The Cabin in the Woods: A Second Opinion by Chris Moore.

UNK SEZ: I’ve been telling anyone who will listen and some who won’t that I think CABIN IN THE WOODS is a must see. I know a few folks though who not only did not care for the film but hated it passionately! How could it be? One such person is kinderpal Chris Moore (who I tend to agree with especially when he’s singing the praises of MATILDA). I asked Chris if he would write up a post sharing his thoughts on CABIN and he graciously agreed and boy are the gloves off! Take it away Chris! We’ll always have MATILDA!

I’m always championing the underdog. Most of my favorites films are those that were bombs, critically loathed, or simply just came out at the wrong time. To put it into perspective, one of my favorites this year was JASON REITMAN and DIABLO CODY‘s YOUNG ADULT, a film loathed by most of America. I almost always love the original, unique, and avant-garde. Hell, I applaud and enjoy FINAL EXAM for its hour-long collegiate character study as opposed to its slash ‘n stalk-y denouement. Also, I have a shockingly high tolerance for crap. From PIECES or TROLL 2 to STV garbage like AX ‘EM or the CAMP BLOOD series, I can usually find something worthwhile in anything. All I ever ask for is a little entertainment. Make me laugh, cry, or scream and I’m ready to sing your film’s praises right away.

For me, there’s nothing worse than a film stuck in the middle of the road. Those are the kinds of films that leave you feeling like you wasted two hours of your life. Even in a typically bad film, there could be something unintentionally hilarious, whether it be an inept line reading, a campy performance, or a delicious lack of understanding of the cinematic language, that makes the viewing experience a little worthwhile.

I’d been hearing about THE CABIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (oops, meant WOODS) since its inception a few years back. Being a casual BUFFY watcher, I was certainly curious to see what JOSS WHEDON would come up with. Once the film went into production, it was masked in a veil of secrecy. No one knew anything about the movie. In this day and age, that’s quite the feat and I was proud of WHEDON and co. being able to keep a film under wraps like that.

Once the trailer was released, I was underwhelmed. It didn’t really interest me very much. It looked predicable and about as dull as the trailer for SHARK NIGHT 3-D (which I still do not plan on seeing. Ever.) Could this really be the film everyone was waiting for?

Then, the reviews came in. All glowing. As horror fans, we don’t like to admit it, but we sort of love it when a horror film gets such great reviews. It feels like our beloved genre has finally found acceptance in the mainstream and people finally “get it.” Plus, as a hardcore horror fan, I’ll usually always go see a new original horror film, foolishly hoping that maybe this will help stop the glut of horrible remakes and over produced, braindead 3-D “epics” from getting the greenlight. Clearly, now, I HAD to see it, so I got a group of my friends together and we sat down, about a week ago, in our local multiplex and…well, something didn’t go as planned.

The story of CABIN IN THE WOODS centers around a rather typical assortment of college students going to the titular cabin in a dense forest for a little R&R and God knows what else. For a film that seems to think it’s rather unique and original, the characters are cookie cutter as can be (which is the point of the film, but still…), but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can be fun knowing all the archetypes and what to expect, I mean, there has to be SOME reason why all the FRIDAY THE 13TH films were so successful, right? The problem here is that not many of the characters are very likable or relatable, even in a humorous or satirical way. The film’s lead female “virgin” Dana (KRISTEN CONNOLLY) is amiable enough, but the rest of the crew leave a little be desired, especially the token stoner Marty (FRAN KRANZ).

Let me just talk about Marty for a little while, because I truly feel that a lot of what’s wrong with this film can be summarized with his character. He’s annoying, shrill, un-funny, and doesn’t know when to stop. From the first moment he appears on screen, I was eagerly anticipating his death.

Intercut in between all the cliched EVIL DEAD inspired hi-jinx, there’s a group of people controlling and supervising what these hormonally challenged 20-somethings say and do? BRADLEY WHITFORD and RICHARD JENKINS, two fantastic actors who I always enjoy watching, play the two leads in this sub-plot, but they have little to work with. Their jokes are painfully unfunny and as interesting as this concept could be, it more often than not, falls flat.

