Reviews: “Cabin in the Woods” and “Looper” (SPOILERS)

Our young daughter spend the night at her Grandma’s last night — so that means we had a chance to watch R-rated movies! We saw Cabin in the Woods and Looper. The former was extremely well-written and satisfying as a film, although it did remind me of the reasons I really don’t like the horror genre. The latter was deeply unsatisfying due to serious plot and character issues, although my distaste for it may perhaps be due to my particular love of the science-fiction genre. It clearly went more for the action than the science-fiction, ultimately being little more than another Bruce Willis film.

(SPOILERS)

Cabin was flawlessly written and executed, IMHO. Joss Whedon really knows his stuff. Of course, the company is an off-brand “Wolfram and Hart”, so it has kind of the feel of an Angel plot. Plus: Fred. And Andrew. And Ripley.* In one movie (actually there are a lot of familiar face sightings in this movie, which is always kind of fun).

The gradual reveal of the Evil Company’s role in the affair, and the dehumanization and death of its employee characters was the real cycle of “transgression and punishment” in the film’s frame story, mirroring the ritualistic cycle in the literal storyline (nice touch there — although it sort of bothered me that their sacrifice didn’t satisfy the “ancient gods”). The ending was kind of great in that we see the characters stepping out of the mold and “refusing the question” (i.e. not accepting the parameters that the Evil Director presents to them to close their minds to other options) — that’s a great move that Whedon likes to make (Characters do it more than once in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series). But of course, “not to choose” is still a choice, and our characters’ moment of humanity is not rewarded but subverted by the End of the World. I really enjoyed the layered story and the resulting “fourth wall” issues — the idea of characters escaping from one story into another, deeper story is a really powerful one. It could be very empowering, where it not for the final subversion.

My only complaint is about the entire genre — I never liked the fatalism of horror. OTOH, the film itself is a reaction against the irrationality of horror (which is my other objection to the genre) seeing as it offers a rational explanation for the irrational plots of horror films. So it was actually a pretty great film and very funny, although it still has that bitter aftertaste.

Looper was … sigh … a Bruce Willis film. Shallow. Amoral. Ultimately very unsatisfying.

The writer appeared to be trying to make an allegorical plot about “breaking the cycle of violence”, by using a time-loop as a metaphor. But on the literal plane, the theory-of-time in the film is part of a family of objectively non-self-consistent theories which can’t possibly be real, IMHO. It only makes sense from the cinematic perspective, and not even entirely from there. Where did the truck with the spilled silver come from, for example? (It is shown in the denouement, but the driver should have been eliminated by the change in the timeline, so it should never have been there — neither should the other two characters, since the entire plot line we’ve just seen was also driven by the “disappeared” character).

So… ack… time travel plot failure of the most extreme kind. Give me a Moffat time-travel plot over this any day.

Plus, there was the problem that I basically hated ALL of the characters. I didn’t even like the creepy little boy or his mother much. And indeed, although we have the mother character’s opinion (or “hope” perhaps) that he wouldn’t grow up to be an evil mob boss who explodes people from the inside, it’s not terribly convincing to me that this future will not, in fact, happen anyway. His mom’s far too handy with the violence herself, in my opinion, and that kind of sets of the example for him to follow into vigilantism and corruption.

So, in the end, it seemed like an awful lot of people died for no purpose whatsoever. So, while the suicide of the main character was emotionally satisfy end for this vicious and cowardly loser, it does not really seem to have solved anything, either.

*That is, Amy Acker, Tom Lenk, and Sigourney Weaver, of course.

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About Terry Hancock

Terry Hancock is the producer and director of "Lunatics" ( http://lunatics.tv ). He is also a regular columnist for Free Software Magazine ( http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles_by/5 ), and a lifelong advocate for space, science, and technology. More at http://terryhancock.narya.net
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