Tag Archives: Chris Hemsworth

The Cabin in the Woods Explained — It’s a Giant Metaphor

Perhaps a better title: The Cabin in the Air?

This movie should be required. For everyone. Not only is it brilliant, but it’s the only film I’ve ever seen that alters your perception of all other films. It’s funny. It’s scary. It’s clever. And the whole thing is, as the title of this review suggests, one giant metaphor.

Go see it right now. I don’t care if you don’t watch horror movies. I don’t watch them either. I had to leave a party once because Final Destination was on and I got too scared. Final Destination of all things. You can handle The Cabin in the Woods. I promise.

And you have to see it right now because it’s impossible for me to discuss it without spoiling it. So be warned. Beyond this point, there be SPOILERS.

The basic premise for this movie is the most clichéd of all premises. Five friends (the jock, the dumb blonde, the stoner, the “virgin,” and the intelligent dude) decide to take an RV to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway, but they don’t expect the horrors that await them. What horrors, you wonder? Well that depends on what object they pick up in the mysterious basement.

This isn’t your average horror movie. You see, imprisoned beneath the earth are the old gods, the demons that used to walk the land, bringing death and destruction. The only thing that keeps them trapped are the ritual sacrifices that we provide. But sheep’s blood and virgins tossed into volcanoes don’t cut it anymore. The gods have grown bored by such things and demand not only the sacrifice, but also a show.

That’s where the secret underground operations center comes in. An advanced and elaborate facility, it is up to the many technicians to create the ultimate performance. They must lure unsuspecting youths out to a cabin in the woods, then pump in the proper pheromones to cause them to make bad choices, and, finally, they must unleash the monsters that will murder said youths a graphic display of violence. If successful, the blood of the fallen 20-somethings will drain into the sacrifice chamber, the old gods will be appeased, and life, as we know it, will continue.

Throughout this film, we flash back and forth between the stereotypical horror movie plot and the facility. The dramatic irony involved in these jumps makes the whole movie fun. Sure, those poor kids are being gruesomely murdered by a family of zombies, but everyone at the facility is so desensitized that they’re getting a kick out of it, even betting on which monsters will slaughter everyone this round.

Gotta bring a cooler to the horrible, graphic, slaughter.

What makes this movie so wonderfully amazingly super fantastic is the metaphor. Don’t you get it? The old gods, that’s us! We used to be satisfied by simple plotlines (girl in a volcano), by a song and a dance, but no longer. We have developed discerning tastes, desensitized by decades of cinema. We watch horror movie after horror movie titillated by the death scenes.

The workers in the facility are the moviemakers. They know they have to appease the old gods, i.e. their audience, and if they fail, their world ends. If their movie isn’t entertaining enough, it will flop, and the old gods will write nasty reviews and complain about it on the internet, and the people in the facility will lose their jobs, which to them is equivalent to losing their lives. When they bet on which monster will kill them all this time, they’re wondering what new horror will rake in the most cash. And they’re just like us, to some degree. They get excited when they hear about a new plotline. When the creepy old men zoom in on the couple about to have sex, when they root for the girl to take off her clothes, that’s every male member of the audience secretly hoping for a shot of some boobies.

Best way to see boobs? One-way mirror, of course!

The poor kids in the cabin? Their plotline is the actual movie. It’s standard. It’s cliché. The actors go through the motions that the moviemakers force them to. Writers plan out a film. Those are the workers in the facility who build the cabin, who place the evil objects in the basement. Directors are the people in the facility who run the show in real time, summoning monsters, releasing pheromones, and collapsing tunnels. I mean, the head of the facility was even called “The Director.” The kids in the cabin are the actors. They have no free will, but are puppets on strings, tugged this way and that by the script and the director and everything that’s been set in motion. They perform for our entertainment.

Watching this movie is a life-changing experience. Not only is it entertaining, but it explains every other movie. Any time you ever noticed an inconsistency or witnessed a character making a stupid decision and thought “why on earth would they split up?” you now know the explanation. This movie fixes every problem in every film. We can assume that there was a facility controlling the actions of every character in anything we’ve ever seen, and because of that, we can’t fault the characters for their actions.

This is how you used to feel after watching a character decide to go down into the basement alone, but no longer!

And there was a facility in all those movies, wasn’t there? A director, a writer, trying to solve some problem with the story. Sometimes they do a good job. Sometimes we’re appeased. Other times they make The Last Airbender.

The Cabin in the Woods is primarily a comedy, mostly because it’s constantly poking fun at these conventions. When beautiful man Chris Hemsworth says they should stick together and defend themselves, the facility pumps in some stupidity in gaseous form and he changes his plan. When they’re trapped by a giant chasm and someone says, “What are we supposed to do? Jump?!” you get that classic movie moment. Hemsworth hears the word jump and gains a flash of inspiration. He pulls the motorcycle off the back of the RV and gives an inspiring speech. He’ll come back for them. He’ll come back with an army and save everyone. It’s a scene you’ve witnessed time and again, but this time it’s hilarious because the movie is pointing out the trope.

And even though I’ve already given plenty away, let me just say without ruining it that this movie has an absolutely amazing climax. I did not see it coming, and when it did, I was unthinkably happy.

The Cabin in the Woods is the epitome of meta cinema. The movie itself contains three separate layers, 4th walls within 4th walls, and once you understand the metaphor, even deeper layers are created. In just the same way that Dollhouse was a commentary on television, this is a commentary on film. It’s a lot like Inception, really, but instead of dream architects being sci-fi moviemakers, members of the facility are horror moviemakers.