Look, I love humor with my horror. From SCREAM to DRAG ME TO HELL, I enjoy horror comedies if they are done correctly and feel balanced. Even last year’s deliciously spooky INSIDIOUS kept me interested and entertained when it went of the rails into WILLIAM CASTLE/camp-ville mid way through. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS feels like a concept concocted through a cloud of pot smoke at a wrap party for one of WHEDON‘s other shows. It’s like walking into a conversation that’s already been going on for days and not getting anything the other people are saying. CABIN is the cinematic equivalent of an in-joke.

If there is any humor to be found, it’s at the expense of the audience. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was a little offended by how rude the humor was to horror fans. They might as well just cut to a shot of WHEDON giving us the finger. It’s clear that WHEDON is not the horror fan people think he is. One would think he’d have been at least a little more reverent with his digs at the genre, but, instead, it almost feels as if he’s mocking the audience that goes to see this kind of movie by saying “Gah! Don’t you know how stupid these movies are?” At least SCREAM‘s digs at the genre were never at the price of the film itself and were always in good humor.

There is one admittedly hysterical scene mid way through involving our films “hero,” a motorcycle, an epic speech, and an unexpected outcome that had me in stitches for a little while, but other than that, the film’s humor never landed for me. I got what they were trying to say, but I feel like it’s been done so many times now (and WAY better might I add) that it just felt tired.

Also, the film is still going by the same old set of crusty old horror movie “rules” set out by SCREAM almost 20 years ago. The virgin always lives. The jock is a braindead horn dog. The stoner’s the wise comedic relief. I feel like, if they were true horror fans, they would have figured this out by now. HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE and MY BLOODY VALENTINE both feature heroines who, while mostly kind and sweet, are probably neither virgins. Hell, do we even know if Laurie Strode was really a virgin? Maybe she just had a lot of homework to do and didn’t care too much about the dudes. Alice, Ginny, Chris, and Trish from the first four FRIDAY movies were certainly no virgins, either. Where does this stuff come from? Although, honestly, this always bothered me in SCREAM, too.

Some people are telling me the humor isn’t supposed to be funny, because it’s “satire.” I’m all for satire, in fact, it’s my favorite kind of humor. HEATHERS, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, NETWORK, and most of JOHN WATERS‘ films, are some of my all time favorite movies, but those were actually funny. They at least made me chuckle. I’m not expecting SCARY MOVIE-style slapstick, but c’mon! CABIN, besides said motorcycle speech scene, failed to ever even make me so much as grin during it’s hour and a half run time.

So, if it’s not funny, is it at least scary? Far from it. In fact, I believe a four-year-old could take this movie. Without scares or laughs, what am I supposed to make of this movie? It’s middle of the road. It’s just there. I’m not worse for wear after watching it, but I’m not going to remember it in a few weeks either. Even a surprising (if useless) last minute cameo by a member of horror/sci-fi royalty in the middle of the horrendously bad CGI fest of an ending that even the SyFy Channel would disown (hope that’s not what took them so long to get this released) can’t save it from “been there, done that” syndrome. It just felt like a waste of time.

By my (admittedly low) standards, the film fails. It didn’t make me laugh, cry, or scream.

I’m already aware that most people will say that “I just didn’t get it!” and I’m prepared to take the heat. There are always a few movies every year that a lot of people love that I don’t get. AVATAR and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are the most recent examples. So, I don’t understand what the big deal is about them, but if you enjoy them, that’s all that matters.

My friend, Nina, who saw the film with me (we both loathed it) put it best. She said it was like a “hipster horror film.” The more I think about it, the more I realize she’s right. God knows those goobers love their irony. All the people praising the film seem to take pride in the fact that they somehow cracked the code and feel smarter than everyone else. Sorry, but there is no code to crack. A bad movie is just a bad movie, folks. OR maybe I’m just not “sophisticated” enough to get it. You guys be the judge.

