Spoilers for The Cabin In The Woods below.
I'm not a critic, choosing instead to self-identify as an "enthusiast." I love movies, all kinds of movies, and can't always explain why. But I'm comfortable saying that The Cabin In The Woods is, to me, ten times the love letter to films and filmmaking than something like The Artist (which I also enjoyed). Being a non-critic on top of being two weeks late to the conversation, I'm not going to tell you why it's a great film. I can tell you I came to the film having never seen an episode of Buffy, Firefly or Dollhouse. Never saw Serenity, never really digested anything by Joss Whedon except his initial run on Astonishing X-Men, which I enjoyed well enough, but was keenly aware that it was very much a fan writing for fans.
And fans writing for fans is a slippery slope, an often futile endeavor that tends to litter book and video shelves with well-intentioned messes. But The Cabin In The Woods got my number, man. It lovingly picks apart the genre in a way Scream, frankly, wasn't smart (or affectionate) enough to do, and it doesn't spend so much time cleverly deconstructing the genre that it ever forgets it's also an actual horror film. And for all the "don't read about it first!" pleas, and as much as the film so richly rewards going in cold, a second viewing is possibly even more satisfying. Watching it again reveals just what a tight script it is, expertly revealing things at just the right moment.
Like the Merman. Good lord, the Merman. Bradley Whitford's character Hadley, deflated over running yet another Redneck Torture Family scenario and pining for a story featuring the more exotic-sounding Merman, reminded me of the career rut of a lot of our great 70s horror directors, in particular George A. Romero. Back in the 80s and 90s, Romero mentioned more than once how much he wished he could do a Tarzan movie. And I felt for the guy; no one was ever going to hire Romero to do a Tarzan movie, and in recent years he's made peace (boy has he) with the fact that he's only going to get to direct zombie movies. But there's also no real evidence a Romero-helmed Tarzan movie would be any good, and that thought resonated extra hard for me in The Cabin In The Woods: we finally see the Merman, and the fucker can barely drag himself across a floor, indicating (to me, at least) that Hadley's dream project would likely have been a boring piece of crap. Is that why Hadley reacted as he did? Was his final "oh come on!" about the irony of being killed by the Merman, or did he realize in that last moment what a dud his Merman epic would have been?
Digression over. Bottom line: movie's great, saw it twice, bought the Visual Companion.
I got to first see the film at a preview press screening, which are usually mixed bags. Cons: Waiting in line for an hour, being packed into a crowded theater, surrendering your cell phone (if you're not smart enough to realize they're going to do that and proactively leave it in your car beforehand). Pros: No cell phones out during the screening, a large chunk of the audience having no idea what hit them and reacting accordingly, Q&As with a director or cast member (in this case, Fran Kranz), and AWESOME questions like "Do you feel like the title should tell you more about what the movie is actually about? Because I thought it was gonna be about a cabin. In the woods."
And swag. They were giving away t-shirts and posters. Someone handed me a T-shirt. I don't need it. It's a large. It has a tree stump on it. Want it? Tweet this article and throw an #uncollecting hashtag in there, and I'll pick a winner at random. Congrats to @ServantOfDagon on winning the Star Wars and Dune magazines from the previous edition.