Mon
Apr 23 2012 1:00pm

Joss Whedon, John Hughes, and Torture Porn: What The Cabin in the Woods Says About the Current State of Pop Culture

When I saw Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods a week ago, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect — I knew there was some sort of twist involved, and that the movie was intended to be a critique of ultraviolent slasher films, but I’d somehow avoided any major spoilers, going in. So, I spent at least half the movie desperately trying to guess how all the narrative pieces were going to fall into place, attempting to stay one step ahead of all the clever twists (and mostly failing) — and of course there’s a fair amount of pleasure to be had from all that frantic not-knowing.

The biggest surprise, though, occurred after I’d left the theater and started mulling the whole experience over, and realized that while I’d expected something smart, snarky, and fun, what The Cabin in the Woods delivers is much, much darker and more subversive than simply cleverness for its own sake. I never would have guessed how much time I’d spend thinking about just how well the film manages to illuminate the deeply weird cultural moment we find ourselves in, and how it all comes back to John Hughes…and how maybe all we really need to know we learned from Eighties movies. Or not.

Contains spoilers for Cabin in the Woods, The Hunger Games, and also probably The Breakfast Club.

I don’t tend to group Joss Whedon in with the cadre of Generation X directors that popped up in the 90s, maybe because he was making some of the best TV ever while people like Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, and Quentin Tarantino were the becoming the new hotshots of indie film. Clearly, though, as much as these slippery generational labels count for anything, Whedon is a Gen X director: born in 1964, he grew up with the classic slasher film*, from the lower budget Black Christmas and Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 to Halloween (1978) and Friday the Thirteenth (1980). By 1983, some sources estimate that the genre was responsible for nearly 60% of the domestic box office**, spinning off into sequels and prequels that continue to pop up over two decades later.

*Yes, I know about Psycho (1960). We could get even more academic about it, but for the purposes of this article I’m going to stick with 1974 as slasher ground zero.

**Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2005)

We’re all familiar with the basic formula of these early films, featuring a carefree, freedom-loving youth culture in conflict with stunted, backward gargoyles rooted in the past  (usually thanks to some earlier trauma) and fueled by a pathological hatred for fun, sex, and rock and roll. The genre’s alpha-boogiemen quickly gained their own cult, antihero status: Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers were the stars of their own franchises: terrifying, unstoppable, but also a known quantity, bound by the strict conventions of the genre itself. They were the familiar (albeit horribly burned/scarred/masked) faces of a tightly controlled synthetic nightmare.

After years of raking in the bloodstained bucks off the corpses of fictional dead teenagers, the sun finally seemed to be setting on the slasher genre until the mid-90s rolled around to revivify its hulking corpse. Around the same time Whedon and Company started nudging Buffy Summers and her loyal Scoobies through the various horrors of high school, movies like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Final Destination parodied the conventions of “classic” slasher films with a fresh crop of smart, savvy teen protagonists and plenty of self-referential humor. As with Buffy, these protagonists tended to be more empowered than the helpless victims of yore, and while there was still plenty of grist for the murder mill in these later films, the trend seemed to be heading toward clever wisecracks and pop culture references and away from the backwoods Grand Guignol bloodbath.

Except not. We entered a new millennium, and apparently Hollywood lost its mind: Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), the remakes of The Last House on the Left (2009) and I Spit on Your Grave (2010), and The Human Centipede (2010). It sounds ridiculous to say that this was the decade when horror movies got dark, but…have you seen these movies? Are we that burned out, as a culture, that it takes some dank combination of sexual torture, self-mutilation, and maybe a flesh-eating clown reenacting medieval surgery techniques to even get worked up any more?

Culturally speaking, if slasher films (and the genre’s more recent outgrowth, torture porn) are supposed to reflect the social and political tensions and anxieties of our society, what does the last decade this say about us? It’s relatively easy to look back at what was going on in the mid-seventies and start serving up analysis and theories about why this genre caught on like wildfire, with its liberated, upwardly mobile post-flower children and pre-yuppies being punished for their privilege, dragged screaming from the sunlight of the suburban American dream and sacrificed for some perceived sin...but I feel like we’ve lost sight of the enemy in recent years.

