The Cabin in the Woods (2011): Wolfram and Hart go Big-Time

It may just be me, but the whole film kind of felt like a huge Angel episode. One where Angel and co have already been defeated by ‘Wolf, Ram and Hart’ and are now running the entire world to their own set of skewed rules. It felt like the ‘bad guys’ had won the battle, but in order to win the war had to keep sacrificing a certain amount of people to hold the ‘ancient ones’ at bay.

It was like this was really the series end of Angel and it showed us that the demonic law corporation was alive and well and holding back the evil gods by the skin of their demonic teeth. Having Whedon regulars like Amy Acker (never a bad thing) and Fran Kranz (a personal favourite after his brilliant role in Dollhouse), not to mention Tom Lenk (it was nice to see him in something other than the Pepsi Max commercials he’s been trapped in), sort of made this film seem like ‘old home week’ already, but add in the massive plot device and the twist at the end of the movie and it still felt a little like an Epilogue to Angel season 5.

But despite the niggly feeling that Eliza Dushku was going to suddenly show up and save the day, I enjoyed the film. The very presence of Richard Jenkins(who gave a star turn as the father figure in the film Let Me In) ensured that the calibre of acting was going to be top notch and it was. I adored the explanation of how the whole thing worked. The ‘participants’ had free-will going for them. Okay the cards were pretty much stacked against them from the get go, but they still had the liberty to misbehave or not. The entire feel of the ‘behind the scenes’ guys was brilliant. Right down to the betting pools on which ‘big bad’ was going to dispatch the group.

The writing was pure Whedon and Goddard gold. The scene where the gas station attendant rings the control room for a strange almost biblical rant. He  stops mid-rant and asks, “Do you have me on speaker-phone?” With much choked back giggling and gestures to keep quiet, the controller talking to the gas station guy says, “Yep, I did. Sorry about that.” He then makes a knocking noise and says, “Okay, you’re off.” Of course gas station guy isn’t off the speaker phone and the giggling and laughing clues him into this. The entire film was worth the price of admission just for this scene alone.

“I told you! I don’t want to talk about Dollhouse!”

It was these type of scenes combined with the subtle action that made the film worth watching. Wendy Lin (Amy Acker) turning up her nose at the office pool and then at the last minute placing her bet. The slow realization that everything is resting on their televised sacrifice show and the pressures and tension that entails. The premature celebrations when they think they’ve won. I could go on but what would be the point?

The film was a brilliant attempt at satirizing the horror/slasher genre that just doesn’t quite work. The film has stand out moments and for my money Fran Kranz stole the show. The Cabin in the Woods was plagued with problems from the get go. The studios who had given the film the green light, then turned around and wanted to first change the format to 3D and then just wanted to get rid of the finished product.  *Interesting to note that the other film the studio was desperate to get rid of was the re-make of Red Dawn. Red Dawn also starred Thor aka Chris Hemsworth. It makes you wonder what the studio was thinking.*

I did also get the feeling that Kristen Connolly was a replacement for Felicia Day who must not have been available for the shooting schedule. I was desperate to see this film and was gutted when I missed it’s cinema run. Watching it last night, I was actually glad that I didn’t see it on the big screen as I don’t think it would have enhanced the experience at all. I am now waiting for the blu-ray copy to come in so that I may see the making of featurettes that I live for.

Goddard, Thor and Whedon

My final verdict is that the film is a must see for Whedon fans, or indeed Goddard fans,  and it’s still very entertaining. It is not a horror film (I thought I’d better warn you) and it only just misses the satire genre. The film is still clever and what we have come to expect from Mssrs Whedon and Goddard.

Much Ado About Joss

Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon (Photo credit: perobinson)

He’s at it again, that Joss Whedon fellow. He’s making another ‘masterpiece’ that doesn’t follow any kind of formulaic plan or career path arc. But are we surprised? No is the only obvious answer here. As Nathan Fillion himself says in the gag reel of Serenity, Joss is Boss. And we believe him.

The genius of Joss Whedon should have been made evident with the theatrical release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer film in 1992. Unfortunately the moron (that’s right I said it) of a producer decided that the workings of the then younger Whedon weren’t good enough and re-imaged the film and destroyed it.

Ultimately the woman did Joss a favour. In her wanton destruction of what could have been, she cleared the way for Joss to re-introduce the world to Buffy Summers and her ‘Scooby gang’ cast of regulars. The success of the small screen Buffy led the way for an almost inevitable spin-off series for the vanquished Angel. The rest, as they say, is history.

Both Buffy and Angel ran for several seasons. Buffy continued to enthral fans for seven seasons while Angel only managed five seasons with the fifth and last season being, arguably, the best. Joss then moved on to the fan favourite Firefly.

Unfortunately the sponsoring network’s biorhythms were really out of whack, either that or there was a ‘We hate Joss’ vendetta type thing going on, because the show got axed almost before it got started.

Dollhouse was next in line and it too fell foul of it’s sponsoring network (with a lot of help from said network, it has to be said) and once again Joss was ‘out in the cold.’