Traumafessions :: Reader Alex on Pipes from Ghostwatch

The most dramatic childhood horror moment for me occurred at age 13, back in 1992 during a Halloween party at my friend Charlotte’s house in Selston (not far from Nottingham).

We’d all been out with her achingly cool older brothers (early 20’s) to rent horror films (from memory, DOLLY DEAREST and POLTERGEIST 2), but having arrived back to the house at about 9pm, we switched on BBC1 to be met with a title screen for “GhostWatch”, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. Being 13, impressionable and a little immature for my age, the hour and a half-ish long mock-live “real” feed from the incredibly normal looking “haunted” house in London absolutely SHAT me up. What made it so scary was the squeaky clean presenters we all knew from kids TV – Craig Charles (of Red Dwarf fame) and Sarah Green being so incredibly convincing that the show was live.

The juxtaposition between the everyday and absolute horror was incredibly clever. We also had no idea it was a “play”. That, and the fact that the titular ghost, which we screamed at as it was glimpsed and hinted at in incredibly quick camera pans and reflective patio doors etc, was a 6 foot, cross dressing, child-murdering pedophile name “Pipes” by the (at the time) convincing child actresses portraying the two daughters.

I have never been so utterly scared in my whole life, even surrounded by 10-12 prep school mates and my hosts older brothers, because it was portrayed as being live and utterly real. So real-seeming in fact, that it I believe it was banned by the BBC. I bought it a couple of years ago via their website on DVD (the ban apparently lifted) and even at the age of 32, it’s still bloody scary. Yes, it seems hammier now, but the ghost itself, horrible cat scratching noises and the horrific croaking, gasping voice emitting from one of the daughters as she channels Pipes is still terrifying.

Even Charlotte’s older brothers were shaken up, and as we all camped out in the sitting room to sleep – I was scared stiff despite being surrounded by my friends. Usually, I’d have been fine even if I had someone with me – not with GhostWatch, and in fact had to sleep in my brother’s room on a mattress for at least a month following that night. And I don’t mind admitting that!

— quick camera pan….HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT!!!!

Thanks so much for considering posting my experience, keep up the good work!

Alex B.

UNK SEZ::Oh how I love GHOSTWATCH! It puts most faux-reality horror to absolute shame! Sorry about your trauma Alex but I stand here in utter jealousy that you got to experience GHOSTWATCH in the fullest way possible without completely loosing your mind! Kids, For more on this highly effective & influential program, check out its official site HERE! And if you’d like to watch GHOSTWATCH in it’s entirety just jump on over and meet Pipes HERE!

Kinder-Flix :: Panic (1978)

A ways back somewhere on these pages I was talking about a story my older brother told me that I took as gospel and later found out was an urban legend. As per usual with such tales, there are a multitude of variations floating about one of which is captured in a short film from 1978 called PANIC. It’s directed by JAMES DEARDEN, the guy who wrote FATAL ATRACTION and from what I’ve heard, it was known to appear on the USA network and before features in UK cinemas. Why we’ve never received a traumafession for this one, I’ll never know so I thought I’d throw it up on the Kindertrauma wall hoping that some day somebody looking for it will find it here. Do you guys remember this story? A woman in a car picks up a stranded old lady. As they drive the woman starts to suspect that there is something not quite right about the oldster. The driver figures out a way to get the creepy stranger out of her car but she leaves behind a handbag. When the purse is opened it reveals…

Name That Trauma :: Kinderpal Senski of Heart in a Jar on Two Terrible PSA’s

Hey friends…

Time to turn to the collective hive-mind that is the Kindertrauma fanbase to see who can track down a couple more PSA’s that have stayed with me over the years, and I’ve love to see them again. Since the Monkey From Hell was unearthed, let’s see if they can make it a hat trick…

1) This PSA aired during the late ’60s-early ’70s, and I recall it receiving a lot of play on sleepy Sunday mornings. It was a full minute in length, unfolding almost like a short film. Four teens carjack (?) a vehicle and go out for a raucous joyride. The accident that follows is swift and savage, with the car flying through the air to collapse in a heap. I remember the screams; the teens yelling for their lives, a cut to the car in midair, then back to the screaming kids, then the awful silence after the crash, implying that all had been killed. I don’t recall if it was a message for seat belts, against unlicensed driving or carjacking; heck, it might have been a drunk driving spot. But after 40+ years, I still can hear those screams.