It’s not about Freddy or Jason anymore. The familiar boogiemen have been replaced by more random, faceless evils and mindless, relentless gore. I’d argue that the genius of The Cabin in the Woods lies precisely in the fact that it leads its audience to question what the genre has become, and what we’re getting out of it. If horror movies are a safe way of exploring fears both primal and cultural, what do we really need to be afraid of, now, in 2012? It’s not the escaped maniac with a hook haunting lovers’ lanes, and it’s not Leatherface (or Deadites, or an off-brand Pinhead, or even a rampaging killer unicorn)…turns out, the new face of ultimate evil is two pasty, middle-aged guys in a golf cart. Or at least, it’s what they represent.

The Cabin in the Woods and systems of control

Slapping the ominous, blood-red opening titles over the scene of the delightful Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins bantering about power tools and childproof locks was certainly a fun way to kick off the film, but in retrospect, it’s also incredibly fitting. Beyond the humorous discord between their banal chatter and the sudden, jarring, horror-style freeze frame, the movie’s also telling us (or at least the protagonists, our temporary stand-ins), “You should be terrified of these people. They are the ones who make the decisions that affect you and the people you love. These guys control your world, and they are out to get you.”

It’s often remarked that Buffy was a teen comedy/drama with horror elements added in, brilliantly literalizing the metaphor of the utter hellishness of high school; Cabin in the Woods, on the other hand, is horror hiding a militant pro-youth agenda. It’s not interested in the dubious catharsis of seeing one or two hopelessly traumatized survivors stumble out of the woods come daybreak — it wants to know why these college kids (young adults, really) need to be punished, and why we, the audience, are watching in the first place.

It’s remarkable how powerful and self-evident the critique becomes over the course of the movie, but without ever detracting from our investment in the narrative — if anything, the more the underlying critique surfaced, the more invested I became — part of that is the sheer cleverness and novelty of the plot and the way it’s structured, but it’s also the humor and offbeat earnestness of the characters themselves. Both are hallmarks of Whedon’s style, but watching the final scene, it finally hit me that with The Cabin in the Woods Whedon’s actually constructed a horror film around the heart (and the politics) of a John Hughes movie. On steroids.

In movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, the story revolves around teenagers laboring under the expectations and prejudices of parents and other adults, all the usual social pressures and constructed, preconceived notions that are needlessly divisive, alienating the rich kids from the poor kids, the brains from the jocks, Ally Sheedy from…everyone. And inevitably, the lesson Hughes’ protagonists learn is not to let other people define you, or punish you for being yourself, and most importantly: not to give in to fear and conformity.

It’s no secret that Whedon is a John Hughes fan, and comparisons are often made between their work, so maybe it’s no surprise that the final scene of The Cabin in the Woods borrowed that archetypal John Hughes lesson, upped the stakes, and transformed it into a life-or-death proposal. The fate of the world suddenly depends on this kind of decision: sacrifice yourself or your friend to save the culture that would control you, pigeonhole you, and utterly dismiss you as an individual — a culture made possible by fear and enforced convention. Play your assigned part in perpetuating that cycle….or, tell that world to go to straight to hell. Literally.

Sitting in the theater, watching as the survivors finally realize that they’ve been manipulated and forced into certain roles from the beginning (The Virgin, The Fool, The Whore, etc), all I could think was that the movie had turned into The Breakfast Club: Apocalypse Edition. It sounds like a joke at first, and Kristen Connolly’s distinctly Ringwaldian charms may have made the connection a little easier, but for me, the final rejection of their roles resonates with the exact same spirit that makes The Breakfast Club so beloved by Gen Xers and subsequent generations of viewers (but with a seething Lovecraftian abyss substituted for the high school library. Natch).

As fun and funny as the movie can be in parts, the more I think about the ending in those terms, the more I appreciate how radical and subversive it really is. The last movie I saw before Cabin was The Hunger Games, which almost ends in a suicide pact between the two main characters, unwilling to be manipulated and controlled any longer. Sound familiar? I don’t have room here to delve into all the similarities between the two films, but they have a lot more in common than you’d think, at first glance: youth sacrifice, surveillance/voyeurism, evil-as-routine-bureaucracy, and, eventually, rebellion in the face of institutionalized murder.

