Monday, May 20, 2013

Cabin in the Woods rewatch: the sympathy angle

Here's a meta comment before I get into a very spoilery examination of Cabin in the Woods, the Joss Whedon/Drew Greenberg horror movie/commentary: why do I have both an "Overwatching" and a "Movie Analysis" tags?

I think it's fair to say that Whedon's material has a style, often very verbal and witty and quippy--there's a reason that his film after The Avengers was Much Ado About Nothing, a pretty verbal and witty Shakespeare play. (Well, they're all pretty verbal...)

Perhaps that style is not always well-suited to the material; there's something flippant about the way that Thor says of Loki that he's adopted that doesn't really fit with Thor's character up to that point--but it sure does get a laugh. However, when dealing with teens and new adults*, Whedon-esque dialogue works pretty well. And when some very similar-sounding dialogue is put into the mouths of corporate drones, like the people planning to murder the kids...

Well, that's the thing: you might be tempted to say that the glib wittiness of the bureaucrats sounds unconvincing, but it also sounds very identifiable, which is one of the great tricks of this movie: we root for both sides.

In a lot of adventure/genre fiction, there's a character who is pretty unpleasant whose death doesn't disturb us (if it occurs early) or whose death we cheer (if it occurs late and they've been unpleasant). If you want some early evidence of this, check out the early sound film version of The Most Dangerous Game (1932). This is very much the case with a lot of standard slasher and horror movies.

But just about everyone in Cabin has some redeeming and identifiable issues. The suits aren't some squares working for the Man (don't know why I slipped into 70s slang, just roll with it), they're fun-loving jokers talking about wanting a beer and planning for the future--Bradley and his wife are trying to have a baby. Aw.

Which is why the audience may suddenly find themselves rooting for Richard Jenkins's character when he's running to fix an electrical problem--even though that fix will then trap the campers who we also have been rooting for. That's one reason we spend so much time with them and another reason why they are portrayed as just regular people.

There's a lot more to say about this movie, particularly it's construction--how beats early on get paid back in full at the end, but that mighe be worth another blogpost.

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