2) The second PSA I only saw once, but it left an indelible impression. This would be late ’70s-early ’80s, and it aired on CBS right before the 10pm news. It was all of ten or 15 seconds in length. Sunny day, camera in the trees, beginning a slow pan down and to the right. A radio announcer is carrying on about what a gorgeous day it is, ending with something along the lines of, “…so get outside and take a dip in that pool!” By then the camera has descended upon a swimming pool, with a long shot of a body lying face down in the water, motionless, presumably dead. The Voice of Doom then warns the audience about swimming alone or unattended. It was chilling to see a PSA with an actual body. I often wonder if it aired so infrequently because of viewer calls. It was as late as late could be and still fall within prime time.

So there you have it; hope someone can unearth this pair of portentous PSA’s!

Mega-love,

Steve Senski

UNK SEZ:: Thanks Senski! Here’s hoping we can track these down! Kids, make sure you stop by Senski’s awesome joint HEART IN A JAR and soon!

The Cabin in the Woods Funhouse Part 2!

Hey look, it’s another CABIN IN THE WOODS-themed funhouse! Why is that happening? I was just thinking that this weekend is just as good as last weekend to check it out! What’s all this nonsense about horror fans going to see stuff the first week or not at all anyway? Get it together people! Now I can’t guarantee you’ll like CITW because I know a few who didn’t, but part of the fun of movies is taking that risk and finding out for yourself. Give it a go. If you do like it, chances are it will be in a big way. Since CABIN has been out a full week I think I can leak a smidge of spoilage (ew.) and reveal that it loosely references many a famous fright flick. The image above is made of scraps of films that CABIN kinda sorta tips its roof to. Can you guess them all? If you do, you are the super king!

Name That Trauma :: Reader Rodrigo T. on a Town Turned Green

Good morning!

I was wondering if you know the title of a horror movie in the 1980s?

Description: There were a couple student classmates that were in love, but there is a problem. An evil woman that was obsessed with him, but he doesn’t love her, so, the evil woman took in revenge against the girl — killing her, stabbing a knife in her back in the car in front of her boyfriend.

There are more details about that movie. The town was under a curse because the people became greenish skin. The boy cursed her before her girlfriend had died. I remember when he said, “Damn you are!! Damn you are!!” Finally, she laughed with an evil laughing like this “Hahaahhaahah-haahhaahhahaha!!!!!!!!” and then he said, “Oh God someone help me.”

Do you remember that movie? Yes/No?

Please tell me the title of that horror movie.

Also I am not sure but the evil woman was so cute; Caucasian, she had a long black hair, and she dressed in black.

Thanks again,

Rodrigo T.

The Cabin in the Woods

I got so busy this past weekend I forgot to tell you all about my successful, highly NON-disappointing excursion to see THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. I feel like it might almost be too late as you’ve probably heard the good news elsewhere but if I can convince one fence-sitter to go and check it out, then I’d like to give it a shot. Trouble is, if ever there was a movie you should know little or nothing about before seeing it, it’s this one. So how can I persuade you without wrecking the whole thing? I went twice. Does that work? As soon as the movie was over I checked when the next show time was and then I saw it again. Now, would I do that for a terrible movie? Frankly, yes I would, but you’re missing my point, I had to see THE CABIN IN THE WOODS twice because once was not enough to fully process its wonder. I can’t wait to own this movie because I need to pause it on a couple scenes and nibble every single pixel. I want to watch it with close captioning so that no word can elude me. AMY ACKER is in this. I love her.

