With the resurgence of ‘80s-style films, roller rinks, and arcades now fashioned as barcades, one has to wonder if it’s the yearning for a more innocent time, without cell phones, always-connected internet, and social media. American Horror Story’s new season is a total ‘80s slasher, complete with the VHS effects.
If there’s anything missing more from today’s cinema selection, it’s the campy, oft-hilarious, horror schlock of yesteryear.
Horror today, for the most part, is paint by numbers. Luckily, other than Lloyd Kaufman, (who I’d love to write about soon), there are a few filmmakers that share these feelings.
Cabin in the Woods is an essay film about the current state of horror films. The audience is represented by The Old Gods. Our idea of entertainment may have evolved from "human sacrifices" but they are still quite simple. The directors aren’t portrayed as artists, but rather employees who have fun performing their job duties. Creativity is all but neutered, and they mostly have to stick to rigid plans to appease The Old Gods. This is what the filmmakers, Goddard and Whedon, are saying about horror today. We're just telling the same stories in different ways, with the basic differentiator being how people get killed. Not even characters differ as much as their deaths do.
It's not a completely hopeless endeavor though. The last third actually is something we have never seen before. It's a horror movie quite unlike anything else. Of course, this frustrates The Old Gods because it is unlike what they are used to.
Cabin in the Woods ends as if to say, "If you don't like this ending then you're the problem with horror. No one can try anything new because people just think it's weird."
Horror is such a stale genre at times that we should relish the films that attempt to tell a comically horror story, especially those that aren’t billion-buckaroo blockbusters. Not everything needs to be grim-dark serious and formulaic.
It's a well-acted, written, and directed film overall. The characters are distinct and funny, which makes their change into more stereotypical characters hit hard on the nose. In horror films today, there rarely are interesting characters as much as there are just vehicles to take us from scare to scare.
In the end of Cabin in the Woods, the journey these characters have been on affects them and leads them to the decision they make at the end. Again, this angers The Old Gods because, in their eyes, horror shouldn't be about character development or stories changing based on character traits. The audience itself is the barrier to more complex stories. Well, them and the studios that only care about the almighty dollar.
In summarization, this film is a ton of fun. It is nice to see a genuinely distinct horror film that also has something to say. Despite the film’s anger towards the genre, you can still tell by all the amazing detail that Goddard has an intense love for horror.
Scenes like when they go in the basement and are looking at all the trinkets are so delightful because us Old Gods can witness the homages being paid to the giants whose shoulders the genre stands on. Then all we can think about is the insane manner of creatures hidden away by these items. In almost every scene, there is clearly something to appreciate.
In a message that I hope can stick around and continue to affect today’s filmmakers, I truly hope they can gather the fortitude to give the finger to The Old Gods, and make the schlock that is terribly needed.
Find Tim Bynum online at thefilmsnob.reviews and on Instagram & Facebook: @the_filmsnob.