The Cabin in the Woods

Let’s be honest with each other for a moment.

I am an incredible pansy.

In fourth grade, for Halloween, my class watched a goosebumps movie (yes it was the creepy mask one) and I had nightmares for a month afterward.  I refused to even touch masks for a long time because I was just worried enough that they would suction themselves to my face and I would turn into a scary demon thing FOREVER.

The summer after I finished fifth grade I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my friend and her family.  Their family always went to the haunted house there, so they asked if I wanted to join.  I was scared, but I went in anyways because I didn’t want to be chicken.  I was a growed up fifth grader, goshdarnit.   Of course, my bravery lasted for mere moments upon entering.  After a minute of frozen, stone cold terror I broke into tears and sobbed my way through the rest of it.  Growed up fifth grader, indeed.

There are a couple exceptions to my otherwise pathetic horror tolerance.  I loved the first Hellraiser movie, liked the Exorcism of Emily Rose, did not suffer too badly when I watched Paranormal Activities and thought that the Orphan was effing stupid.  And I read horror frequently.

And now there we have found yet another exception to my “Zomg, horror!  Somebody save meee!” mentality.

The Cabin in the Woods:

Which isn’t entirely surprising because Joss Whedon is one of the writers and Fran Kranz and Amy Acker are both in it.


The Cabin in the Woods is a parody of horror movies in a critical and salutary way.  Even while mocking the redundant, cookie cutter format that has overtaken the horror movie genre, The Cabin in the Woods tips its metaphorical hat to underground and mainstream horror.  (Yes, that paragraph was weirdly pretentious sounding.  I’m reading House of Leaves right now…leave me alone.)

The Cabin in the Woods is the perfect balance of everything I love about Joss Whedon and everything that my uninformed self assumes a horror movies are.  Also, it gives explains the stereotyped plot and character points of modern horror movies.

Even better, it’s just straight up funny.  From the moment the title card hits the screen to the last second before the credits start to roll there is always something to laugh about.  And, typical to Whedon style (I’m sorry Drew Goddard, I know you are the director and other half of the writing team, but I haven’t seen your other stuff.  You seemed really cool at the advance screening.  :D), the jokes are mixed perfectly into a story that is just as scary as it should be, just as self-aware as is still fun, and a whole new level of supernatural.

Aaaand I don’t know what else to say.  I have deleted at least four starts to paragraphs because everything that I want to say contains a tiny, nestling piece of a spoiler that probably you wouldn’t catch until after seeing the movie…and even though I don’t think spoilers actually spoil movies… this one is the kind that you want to go in without knowing anything the first time.

That said, even though I got to see an advance screening a week ago, I will be there on opening night.


Edit (4/15/12, 9:30 am)

Quite a few people have found their way to my blog in the last few days with the search terms “house of leaves” combined with “cabin in the woods”.  Although I definitely mentioned the two of them together in this entry I was not comparing them, which I realize can be frustrating for the desperate web-searcher who just wants to know if one of their favorite things is like something new and exciting.

It’s not.  (But both are awesome!)

The following may contain a couple spoilers.  They’ll be vague but still spoily.

The house in House of Leaves has all of those strange morphing qualities.  The house itself is supernatural and it is essentially a self-sustained living thing, even if it is also reflective of the mental state of the people who inhabit it.

The cabin in The Cabin in the Woods is completely different.  The cabin is old and creepy, but definitely always stays the same size.  Everything about the cabin and the horror that rules it is fully and marvelously explainable.  And it explains more than just itself.

Aaaand for you, person who searched Cabin in the Woods with Hellraiser, The Cabin in the Woods winks at Hellraiser, but otherwise they have nothing in common.



Tabloid – Truth and Lies

A couple nights ago, very last minute, I received free passes to see Tabloid from these folks (thank you!).

Tabloid is a documentary that tells the story of a young woman (Joyce McKinney) who falls in love with a Mormon fellow (Kirk Anderson).  One day he disappears, so she hires a private investigator to find out where he went, which happens to be England, where he is doing mission work with the Mormon church.  She thinks they kidnapped him, so she kidnaps him right back and craziness ensues.  The documentary follows what two English tabloid papers found out about her and how their stories impacted her life in the moment and years later.  The film is quirky, funny and it screws with your head a little bit because NOBODY is telling the same story, even though they’re all telling the same story.

I like this movie a lot because it covers one of my favorite subjects in the entire world:


(I cannot guarantee that the following will not contain any spoilers, but it is a documentary, so spoilers don’t really count, anyways.)

It is almost impossible to take a side while watching Tabloid, despite naturally wanting to have someone to cheer for and someone else to cheer against.  Two opposing stories cannot both be true, after all.

The perspective of a giggly woman who repeatedly calls herself a romantic and is clearly worried about the “brainwashing” of her boyfriend from the Mormon church, which she calls a  “dangerous cult” does not jibe with the story the newspaper men tell about the woman who posed in some very sexual photographs and put sketchy ads in the paper offering nude massages, among other sexual services.