So yeah, I may have a bit of a raging predisposition for CABIN too. The sad truth is that for years, while secretly mocking the world’s religions, I have also been hypocritically praying in the temple of JOSS WHEDON. I try to keep a lid on it. I know how it must sound but in the wee hours of the night when nobody’s around, I’m watching a BUFFY episode for the gazillionth time and experiencing euphoric highs while weeping and speaking in tongues. JOSS WHEDON’s face once appeared to me on an Eggo waffle. Ok that’s not true but it’s sort of basically true-ish. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, which WHEDON co-wrote with director DREW GODDARD (who also penned some of my favorite BUFFY episodes), justifies my reverence and is an accumulation of the type of genre smudging and creative cajoles that ignited my zealotry. This sermon is only an hour and a half rather than seven years so jump on the express train to glory my brothers and sisters. Halleluiah!

Also while you are in church shut up. You’re there to listen and observe not to try to figure it out before other people do or ponder the differences between what you thought it might be and what it is. Every horror fan should see this but those who bemoan sequels and remakes and wail for originality should be forced to see it at gunpoint. Be glad I’m not in charge because each ticket would also come with a mandatory ball gag. As a courtesy, I will soften expectations by saying this is not the type of thing you endure and then boast to your friends that it didn’t faze you because you’re so cool. It’s not trying to impress you with hackneyed depravity; it’s more of a boundary butcher that gets off on how limitlessly imaginative the genre could be if we stopped giving people what they want and start giving them what they need. CABIN is no way the be-all end-all. I enjoy many flavors to choose from and I’m not convinced that the rules and tropes it subverts need be fully abandoned. Still, in my eyes, this movie craftily climbs to a peak position where it can both revel in where horror has been and scout out the infinite possibilities ahead. Every New Testament should be this much fun.

Traumafessions :: Reader Chanter on Size Small

Hi Kindertrauma!

It’s been a while since I last sent in a traumafession (though by the looks of the comments to that last, I may have inadvertently traumatized someone’s kidlet – sorry!) so I thought I’d share another one.

As in my first two, sound played a significant role in this one as well. If any other readers were watching U.S. public television in the late 1980s or early 1990s, they probably saw more than a few Canadian children’s television programs. I definitely did, and I’m the happier for it. Most of these were pretty warm and fuzzy, and the source of much enjoyment for tiny me. There was one SIZE SMALL snippet that I could never entirely enjoy, however.

I know it probably sounds ridiculous that Miss Helen’s announcement of, “It’s cookies in the kitchen time!” left me dismayed, but it routinely did. The music has a lot to do with it; something about that synthesizer note buzzing in the background just plain gets under my skin to this day. The lyrics are quite innocuous, and taken on their own, they’re really rather cute. But, being a neurotic little girl (haven’t changed much either, only now I’m a bit taller) with a fear of hot and burning things among others, kindergarten-ish me subconsciously took the idea of an ovenful of baking cookies and ran with it. Figures I’d get a nightmare from something so harmless. In it, the “Ooh they’re bakin'” line was followed by “Ooh they’re burnin'”, a smoke alarm, continued menacing music, and a whole host of other things as time went on–yes, this nightmare stuck with me and expanded as I got older! Brrrrr! … I’m only now realizing just how big my issues with fire were as a child.

Sorry, Miss Helen, if you’re reading this. I know you didn’t mean to traumatize anybody. One sketch does not an otherwise delightful viewing experience ruin, I assure you.

Chanter

Once, Then & Now :: Mickster on Buried Alive (1990)

ONCE
I first watched BURIED ALIVE on USA back in 1990. I was still living at home and just starting college. Although I had not yet felt the sting of betrayal in a relationship, I immediately identified with the character Clint (TIM MATHESON). Clint is a hardworking and faithful husband. I have always been a rule-follower in my life, so I have issues with people who do not follow the rules. For that reason, I disliked the characters Joanna (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH) and Cort (WILLIAM “No Dick” ATHERTONGHOSTBUSTERS). I cheered for Clint as he meticulously exacted revenge against his plotting wife and her lover. I also fussed at Joanna over the numerous dumb moves she made along the way (i.e., not giving Clint the full amount of fishy poison in his wine, skipping the embalming, and racing to sell his business and home). Overall, nineteen-year-old Mickster found the movie entertaining and the ending satisfying.