Obviously, there’s no way to look at two hit movies that happen to be out at the same time and declare a trend in the making, but I find it interesting that the both films exemplify such a glaring distrust of authority and traditional roles and behaviors. There’s plenty for young people to be anxious about in today’s current political and economic atmosphere — perhaps it makes sense to look past the obvious boogiemen and focus on systems of control instead. In a world so overwhelmed with white noise, discord, and disinformation, maybe it’s the fear of being manipulated that needs to be faced head-on, not embraced. Joss Whedon clearly knows the difference; torture porn does not. Your move, Hollywood.


Bridget McGovern is the non-fiction editor of Tor.com. She is going camping in the woods next weekend, because life has a hilarious sense of timing. If she survives, you can follow her on Twitter.

33 comments
Tim Schmelter
1. Palpatim
Nice analysis, and an interesting comparison. Of course, I'm not going to be able to watch "The Breakfast Club" ever again without picturing (SPOILER) the giant fist of an ancient god coming down on top of the high school.
Kvon
2. Kvon
My question after seeing the film is what caused the glitch in the cave system...did someone say it came from higher up? Can we suppose take that as evidence of supernatural tamperings to stop the ritual sacrifice (both here and in the other locales)--by either 'demons' or 'angels'?
Kvon
3. Timp
You honestly couldn't guess what was going on from the opening credit sequence? Everything in the movie was telegraphed. But it was still very enjoyable. That's the amazing thing.
George Brell
4. gbrell
@2.Kvon:

That's what I thought at first, but after thinking about it a little more, I think it might be the Fool's playing around with the overrides in the grave/elevator. Higher up being a literal height.
Anthony Pero
5. anthonypero
I haven't watched a horror movie since Poltergeist. The genre just does nothing for me. But everything I read about this movie makes me think I'm going to make an exception. Like with SE7EN, I can get behind a well-made, thought provoking film that is intelligent in its social commentary, even if other elements of the film are not to my taste.
Sam Brougher
6. Azuaron
It's interesting you've made this connection (which I think totally works), but I've been looking at things in a different way.

It's about the horror film industry, and the making of horror movies. Someone (possibly Whedon) said that it was a "loving hate-letter" to horror films.

The organization is the horror film industry. "Upstairs" is the production companies, who don't care as long as the "ritual" (formula) is followed and the ancient ones are appeased. The main people we see are directors, pulling the strings and making the movie. Chem, demolitions, etc. are prop and effects departments.

The different locations of the rituals are the countries that typically make horror movies. Each ritual is tailored for the location's horror tropes (college students in the woods for the US, little girls scared by a scary little girl in Japan). Japan has a "100% clearance rate" because their horror movies are usually original and really frickin' scary, but they finally fail because they've fallen back on the "scary ghost girl" for too long.

The ancient ones are the horror audiences who cheer for every bit of nudity and every gruesome death.

The college students I'd actually had a harder time pinning down, but I think you've (mostly) nailed it.

On the note of the Hunger Games, I also made that connection. And, like the Hunger Games, I don't believe the protagonists are meant to be audience standins. Suzanne Collins has openly said that the audience are the Capitol, and I think Cabin in the Woods did something similar by making the audience the ancient gods. The protagonists represent non-formula and originality.

When all the standard horror monsters destroy the organization, it is the horror industry being destroyed by its own overused tropes. Further, I find it somewhat ironic that the "deus ex machina" button to save the "heroes" destroys the organization and, ultimately, leads to the deus rising up to destroy the world (and the heroes).

Finally, when the ancient ones rise up and destroy the world, that's audiences rising up to destroy any film that doesn't fit into the standard formula. I've heard people say that the Fool and the Virgin should have found a way to stop the "problem" of the ancient ones permanently. I think they've missed the point of the movie, and, ironically, are asking for a cliched ending.

The ancient ones are us, and the problem is our collective taste in horror movies, and our continued financial support of formulaic movies.
Kvon
7. The One True b!X
The glitch was caused by Marty's mucking about in the electronics. They don't refer to "higher up", they refer to "upstairs". And that's a reference to the actual killing floor, so to speak, of the surface world.

