To begin: a critic writes reviews. To review, one must begin by being a purist; the word itself is based on "view" meaning "to look," and is modified by the prefix "re-" which indicates a repetition, in this case the word means "to look again." The critic is the one that looks again, and the greatest are looking again, more closely, rather than the vast majority of merely clever satirists telling the tale on the screen in print form. Often this sin is combined with operating a language under false pretenses, suggesting that the charming, sardonic and oh so clever writer could have made a better film.
The critic tells about how the work functions, delving into the nuts and bolts, the craftsman being separated from the master, and masters into artists.
On the strangest of occasion, popular taste somehow collides with art and the critics, aware that there is more than just another product onscreen, often are so disconnected with their higher calling that they forget to approach the work in the manner that it both deserves and, but more, important needs. To herald a work of art that just happens to be wildly entertaining and is digging its own place in the collective subconscious is a rare privilege. It is the reason that the critic is so vital, so important to the artist community that the casual indifference to the art of film as an art form that is still vital, still growing.
This brings us to The Cabin In The Woods.
This remarkable film has made a huge impact, but only in the specific genre community that exists to support the best the genre has to offer. It is the fan base that keeps this genre alive. The allegedly "critical community" has time and again failed to understand the great value of the societal underpinning for the need of Story and the place of Story in the greater community as a whole.
Deconstructing Cabin will be done later. What is of vital importance, the most important thing of all, is that it is not only a technical masterpiece but a powerful work of dramatic art that is so rich in text, subtext and context that it really should be called that which it is: The Best Film Of That Year. Bar none. Everything else needed to be compared to it, what it did, how it did it and why its importance is infinitely beyond the mere return on an investment.
The Cabin In The Woods is often mistaken for being a comedy. Truth will out, of course that mistake is easy to understand, but mostly because The Best Script Of That Year. Period. The dialog snaps, machine-gunning the plot forward so fast that any holes are considered mere collateral damage. The plot is structured so tightly it threatens to burst at every scene change yet manages to cling to a roller coaster swerve and proceed forward. The pacing is brilliant.
The Best Editing Of That Year is so evident in that, for the most part, it is subtle, almost invisible. When the story dictates a shift in motion and pace, the editing does not hammer at the eye, but acts as an immediate assist to the overall story.
The Best Sound Editing Of That Year is one to which most genre fans will not catch. Because the film takes place in several different places, but only really focuses on two separate scenes, shown in The Best Set Design Of That Year (or is that best visual design?). A granite bunker that holds a sense of Dr. Strangelove on one hand and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the other... and this is where Stanley Kubrick pops up for the first time.
At its core, at its most basic, The Cabin In The Woods is not only a grand good time for genre fans, but a deeper underpinning exists of a future technology that is for the most part current, only one notable exception. There is a sense of the supernatural, of course, and the film's title indicates a knowledge of other Urban vs. Rural mindset as well as a direct and open nod to The Evil Dead. This heavy plot lifting from Evil Dead is not a mere copy, but shows a deeper, Jungian understanding of what the genre is and does. This, and the previously mentioned Kubrick references, is a stronger, deeper occult (hidden) subtext.
The Cabin In The Woods, it is saying, is not the greatest horror film ever made. It is a loving tribute to the genre and its masters and mistresses, touching base if only for a brief moment on as manner of the great films by the greatest filmmakers ever.
It does not shy away from cultures other than its county of origin. In fact, it touches on as many different cultures and their greatest moments in the genre as possible.
This does take us back to Kubrick, because any film that pretended to focus on the great works by the greatest craftsman could not possibly exist in any way, shape or form without at least a nod to Kubrick.
It just isn't done, old boy. Never. Sorry.
So, seeing several nods to the two films mentioned before, that was interesting. After all, it is a horror film, in the genre and being a nod to the greatest ever, why pick a non-horror Kubrick? The Shining is the greatest horror film ever....
Maybe: I think not. But maybe.
In The Cabin, there is the brief scene of the technology that does not exist. Strangely, this has shown up in many other genres, the Wonka Glass Elevator and the Slatafartabarst underground tunnel. Here, though, we see the Magic Elevator, and each stop is like a station of the Unholy Cross. Even the cause of the story, where it veers off from its obvious choices, shows a mangled character holding a ball puzzle. (Nice shout out to Clive Barker and co.) From this brief moment, the hidden is revealed. (Mystery = that which is revealed. Let us now declare the Mystery (the revealed truth) of our Faith.) Mystery solved... and then a series of wild and inescapable events transpires... ending in a blood bath in the Kubrick clean halls....
Which is loaded with elevator doors... seeing the aftermath is like being in Kubrick's Overlook hotel, after the elevator doors flooded the halls with blood.
Okay. Major nod to Stanley. Cudos, again and again...
At 1:16:19, the last gory Kubrick elevator door opens. The bloodied (and congealing bloodied) doors part, and there is darkness. Slowly, from the darkness comes a trio of figures, one male and two female. They are well dressed, and all have a kind of Kabuki mask.
So... are we seeing The Shining being offered as the greatest horror ever made? Or is it more to the notion that a Satanic Ritual is afoot, which is what the basis of the story is, after all? Young Playthings is not really a horror film, and that was the first visual reference that came to mind, but as they slowly move from dark to light, into and out of focus, slowly... after the explosion of gore and violence, it is languid, sensual...
It is here, then that the point must be made: the reason we as a movie going populace often miss out on a Kubrick film, or one attempting to truly follow that master's path, is that we no longer know how to go back, to look again, to see past hype and generational enforcement of context.
Eyes Wide Shut is the greatest horror film ever made. If it had not been for the brilliant work of The Cabin In The Woods I would have missed that interpretation entirely and forever.
One last serious praise for The Best Film Of That Year The Cabin In The Woods. It appears to be comedic on the surface. The dialog, as mentioned, crackles with a vibrancy that belongs more in a screwball comedy, and the sharp retorts are indeed witty. Wit and humor are compensation means, and the more pronounced the paranoia and/or mental instability of the Joker, the more ill at ease the Joker actually is.
Seeing the Joker, the Stoner, The Midnight Toker facing down the living dead and hacking it to pieces while under the influence of Thompson Legend Levels Of Drugs would have defeated the purpose of the film. Watching the reaction of The Final Girl, her shock and repulsion, only to have the Joker, wide eyed and staring, quip, "Yeah I had to kill him with a trowel..." suggests that the funny isn't; the deeper distress and horror are still there. The difference is if one sees it with an audience, merely imagines one or is totally shut off from all others distractions and become immersed into The Best Screenplay Of That Year. Then the comedy is more harsh, a little too sharp to be just a throw away gag.
Stay tuned for the eventual review of Eyes Wide Shut.