THEN
I was excited when I found of copy of BURIED ALIVE at Monster Mania in early June 2011. I had not seen it since 1990 and as far as I knew, it had not been released on DVD. Before I had a chance to enjoy it though life dealt me a devastating blow. Having discovered my ex-spouse had also been unfaithful, I now had more in common with Clint than I did when I watched the movie before. In late July, I managed to make myself watch it again and it made my blood boil. In fact, it was almost too much for me to take at that point. I sat down and started to write about the movie…

“I can relate to Clint Goodman’s plight. I feel his pain at being screwed over by the person who is supposed to care the most in his life. Clint is a ‘good man’ who loves his wife and wants nothing more than to build a long-lasting life with her. He has built her a beautiful country home and has a successful contracting company. When his wife says that she is going into the city overnight to shop and hangout with her girlfriends, Clint believes her without question. Clint’s wife, however, is a lying, scheming whore with nefarious plans for her good and trusting husband.”

Clearly forty-year-old Mickster was pissed off and a bit too close to the subject matter. Unkle Lancifer, being the sweetheart he is, suggested I walk away from writing about the film while my feelings were so raw. I agreed and pushed it aside until now.

NOW
I am now ready to revisit my old friend, BURIED ALIVE. It serves as a stark reminder of the thin line between love and hate. Although I still side with Clint throughout the movie, I have to point out some things he should have recognized, as I have had to do the same in my own life. It is clear to anyone watching the film that Joanna is not into her husband or the life he is trying desperately to build with her. Clint, like many of us in disintegrating relationships, is too busy trying to make this life work to see the problems before him. He assumes that because he is faithful and kind that his wife is too. This was an enormous mistake on Clint’s part, which almost cost him his life. Even his loyal Rottweiler recognizes what a fraud his wife is. Animals are wise in these matters and can sense a phony quickly. (Note to my sweet kitty Professor Von Whiskersen, I should have noticed your reactions to the ex. I will trust your judgment from now on.)

When Clint wakes up in a coffin, digs his way out, and stumbles home, he is floored by what he discovers. Clint’s deep love quickly turns to bitter hatred and he plans his revenge. Even though Joanna and her scheming lover richly deserve this revenge, I feel that ultimately Clint would be unable to bear his actions since he is at heart loving and kind.

A lot can change in the way you view a film. Twenty-two years ago, Mickster was simply entertained. Nine months ago, Mickster was most definitely outraged. Now, Mickster is older, wiser, and thankfully calmer. I know it is only a movie, but I wish Clint had given himself the time to think things through more clearly. People like Joanna and Cort will ultimately destroy themselves with their selfishness. Clint could have watched this happen from the sidelines without soiling his own hands in the process.

Name That Trauma :: Reader Luke McG. on a Deadly Disappearing Act

Well, I’m not quite sure how I should introduce this, besides stating that I saw it as a child and it has since led to some pretty damn severe claustrophobia, and an intense distrust of disappearing acts…

I can’t remember what the show was called, but I’m PRETTY sure it was one of those procedural cop shows (I wanna say BLUE HEELERS, but I’ve read the episode synopsis for every one, and I haven’t found anything that caught my eye as being similar. So basically at the beginning of the show there’s the “setup” for the investigation. In this case it was a magic show. Some man is called up and is put into a magic box, subsequently disappears and is never seen again, until the next morning where some kids throw a block of cement into a sewer drain and a waterlogged corpse is revealed to the camera. Turns out apparently the guy took a wrong turn in some sewer tunnels and got lost, got washed into the waters and drowned. That’s all I know, hopefully it’ll be enough to give someone a flashback and reveal what this gorram show is that’s given me a lifelong fear!

Luke McG.