Meanwhile, I'm amused how many times now I'm seeing people latch onto the relevance of the smash cut to the title card being over Hadley and Sitterson. It was one of the first things the critic I saw it with mentioned, too.
Josh Storey
8. Soless
@Palpatim, you mean upraised fist of a giant Lovecraftian Judd Nelson, right?
Kvon
9. Tom JOhnston
We're watching The Breakfast Club in gr. 12 Writers' Craft, looking at the screenplay. It's amazing how this film continures to connect with youth.

Maybe we should read this review as a sample for movie reviews. I love the thinking in it. I like the fact that the author finds some redeeming qualities of the stories- more than just senseless horror. Whedon and Hughes develop themes of fighting for identity.

Bridget McGovern says that with Hughes (and Whedon) we , "learn not to let other people define you, or punish you for being yourself, and most importantly: not to give in to fear and conformity.

I'm reminded of Occupy Wall Street and wonder if this issue of being manipulated isn't going to be a driving theme for the genertion rising as we speak. Social Media has deconstructed mainstream media and given a voice to youth never dreamed of before.

Looking forward to seeing the movie "The Cabin in the Woods" and comparing notes. I love following Joss Whedon's stuff.
shawn scheuerman
10. rawveggie
Thank you for this insightful opinion. I like the explanation of the "old fears" and "new fears" and how they manifest in horror films. I haven't watched 'Cabin' yet and probably won't. I am a fan of Joss Whedon but I don't think that such extremes in violent behavior or evil-ness (if you will) need to be depicted in order to convey such meanings. That's just my opinion. I am a fan of Sci-fi and themes of all sorts make their way into that genre specifically for its ability to contrast view points in an extreme way to show the stark differences. I realize now that the horror genre is just another way of doing the same thing. This article has also made me realize that the fears you mention (white noise, discord, disinformation) are much larger and more prevalent than I thought.
Chris Palmer
11. cmpalmer
What I loved about Cabin in the Woods was that, if you can handle the jumps and gore, it works on several levels. The surface level is a techno-Lovecraftian-slasher film. Then it's also a very funny Whedonesque film that references and riffs on themes and ideas from probably 100 years of horror stories and movies. But it's also, as this review shows, symbolic or alleghorical of the audience for horror films and the people who put them out, the banality of evil, and a reflection on what that means in our time. After all, there isn't that much difference between the Organization and your average defense contractor planning new and original ways to kill people.

For the record, I believe I read elsewhere that Whedon said the Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins characters were metaphorically Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, which goes along with the comment above about the Organization being the filmmakers and the sleeping god being the film-going audience.

For the record, yes, after the trailer, the opening credit animations, and the first 10 minutes or so of the film, I had most of it "figured out", but none of that prepared me for the joy of the elevator and post-elevator sequence. I haven't watched a film with such a big grin on my face in a long time.
Bridget McGovern
12. BMcGovern
Thanks for all the opinions so far, guys! I also seem to have lost a footnote about Drew Goddard, so let me add that Goddard, who started his career as a writer for Buffy and Angel, co-wrote and directed The Cabin in the Woods. It's unfair of me to concentrate so much on the Whedon side of the creative equation, but I'm much more familiar with Joss Whedon's career, at this point, so apologies for the imbalance! Hopefully at least some of my assertions here can be applied to Goddard's input, as well.

@Timp--it seems that #11 (cmpalmer) already said this, so I'll just nod in agreement: I think it's easy to figure out some basic elements early on, but not the entire plot. The last ten or twenty minutes still felt freewheeling and unpredictable to me (in a good way!)
Bridget McGovern
13. BMcGovern
@Soless and Palpatim: I see what you did there (and it is brilliant :)

@Thom Johnston & Anthony Pero (back in black!): You guys should definitely check back once you've seen the movie--I'd love to hear what you think.

@Azuaron I totally agree with your breakdown, and that the film does a phenomenal job of making both the film industry and audience complicit in the torment inflicted on its protagonists. I also agree that it succeeds in large part by giving the lie to the "victims as audience stand-in" fallacy over the course of the movie--I think that typically, horror audiences identify with the young protagonists involved, while at the same time we're eagerly awaiting their bloody, inglorious onscreen demise. Goddard and Whedon turn that formula on its (already pretty perverse) head, with their rejection of the obvious or cliché ending in the final moments.

