Category Archives: The Cabin in the Woods

Top Five Films of 2012

The end of one year gives film fans like myself the chance to reflect upon the past twelve months and consider what has past.

2012 was a year which saw The Artist cruise to Best Picture at the oscars.

The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall all broke $1 billion worldwide showing that sequels/franchises continue to be box office gold. In fact 9 of the Top 10 Highest Grossing Movies of 2012 were sequels or part of an existing franchise.

It also saw films as diverse as Cloud Atlas and John Carter receive a thumping at the box office… or at least the American Box Office, which tends to be the only one reported. John Carter actually made $283 million worldwide against a budget of $250 million. Likewise Cloud Atlas could still break even after it gets a full release worldwide. One unmitigated disaster, however, was The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure which made back only 5% of its $20 million budget. If you’re curious as to why, this article offers a good explanation along with some mind-altering clips.

Anyway, onto the main feature:

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5. The Imposter
I have a suspicion of documentaries that ‘tell a story’ or purposefully withhold information from the viewer, rather than merely showing them things and letting them make their own mind up.
The Imposter breaks this rule, but the way it structures its narrative is such that I didn’t really mind. The story, of a young spanish man who poses as a missing american teenager, is so difficult to believe anyway that telling it like a Hollywood thriller really does suit the nature of the tale.
Finally, getting the antagonist of the film to not only agree to the interviews but be so up front about what he did, gave the whole film a creepy Silence of the Lambs feel that you do not see very often in documentaries. At times astonishing, at times disturbing and at times heart-breaking; make sure you check it out if you missed it.

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4. Looper
Brick and The Brothers Bloom showed the invention of director Rian Johnson, and in some ways are reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s early films like Momento and The Following.
Looper showed what Johnson could do with more of a budget. Like Nolan’s Inception its plot is full of complex twist and turns, however, unlike Inception, the characters, ideas and substance of the film are able to match said complexity.
In making the lead character deal with killing his older self, Looper also manages to do something creative and interesting with the time travel genre, without getting itself too wrapped up in the finer details of how it all works.
Looper was a smart, engaging film which kept the audience on its toes the whole time without resorting to an over-the-top twist or withholding too much information (cf. Prometheus). This year’s best sci-fi film by far.

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3. Cabin in the Woods
Avenger’s Assemble may be the Joss Whedon movie most people saw in 2012, but Cabin in the Woods is the one that shows us just how creative he can be when he is given the space to do so.
Collaborating with fellow Buffy writer Drew Goddard, Cabin in the Woods is a twist on the traditional horror set-up; with five young people going on a vacation that can only have terrible consequences.
With a third act that thrilled like few films can, Cabin in the Woods was one of the most surprising and fun films of the year that is sure to be remembered as one of this decade’s best horror movies.

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2. The Angel’s Share
Ken Loach is renowned for his brand of ‘social realism’ which normally sees things going from bad to worse for his working class characters. The Angel’s Share has moments like this (a scene where the protagonist has to confront a victim of his crimes for example), but mostly it’s an upbeat affair about a young father trying to turn his life around through whisky. One scene in particular had me laughing more than anything else I saw at the cinema this year (the one involving two Irn Bru bottles for those who have seen the film).
Overall the film was ‘feel-good’ without being saccharine, a story where you feel the story and characters have really earned the right to smile at the end.

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1. The Muppets
I grew up watching The Muppets Tonight on BBC and also The Muppet Christmas Carol pretty much every Christmas since it was first released. So when I heard they were making a movie much like the original films/tv series I was very excited.
The film did not disappoint; completely capturing the spirit of the films/series of the 70s/80s whilst creating a tale that made sense of The Muppets absence from popular culture for the past few decades. No other film this year brought me just as much joy as The Muppets, and for that reason it simply has to be number one.

Agree/Disagree? Feel free to provide your own Top 5 Films in the comments below:

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What I’ve Been Watching: The Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the woods posterThe horror genre has been through something of a rough patch over the past twenty years. The genre which launched the careers of Steven Spielberg (Jaws), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead), Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Braindead), David Cronenberg (Shivers). It’s also hard to imagine where Ridley Scott would be today without his second film, Alien.

Every single one of these director’s films showed not just an understanding of how to scare people, but also a creativity in how they did it. A lot of things about these films are iconic, the music from Jaws, the set and character design from Alien, the first person perspective in The Evil Dead (a film from which The Cabin in the Woods purposefully borrows the premise).

However, it’s hard to think of too many American horror films since Scream that have anywhere near the joy, creativity, or scares of so many of the films of the 70s and 80s. The best horror films seem to have come from outside the Hollywood studio system, The Blair Witch Project, Ringu, Battle Royale, Let the Right One Inand Pan’s Labyrinth for example.

In recognition of all this comes The Cabin in the Woods, described by co-writer, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) as a “loving hate letter” to the horror genre. He’s teamed up with Drew Goddard (Buffy and Cloverfield) to try and give the genre the shot of adrenaline it needs.

In writing a review of The Cabin in the Woods, it’s important not to give too much away. Although you’ll know from the opening scene, this isn’t a traditional slasher flick. The tagline boldly proclaims “You think you know the story”, and what I can say is that you haven’t seen a horror film quite like Cabin before.

The premise is basically five college students go to a mysterious cabin, inconveniently placed a long way from anything. Surely nothing can go wrong on their innocent break from modern society, right?

Hopefully, it also would not be too much to say that like Funny Games, Scream, and the underrated Drag me to Hell, it is a film which uses the audience’s existing knowledge of the genre to make light of a lot of its character’s actions. As such if you’re not at least passingly familiar with horror films (as I know the genre provokes a marmite reaction) quite simply you will not enjoy the film. In fact I think it’s fair to say that your enjoyment of the film will almost be in direct proportion to your enjoyment of horror.

I’d love to be able to say more about the film, about my favourite moments, lines, and characters but I feel that would be giving too much away. What I can say is that it is a highly enjoyable, brilliantly paced thrill ride which reminds me why I own every single episode, film, and comic Joss Whedon has ever written. Needless to say The Cabin in the Woods will be added to that collection and I look forward to watching it many, many times in the future.