Wireless Soul
Lucero-Concord
Lover's Lane

Digital Divide: October 2012

The Cabin In The Woods
Lionsgate
The Avengers
Lionsgate

If anyone had a better summer at the box office than Joss Whedon, I sure couldn’t tell you who it was. Not only did he direct the highest grossing film of the year, but another one of his projects finally saw the light of day after sitting on the shelf for just over two years to become one of the most enjoyable horror send-ups in recent memory.

The Cabin In The Woods, written by Whedon and directed by his longtime cohort Drew Goddard, takes almost every element of the horror genre, tosses them in the blender, and serves up a twisted smoothie that attempts to turn every convention on its collective ear.

It’s as if Whedon and Goddard ticked off the checklist of cliches. Five good-looking members of the 18 to 24 demographic traipse off to spend the weekend at a remote cabin. There’s the Jock (Chris Hemsworth), the Stoner (Fran Kranz), the Nice Guy (Jesse Williams), the Good Girl (Kristen Connolly), and the Dumb Blonde (Anna Hutchison).

Of course, there’s also the creepy gas station attendant who gleefully informs the group of their impending doom, as well as myriad dusty basements and tunnels in which to explore all by one’s lonesome.

The rote situations aren’t a result of lazy planning and writing, though, and I’m not giving anything away by saying they serve simply as the jumping off point  for a very entertaining deconstruction of the history of slasher flicks.

I’m also not letting the kitty out of the burlap sack by saying that the film’s subplot of bureaucratic suit-and-tie types (played both brilliantly and hilariously by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) controlling every aspect of the quintet’s experience from an underground bunker, and that they’re the ones who supply the explanations as to why the people in such situations do incredibly stupid things, like utter the phrase “let’s split up.”

The first two acts of the film are truly brilliant, with nods to just about every influential horror film from The Evil Dead and George A. Romero‘s zombie flicks, to ’50s sci-fi classics and the Hellraiser series.

Yet, despite unleashing literally waves of blood and guts leading up to the apocalyptic finale, Cabin‘s big reveal about why these things are being controlled the way they are comes off as a bit of a cop out. It doesn’t sink the film by any means, it just comes off a bit forced.

The Blu-ray is packed with special features: picture-in-picture running commentary as well as the standard audio commentary, a making-of featurette, and segments on the make-up and visual effects.

Whedon’s other entry to the summer canon is another small indie-flick called The Avengers. (Note the sarcasm.)

With a budget of $220 million bucks, handing the reigns of the jewel in the crown of the Marvel universe over to Whedon came as a bit of a surprise. After all, they’ve only been building to this one film for four years, with each individual character getting their own film as prep work. No pressure. Yet he makes it work.

Big comic book movies are always hit-or-miss. Not from a box office standpoint, mind you, but from a quality angle. For every X-Men, there’s a Fantastic Four. For every The Dark Knight, there’s a Daredevil.

But with a spot-on cast and just the right amount of knowing winks and nods to the inherent absurdity of it all, The Avengers is a more than satisfying culmination.

Since it’s made more money than the GNP of many Third World countries, there’s really no need to rehash the plot points, so let’s take a peek at the Blu-ray itself. First, it looks and sounds amazing, and the features are just enough to be interesting without getting bogged down in minutia. There are interactive features that work with an iPod or iPad, director’s commentary, a gag reel, as well as deleted and extended scenes.

Whedon has signed on to direct the inevitable sequel, but it’s hard to see him having as hot a streak as this one.

— Timothy Hiatt

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