(Also, can we just talk about the frog scene, for a second? You're dead on about the Japanese sideplot, but/and that scene was by far one of the funniest parts of the movie. SO GOOD).
Genevieve Williams
14. welltemperedwriter
Wow, I kind of want to see this now, and I wasn't really interested before despite being a Whedon fan--I'm really not into horror, especially the gorefests of recent years.

What I wanted to mention, though, was that I don't know whether it's a trend either, but I kind of hope it is. I work with college students and far too many of them are far too ready to accept what an authority tells them just because it's an authority speaking, which makes this Gen-Xer deeply uncomfortable. I hope it's changing.
Robert Evans
15. bobsandiego
Had Joss' name not been assicated with this production I would not have bothered to see it. The horror films genre -- which I adore when it is done right - seemed tired, trite, and tortured. I dispise 'torture porn.' Last weekend my friend and I saw this whil staying in Vegas, and yeah this film rocked. I think the analysis oresented here is pretty much spot on, with the caveat that I think the symbolism is opene enoought to be subject to differening interpretations. The bottom line being that this is a film when you walk out you talk about its ideas and its meanings and not the 'cool kills.'
Each of the 'kids' fits their archetype, while defying it as well. Layered within the cool and witty banter is the terrible concept that evil isn't zombie redneck pain families, but blandly not questioning your orders, killing that which is new and original for teh sake of the old and fixed riutals of the past.
I cannot wait for the blu-ray and the audio commentary.
Teresa Jusino
16. TeresaJusino
What a great piece! What I loved about the film is that it really does inspire conversation about a number of topics that have nothing to do with horror films for long after the film is over.
Kvon
17. John from Jersey
What's interesting is that the kids, as seen at the very beginning, were chosen because they were living as those archetypes, conforming to those roles by choice. And the implication is that they had found quite a few other groups of college kids that fit into those roles so well that they seldom escaped their fate. It was a fluke that this particular Virgin and Fool saw the pattern and refused to fall into it at the exact same time that all the other rituals also failed.

What these films have in common is the notion that kids and young adults really only break out of the roles they've chosen when placed in the metaphorical crucible. Had they never been selected based on their established behaviors, it's unlikely they ever would have chosen to break out of those roles in the kind of fundamental rejection they do at the end of the film.

So in that sense, those running the compound are able to do so because young people are often so utterly, mind-numbingly predictable...especially to those who lived through it, thinking they were unique and individualistic themselves, only to recognize in hindsight that they were anything but.
Kvon
18. pgnbri
@John from Jersey - I think you're wrong there. I think its very clear that these kids did NOT fit those stereotypes. With the exception of Marty, they only acted as they stereotype when their actions were manipulated (primarily through various forms of drugging) by the "directors". Marty was the only one not being drugged (since they accidentally missed one batch of his pot) and he turned out to not be a "Fool" either.
Kvon
19. Anna is a palindrome
@johnfromjersey

The thought that these kids fit the stereotypes already -- by choice -- isn't quite true of the kids in the film.

1. Dumb blonde/whore: Amy Acker's character (the chem department) stated that they were lowering her cognition through the hair dye that she had used to become blonde. There was nothing in the introduction of the characters that said she was dumb previously. In fact, she was pre-med. As for the "whore" bit, I didn't really see anything that might have proved/disproved that she slept around a lot. Even if she did, that just goes back to the prejudices of the "ancient ones" and people as a whole. Double standards for women, etc, etc. But let me tell you, if Chris Hemsworth was my boyfriend? I'd be having lots and lots of sex too.

2. Jock: Yeah, he played football, but he was also a sociology major with a full ride academic scholarship. He wasn't exactly alpha dog/macho man type...until they MADE him be. They piped in some sort of chemical to make him go all aggro, as the stoner pointed out that he wasn't like that normally. At all. Even while drunk. And Jock was the one that said the ever-so-smart "Let's stick together" thought. The chemicals were again piped in and he went all "Split up gang!" on them.

Further explanations of the other three can be done as well, but basically these guys weren't like the archetypes until downstairs dicked around with them, molding the youth into exactly what they thought all youth was.
Kvon
20. --Brad
To sidestep for a moment ... HEAVY SPOILER FOLLOWS ...

