to step back from the desperate need for self-expression and actually try and communicate to a reader, not to mention the reliance on concepts like "incredibly" and "unbelievably" which presumably have some reference for the author but are totally useless to anyone else, betray a deep inarticulacy on the part of the writer. So does it come from someone trained by NYU? Or should I blame BFI?

If the objective of a review is to critique a film whilst putting forward an opinion of it, then I've succeeded in doing so as far as it's possible to do for this film.

I don't know if you've see The Cabin in the Woods, but its success relies on knowing almost nothing about it before viewing.

That being the case, a more traditional review, examples of which you can see here
http://www.criticsnotebook.com/alexbeattie.html
would not work.

If you don't like my review, that's fine, but to disregard it as a "useless nerdgasm" and as a "desperate need for self-expression" is entirely missing the point.

1) "If the objective of a review is to critique a film whilst putting forward an opinion of it, then I've succeeded in doing so as far as it's possible to do for this film."

Who taught you that that's what reviews should do? The objective of a review is to be read and leave the reader better off, a distinction I'm surprised NYU (or is it BFI?) didn't mention. And I think you mean you succeeded "as far as I personally was able," unless Roger Ebert agrees that you have set an unreachably high benchmark.

(And let's leave aside for now that we're really talking about marketing, not critiquing. Unless I'm wrong, you saw an advance preview of a film before its release and are now playing your voluntary part in a word-of-mouth promotional campaign along with many others. Nothing wrong with that.)

2) "I don't know if you've see The Cabin in the Woods, but its success relies on knowing almost nothing about it before viewing."

Then why review it at all? Why not wait and buy a ticket and go to town on your response as an actual member of the actual gloriously surprised audience? Why not a 40 word review, or a 4 word review? But perhaps BFI (or is it NYU?) didn't cover tricky left-field thinking.

3) "That being the case, a more traditional review would not work."

Or again, "which I personally could not see how to make work," you mean.

4) "If you don't like my review, that's fine, but to disregard it as a "useless nerdgasm" and as a "desperate need for self-expression" is entirely missing the point."

Ok, fair point about the second one. I can't be sure about your motivations. It reads like a pretty desperate need to speak-up about a film to me.

But the first one is exactly the point: This is as far as I can see the first post on this site that could be exported into AICN without the need to change a comma. I didn't "disregard" it as a nerdgasm, I described it as one, and it is.

I'm amazed that you seem to be so personally affronted by the fact that I saw a movie, enjoyed it and wrote down my opinions as such.

I take it that your primary criticism of this piece is that it isn't highbrow enough for your evidently high standards.

Sometimes there's a time and a place for considered reflection on a film and sometimes it's actually ok to gush about a film that surprises you.

As for motives, I don't have any. To suggest otherwise is fairly insulting and betrays an inherent understanding of what it is to be a journalist.

I think you'll find if you read other reviews of this particular film the tone and content is much the same. That's nothing to do with it being a 'nerdgasm', it's to do with excitement about a genre defining piece of work.

Like it or not, I don't particularly care either way. My job isn't to satisfy every customer and I've obviously failed to impress you.

And seeing as you are so interested I studied at the BFI, so "blame" them.

To shoot just the biggest fish in this particular barrel: This is not journalism.

But thank you for answering my question.

That's funny, because the last time I checked journalists practice journalism.

I'd love to hear what stands you in such an exalted position to infer otherwise?

Accepting an invitation from a marketing department to a screening of a film and agreeing to write about it for free on a web platform is not journalism. If you think it is, you have lost perspective.

As you know nothing of my background, credentials or circumstances I will disregard that sweeping, assumptive statement.

As much as I've enjoyed our debate, I'll actually disregard everything you've said as up to now I've received overwhelmingly positive feedback for my work, including from people whose opinions actually hold some weight i.e. the directors and producers of films I've reviewed.

If you'd like to make a more considered critique of my body of work I'd kindly invite you to read my back catalogue of reviews for this site.

I'm always receptive to constructive criticism, but thinly veiled, assumptive dismissals of what I do are particularly useless.

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