With photographic evidence on the table, it is tempting to write off everything McKinney said as lies told to cover actions that she knew as well as anyone else were wrong.  But she tells her story so sweetly and without a hint of guilt or wrong doing.  She is teary whenever she talks about Kirk disappearing and she lights up like a fricking schoolgirl whenever she says how much she loves him and why.

The story should actually be creepy, and several times I found myself wondering if this story could ever be told if she were a male pursuing a female instead of the other way around.  (It couldn’t.  The margin of uncertainty would be erased and it would be a story about rape and kidnapping, not unrequited love and fun disguises.)

Regardless, there is just enough confusion in the story that it is impossible to know for sure which parts of whose tales are true, which are conscious lies and which are lies that the tellers have forgotten, for their own sakes’, are not actually true.

People remember events differently, and often incorrectly.  Sometimes it is simply physical perspective that shapes our differences (a person standing behind home plate will probably see the success of a runner differently than someone standing behind first) and sometimes we rewrite our perspectives in our minds by over-thinking things that happened in the past.  The more a person thinks about an event, unfortunately, the less accurate that recollection becomes.

I think McKinney thought she was doing right when she kidnapped her boyfriend.  I think she really loved him and he probably loved her, too.  When he left without a word it freaked her out, for good reason, and she traded her once strong morals through lude photographs and sketchy services to earn the money she needed to find and save her boyfriend.  Unfortunately, he valued his religion and her intensity and consequential inability to understand why he was in England being a missionary (and her refusal to believe that he was not brainwashed ) made him fall out of love with her.

How could she not be intense, though?  She sold her innocence for the man she loved only to find out that he wasn’t in danger, which is a reality powerful enough to shatter anyone’s worldview.  She had to continue living the fantasy or be destroyed as well, so she lived, playing the part of a lovelorn fugitive with more drama than was necessary for as long as she could stand it and then disappeared when the expenditure of energy proved too destructive.

Then she told herself and anyone who would listen the fantastic version of the story she needed for sanity’s sake until the story did for her what she needed it to do.

She might know on some level that she was referencing herself when she said:

“Y’know, you can tell a lie long enough until you believe it.”

Running With Scissors

Tonight I watched Running With Scissors.

Watching movies seems to be very bad for me. Whenever I sit down (actually usually I lie down and curl into the ever popular fetal position, with my hood up and a blanket on) to watch a movie, I have this tendency to cut myself off from everything else.  There were a few phone calls I was supposed to make and receive tonight, but I turned my phone off, planning to say that it mysteriously died on me.  My sister asked if I wanted to play basketball with her, which I responded to with a mumbled invitation to watch my movie with me.  I had quite a few errands I should have been running.  There were lists I could have been writing, along with letters and stories and journal entries and emails.  In short, there was a lot of stuff that I completely ignored tonight because I wanted to cuddle into the darkness of the downstairs of my house and watch a movie.  Television, radio, books, you name it…nothing else quite encourages my anti-social side to come out and play quite like a good piece of cinema does.

Let’s talk about the movie, shall we?

Running with Scissors truly impressed me.  It is sad and funny and it is horrible because it is true.  The story follows a young boy, Augusten, as he grows up in less than usual circumstances.  His mother is a bit eccentric to begin with,  but declines into what can really only be classified as madness at the hands of her not-very-capable-due-to-his-own-frightening-peculiarities psychiatrist.

Although the story follows Augusten most closely, the story is actually about the psychiatrist; the puppet master, the behind the scenes string puller…the man who is responsible for every ounce of crazy in the movie.  He has three children (all adopted?) to which he adds Augusten halfway through the film.  None of his kids are quite right in their minds, and his wife is just odd enough that she is okay with munching on dog kibble while watching old horror movies.  The story is about influence and how everything a person does impacts (for good and ill) the people around them.  “The Doctor”, as his wife always called him, ruined at least five lives due to his unorthodox approach to the mentally ill (for example, handing out medicine like it was candy), and probably drove others into the ground as well.

The movie  was about unraveling:  It showed  people losing their hold on relationships and self.  It should have been painful to watch, but there was just enough whimsy that I could and probably would watch it again.

It is a story that offers hope.  Whereas other similar stories are only dark, this one offers a glimmer of sunshine.  The author of this book recovered and grew into a functional adult.  He was able to recount his childhood in a humorous way, because he made it through the tough times and became the person he is today because of it.  Running With Scissors asks us to believe that no matter what we go through, no matter what obstacles life erects on our paths, it is possible to overcome them.

The end of the movie made me contemplate that all too prevalent and unanswerable question of mine…what do I want to do with my life?  Where is my passion?  Could I please, please, please just put on a backpack full of clothes and start somewhere new?  I do not think I am quite capable enough to just walk into a sunset, but…

The problem is that in order to pick up and move, a person needs to have a passion or a driving force behind them to guide their journey and I am not sure that I have one.  There are many things I like, but I do not remember the last time I loved something.  I could not even tell you what I have loved, because I do not remember what it felt like to care passionately about a part of life.

I can’t write any more.  My Mum came downstairs to watch television and it’s killing my focus.  Agh.