The point of all this is that The Cabin in the Woods is a brilliant film. Anyone who loves movies must see it, especially if you’re a horror buff. In fact, I’m gonna go see it again right now.

Score:

Alignment:

How great was the title card at the beginning? The most mundane scene ever and then in bloody red letters “The Cabin in the Woods!” with accompanying horror screech and everything. I couldn’t stop laughing.

And any Topher fans will love watching the greatest Dollhouse character get to play a major movie role.

Plus, who wouldn’t be stoked about seeing one of the Yellow Rangers naked.

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THOR!!! A Magical Ride on the Bifrost Bridge

By Grabthar's hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be...avenged!”

I was to be married in but a few hours. Someone had to be, and my Sigma Pi brethren had voted that I was the man to forge an alliance with the Delta Delta Delta chapter. I could no more shirk those duties than I could forsake the bonds of brotherhood, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to enjoy my last moments of freedom. There was still time, time before I tied the knot, before the metaphorical Bifröst Bridge was shattered and I could no longer travel as I wished, trapped in the realm of married life.

As my final act of bachelordom, I decided to venture to the theater and see the manliest movie I could: THOR! Hold on, I’ll have to come back to this; it’s time for the ceremony…

Soooo…things didn’t quite go as planned. There was apparently a lot of alcohol involved, and I think, in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe my vows were too slurred, maybe my wife didn’t like that I was grinding on all those other girls, or maybe it was the fact that we’d only known each other for half an hour; but no matter the cause, I’m a free man again, and as my first order of business, I’m supplying you lovely internet people with a review.

In Thor, we are presented with an otherworldly hero of extreme power who hails from the planet Asgard. Thanks to his reckless arrogance, he is stripped of his strength and cast out from his home world, forced to live as a mere mortal on the planet known as Earth. Before he can regain his hammer and his power, he must overcome his faults, thus proving that he is fit to be king. Thor’s comic book plot and over-the-top fantasy could have made it unrelatable, but Chris Hemsworth’s grounding performance saves it from such a fate. He’s chiseled enough to fill schoolgirls’ dreams, but more importantly, he really nails this role. He manages to be spoiled and conceited, yet charming. He is a powerful prince and warrior but somehow hilarious. By the end of the film, he’s the kind of hero you love to root for. And then there’s Natalie Portman, every nerd’s dream. She’s as cute as always here, but unfortunately her character is not particularly relevant.

You know, for a crazy homeless person, he's pretty cut.

In fact, Earth itself isn’t particularly relevant. Most of the movie takes place on Asgard, the Asgardians are the main characters, and all the drama and conflict is between their world and Jötunheim, land of the evil frost giants. Earth is involved only tangentially, connected to these other realms by Yggdrasil, the world tree. A whole bunch of mythology is thrown at us, and though I tried my best to catch it, a great deal went over my head. Although I liked all the Asgardians simply because they were attractive and wore shiny clothing, I found it a bit hard to care about them when my old standby, humanity, was left out of the mix. I mean, Earth is never even in any danger! The trailers make it look like all sorts of evil creatures are going to start flooding our cities, threatening to destroy us with robots that shoot fire from their faces. In reality, only one villain ever comes to Earth to destroy anything. And in fact, its only purpose is to capture Thor—it’s got nothing against us puny humans!

And man are we puny. Natalie Portman’s apprentice tazes Thor, but that’s about the most any of us evolved apes does. Portman herself is just in the movie as a shallow love interest to fulfill the hero-learns-humility-by-falling-in-love trope. Not to say that I wouldn’t fall for her immediately, but Thor spends only one or two days on Earth, and there are very few scenes of him and Portman interacting at all. He does appeal to the scientist in her, however, saying “The answers you seek shall be yours, once I claim what is mine.” (Which, incidentally, is how I’m going to be hitting on all women from now on.) Their romance just didn’t hold water for me, especially since [Minor Spoiler Alert] the movie ends with them worlds apart, longing for each other. There simply wasn’t enough time for their relationship to go from whirlwind romance to the “I’ll spend my life searching for a way to travel through space so we can be together” phase. [End Spoiler Alert]

I am going to be so attracted to their children. Err, you know, when they're grown up.

While those faults keep this movie from achieving true greatness, they certainly don’t prevent it from being basically awesome. Thor is a great character, the other worlds are breathtaking, and there’s a good balance of action and comedy. Plus, Heimdall, the gatekeeper of Asgard, is undeniably badass; he wields a giant golden sword, sports a matching horned helmet, and has bright orange eyes that can see across the cosmos. Also, he’s literally immune to being frozen to death.

Be afraid, children. Heimdall sees EVERYTHING

The only actually bad part of the movie was when Thor supposedly dies. [Spoiler Alert] The main character DOES NOT DIE! I know it’s shocking, but it’s the truth. He’s lying there, all dead like, and the camera just keeps lingering and lingering on a close up of his face. Finally, he grabs his hammer and surges back to life, more powerful than ever now that he’s proven he’s willing to sacrifice himself. The moment is painfully cheesy, and yet, somehow, I found myself cheering. [End Spoiler Alert]

When it comes down to it, Thor is your basic superhero movie. Even though it’s not too original and there’s little sense of danger, the characters are eminently likable, the CGI is stunning, and the action is fun. It’s a lighthearted film, and  unless you try to follow the mythology of it all, you won’t have to think too hard.

Score: 3.5/5 ¢

Alignment: Spectacular Fluff

Most worthless character: Hogun, the token Asian Warrior. All he did was repeat what the other characters were saying in a much more ominous, Asian-y way.

Written by Russ Nickel

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