But Joss-is-boss Whedon didn’t sit there crying into his bowl of Cheerio’s. He then came up with the ‘fan-backed’ plan for Serenity. The labour of love that gave all the Firefly fans closure for the characters that they had fallen in love with.  Then Joss turned to the internet.

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and it’s small cadre of players was simply too great for  words. Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer (“The hammer is my penis.”), Dr Horrible was Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser all grown up and comically evil) and Felicia Day was Penny the mutual love interest that both men wanted. Great webisodes and great fun.

Joss then stepped up to the plate and hit a Babe Ruth type home run with The Avengers Assemble. That Whedon-esque magic garnered an over one billion dollar box office return that will ensure his name conjures up images of platinum success. I won’t mention the other successful film that had Joss’s fingerprints all over it, The Cabin in the Woods, that was released in the same year as Avengers.

Now Joss has made his own ‘homage’ and re-imaging of the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing into a ‘Bargain Basement Backyard Production’ with Whedon regulars Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, and Tom Lenk (whom I thought was going to be doomed to do Pepsi Max adverts indefinitely) and a whole lot of other very capable actors.

Looking at stills on IMDb it appears that the film will be in black and white. Nothing new there you say, Young Frankenstein and Schindler’s List were both in black and white. No what will be new, will be what Joss brings to the table in his writing and directing skills.

I am looking forward to seeing this last product of Joss’s creative output. I know that I will not be disappointed.

On a completely different note, I read that the idiot producer that ruined the first ‘Buffy’ film has allegedly dropped her plans for a Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie based on Joss’s television program. There is, it seems, a celluloid God after all. Our ‘cheer-leading’ heroine will remained unsullied and forever associated with Sarah Michelle Gellar and her loyal gang of ‘slayerettes.’

I haven’t mention the many other projects that Joss-is-boss Whedon can lay claim to, if you want to see his impressive credit’s list check out the link to IMDb or Wikipedia. Or you could just watch re-runs of his television masterpieces.

Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy

Case 39 (2009): Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice…Not

Case 39

Directed by Christian Alvart (he also directed PandorumCase 39 is a brilliant little horror/thriller. It stars Renée Zellweger , Ian McShane, and Jodelle Ferland. It is interesting to note that even though the film was actually finished in 2007. It did not get an American release until 2010.

The “Reader’s Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

Social worker Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) is overworked and tired.  She is assgined ‘case 39’ which deals with an innocent  ten year old girl, Lily Sullivan (Ferland) who is being abused by her parents. This abuse is confirmed when Lily’s parents put her in the oven to burn her to death. Emily asks her friend Detective Mike Barron (McShane) to help her. Mike and Emily rescue Lily and her parents are put in a mental institution.

CASE 39
CASE 39 (Photo credit: Galactinet Prensa)

Emily takes Lily home to look after her until a foster family can be found. Once Lily moves in, however, strange things begin to happen. Another case of Emily’s, a boy named Diego, kills both his parents. Detective Barron (McShane) tells Emily that the boy received a phone call just before he killed them. Emily suspects that Lily was somehow involved and arranges for her best friend, psychiatrist Douglas Ames ( Bradley Cooper fresh from  The Hangover  and moving right on to The A-Team and Limitless) to evaluate Lily. During the evaluation Lily soon gains the upper hand and starts evaluating Ames, finding out what his fears are. Later in the evening Ames gets a phone call and dies horribly.

Lily starts acting very strange. Her demeanor is that of an adult. As she begins to take over Emily and ultimately scaring her quite badly. Emily decides to talk to Lily’s parents. The body count begins to rise as Emily comes to the realization that Lily is not an abused child and is not at all innocent.

With a budget of $27 million and a box office of $28 million the film did just make it’s production costs back. I am a little puzzled as to why the film fared so poorly. Alvart does a cracking job with the film. The cinematography was sharp and well lit. The actors all gave top notch performances. Ian McShane, who has turned into character actor extraordinaire was very good and Bradley Cooper, in a part that was little more than a cameo, came across brilliantly as the doomed Psychiatrist. Jodelle Ferland did what she does best, be creepy. Her bona fides include Kindom Hospital (TV) Silent Hill and recently The Cabin in the Woods.

Of course Ms Zellweger gave a more than credible performance as the capable but overworked social worker. She makes the transition from strong and caring to terrified and confused with no problem. I was a bit concerned, I’ll admit, big name ‘stars’ do not generally do horror films and if they do (unless they are Gregory Peck) they look a little out of place. My only complaint was that I kept thinking of her as Bridget Jones.

I am slightly amazed that the film did not do better when it was released. We saw it via a rental and loved it. After we watched it we bought it. I realize that a lot of audiences don’t like films that deal with violence to children and honestly that is the only reason I can think of for the film to fare so badly.

I could not take my eyes off the screen while watching this film. I didn’t have a clue  who the “big bad” was until the film told me. The body count was not huge, but the casualties were well done and memorable. I would caution anyone who is thinking about adoption or taking on the role of foster parent to give this film a miss.

It could put you right off.