Why do you suppose Joss and Drew cast that particular actor as the Director? Was it the fact that she played what may be the first female protagonist of a horror movie in American cinema? Or was it her role in a famous horror/comedy film franchise? Or both?
Robert Evans
21. bobsandiego
I had a thought about the metaphor level of the film. I think many of us can accept that on one level this is a statement about film making and what has become of the horror genre. The Kids are the cast, the pupetmasters are the film crew complete with various department just putting time at the job, and of course Ms. Weaver is as she was credited "The Director" the one with the vision emcompassing the whole project, dedicated to placating the dark lords. Who are the dark lords? Not the audience but the studios, who insist on the same tired route formula over and over, smashing and destroying when they are unsatisfied. This makes even more sense when you think about the end of the movie -- 'It's time to give something else a chance." A plea to put to rest ther Young People in Peril format which is now really nothing more than tired formule.
Kvon
22. William B
Ahhh, good point that the Dark Lords are the studios, bobsandiego. It also makes me think that Joss & Drew are suggesting that the current horror machine is not helping the college-aged kids who are (I think?) the main demographic these movies are marketed to, and ends with the collegers asking for another studio -- another model of horror moviemaking -- to come along.

I love the Breakfast Club comparison. The one thing I'm currently trying to figure out is how these two levels of the film -- the horror genre critique and the social critique -- intertwine and intersect. Because on one hand, the kids are just stand-ins for the general characters in a horror film, with the faculty downstairs being the general representative of the horror movie making process, and the Gods down below representing the dires to make horror movies in the
first place. And on the other, the structure is that the kids in the cabin on the surface of the story are controlled by the faculty below -- their elders, the social world they live in -- in order to protect the world from the forces of chaos and whatnot which lie below (our darker impulses, perhaps). The relationship between the two -- the first which is nothing but horror movies, really, and the second which is only superficially about horror movies -- is hard to figure out. Two possibilities:

1. As suggested by the author of the piece, the recent trend in horror movies of the Saw/Hostel variety reflects the current time in society, and so deconstructing what those horror movies have to say is a gateway to social criticism;

2. The argument is, perhaps, that horror movies THEMSELVES contribute to the cultural situation wherein college-aged kids feel the need to conform to certain stereotypes in a way against their interests.

Both of these seem partly right, but both are a little unsatisfying. I do believe the social critique is there and is more interesting to me personally than the horror movie takeoff (though that interests me too), the latter of which is the main thing that Goddard and Whedon
talk about in interviews. I do tend to hope that the Breakfast Club story -- the radical pro-youth agenda, haha -- is more than a by-product of talking about horror movies. I can also understand if this was part of Goddard & Whedon's real agenda, they might not want to talk about that as explicitly, since it might be more contentious than a narrower critique of horror films proper. Maybe it's best left to subtext.

As an aside, I do think that the movie provides a good reason for the faculty/society to constrain kids' behaviours. And that's the Old
Gods, which are the things that monsters *come* from. To me, they represent whatever part of our subconscious that needs horror films badly, but also the part that might be tempted to, um, kill and maim and that type of thing. Obviously society exists in order to keep our darker natures in check. I think the rock-and-hard-place aspect of the story is that society can be too constraining, but the alternative is not simple freedom but destruction; we do not really want to go to the pre-civilized Wild West or whatever, or if we do, there will be badness. Serenity spoilers: the conflict here reminds me a lot of the oppressiveness of the Alliance coupled with the destructiveness of the
Reavers on the fringes of space. The trick is to find as much freedom as you can without becoming anti-social in a way that hurts others (and yourself). In Cabin, this is basically not possible, but I don't think this is so much Goddard and Whedon saying they believe this, as exposing the fear that runs through us that wanting to dismantle the unhelathy aspects of society might let in the things society is genuinely there to protect us from.
Kvon
23. kihope
as far as who did the dismantling of the electrical system for the cave-in, i don't see how it could have been the fool when he was tampering in the cellar. are we to take it as like, "divine intervention" from "above," meaning those of us that are tired of the torture-porn and actually want to see the poor kids escape for once? like that it is a sign that parts of society aren't willing to accept the standard formula any longer?
C.D. Thomas
24. cdthomas
First, to add a data point: Goddard (and, yeah, I wonder if he's related to That One) said in a talkback that he grew up in New Mexico, and his friends had parents who worked at Los Alamos, which directly relates to Guys In White Shirts Working With Dark Forces. It's almost too good a metaphor, except that with the horror slant, it's psychohistoric, in describing the post-Cold War Era -- with all the forces we summoned up on our side, what has that done to us, and our children?

Next, speaking of psychohistoricity, I wonder if the development of horror film roughly parallels cultures' processing of their war experiences, as filtered through the veterans who drift to second-unit movie work -- the gore-gore boys, amputation experts, explosives geeks. From Deathdream (who knew how influential Bob Clark was?) to Halloween and the 80s surge, we get the drifter/relative who's deranged; from Scream on, the meta-ness of reality shows; and Hostel brought the damage forward to the Bosnian war. CITW stresses the forever-war aspect of our current entanglements -- the Old Ones have bases all over the world, and they all require the blood of the young, as we callously go on, in Their service.

Lastly, the tampering occurred due to an overriding order, not a fault caused by Marty. Where in the chain of command wasn't explored, because shit went south so quick -- but I bet one hell of an After-Action report was compiled by those turned-immortal human liaisons now coping with an utterly cocky pantheon.
Kvon
25. Ascension
The gods beneath the surface are not just being appeased by the sacrifices. If the viewers at home are the gods beneath the surface, then by their rising - their ascending - they can end the current system and make a new one. It's not an apocalypse as much as a game changer so huge it ends the current world and starts a new one.

The hand breaking the ground at the end of the movie? It's us, being liberated from the fetishization of sex and gore. Rise, people.
Kvon
26. Ascension
The room Dana and Marty were trapped in? 3606? What could that mean?

For starters....http://quran.com/36/6

"That you may warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, so they are unaware."

If anyone wants to discuss the all the religions of Abraham, the Occult, how they align and how they don't, etc visit hashemstudios-board.com.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
27. tnh
cdthomas @24, returning veterans have gone into that kind of special effects work, and have at times been a transformative presence, but the development of the horror movie isn't tied to that.
Kvon
29. WWLL
IF the stoner didn't die, whose blood filled the ... let's call it the chalice and the tablet's grooves? Or is that blood not the blood of the actual victim, just (say) pig blood and the killing/watching is what matters to the Old Ones?
Kvon
30. TimmyR
I haven't read much Joseph Campell, but since Joss is talking archetypes my guess is he has; my read on the ancient ones is that they represent our own lust for blood in a story. Having put that out there, is Joss saying we need to kill these characters to keep our base instincts at bay? Maybe. "The Ancient Ones" are also a good story device to justify "Control Center" bit of the movie, if they aren't sacrificing virgins, and whores and jock (Oh My!) for The Ancient Ones then the "Control Center" is just a massive government program dedicated to killing people--that wouldn't work well for the story.

That said a couple observations:

1. Isn't this movie essentially much darker version of genre send up Blazing Saddles right down to the pie--o.k. flesh rending monster--fight at the end?

2. Yes, Sigourney was the perfect pick for The Director--She was first truly strong female lead in a horror movie (that I know of) AND the chosen vessel of the evil demon Zuul from Ghostbusters. She had to be the Director. Now, speaking Sigourney and Ghostbusters, when do you think Joss and Drew settled on the name of the virgin's character?

3. I was reminded of this quote from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead after watching Cabin in the Woods:

"We're more of the blood, love, and rhetoric school ... I can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can't do you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory -- they're all blood, you see." --The Player
Ian Gazzotti
31. Atrus
So it's only me and my friends who think this movie was telegraphed from start to finish (yes, even all the supposed twists) and nowhere as interesting, revolutionary or deconstructive as it wanted to be? It seemed more like a bad mash-up of everything in the genre rather than a critique.
R O T
32. rogerothornhill
Catching up with this way after the fact but . . . nice.
Kvon
33. a1ay
So it's only me and my friends who think this movie was telegraphed from start to finish (yes, even all the supposed twists) and nowhere as
interesting, revolutionary or deconstructive as it wanted to be?

-- See, Grandad, didn't I tell you?
-- Yes, you're very clever. Now shut up. #peterfalk
Ian Gazzotti
34. Atrus
a1ay@33 - How about using some actual arguments instead of replying to a 4-month-old post with a childish taunt?

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