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Non-Review Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale is over-stuffed, over-long, and unfocused. It is a muddle of big ideas thrown against one another, the sparks flying in whatever direction they will.

There is a sense in which writer and director Drew Goddard wants Bad Times at the El Royale to be about everything, to find some space within the movie for just about every possible allegory. It is difficult to explain what Bad Times at the El Royale is actually about, for reasons that extend beyond contemporary spoilerphobia. This is a movie that feels at once like it has important things to say, and a very abstract way of trying to say them.

Red guy at night, Hemsworth fans’ delight.

There is also something brilliant in all of this, in the way that Drew Goddard swings wildly at such a broad array of big ideas in such a surreal context. Bad Times at the El Royale is packed to the brim with big ideas, offering a story that could easily be read as scathing political commentary, powerful religious allegory, or biting social satire. It is an unashamedly odd film that is wrestling with a variety of interesting themes. If it can’t pick just a handful to focus upon, it is because there are so many rich veins to tap.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a bold and infuriating piece of pop art. It’s also unashamedly ambitious and enthusiastically esoteric. It’s a movie that certainly won’t be for everybody, but it is broadcasting very strongly on its own distinctive wavelength.

Flower power.

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My 12 for ’12: The Cabin in the Woods & The Virtues of Constructive Criticism

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #4

The horror movie has always been a bit of an ugly stepchild when it comes to film genres. It seems, for instance, that horror movies (and directors) have to wait longer to receive recognition for the work that they’ve done. The Shining, for example, earned several Razzy nominations in the year of release, but is now regarded as one of many classics within Kubrick’s oeuvre. There are lots of reasons that the horror genre is easy enough to dismiss or ignore.

You could argue that there’s something so basic about fear that it isn’t considered as much of an artistic accomplishment to scare the audience. There are legitimate arguments to be made about the sexist connotations of various horror films. Perhaps more than any other genre, successes within the horror genre have a tendency to lead to self-cannibalisation – sequels, remakes, knock-offs – that dilute and erode any credibility that the original film had earned. The innovation of Paranormal Activity is harder to recognise after half-a-decade of found-footage imitations. The cleverness of the original Saw becomes harder to distinguish amongst a crowd of “torture porn” wannabes.

All of these are very legitimate criticisms to make about the nature of the genre as a whole, and perhaps they speak to why films within that niche are so easily dismissed. I will aggressively argue that several horror films are among the most important films ever made, but I will also concede that there is (as with everything) a lot of trash out there, and a lot of things we need to talk about. Cabin in the Woods feels like a genuine attempt to have that sort of conversation, and to raise those questions. More than that, though, it comes from a place of obvious affection for the genre and all that it represents. This isn’t a stern lecture about the inherent inferiority of a particular type of film,  but constructive criticism from a bunch of people who care deeply about the genre as a whole.

cabininthewoods8

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What Does It Take To Get You To See a Movie Twice In the Cinema?

Going to the cinema is expensive. In fact, it’s been getting progressively more expensive these past few years, which seems to be a contributing factor in steadily decreasing theatre attendance. (The behaviour of fellow patrons and lax enforcement of basic cinema etiquette might be another.) Still, there’s something inherently romantic about a trip to the cinema, seeing the lights go dark and the images projected on a big screen, as they were intended to be seen. While a home cinema system offers its own perks, there’s just something inherently appealing about the real deal. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing Cabin in the Woods with my better half – the second time I’d seen the film. I very rarely double-dip on cinema trips, but there were a variety of factors that alleviated my guilt. What does it take you to see a film more than once in a cinema?

Cinema is a cottage industry...

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Does Cabin in the Woods Out- “Hunger Games” The Hunger Games?

Sometimes I form weird movie connections in my head – tying two particular films together even if there’s very little common ground on which to link them. For example, I sat through quite a bit of Shame thinking of Collateral, a film linked tangentially thematically, as both offered rather scathing portraits of anomie against the backdrop of a major American city. On the other hand, I also formed a rather strong connection between the superb Cabin in the Woods and the mega blockbusting phenomenon The Hunger Games. As I watched Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s powerful exploration of the horror genre, I couldn’t help but feel that this was exactly what The Hunger Games wanted to be, even if the film adaptation couldn’t quite manage it.

The show must go on!

Note: This article contains some background information on Cabin in Woods. Nothing too big, but I would honestly recommend that you see the film as blind as possible. It is, by some considerable margin, one of the best films of 2012, and entirely deserving of both your time and your money. This article will still be here when you get back.

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Non-Review Review: Cabin in the Woods

Part of me wonders when it’s appropriate to start ranking the year’s films. I say that, because I’ve just had the pleasure of catching The Cabin in the Woods, which is easily one of the best films of the year so far, and the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. I know those sound like trite clichés, but Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s exploration of the horror genre just bristles with a raw energy that sweeps up the audience.

It’s a rare horror film that has you laughing when it wants you to laugh, while keeping you anticipating shocks that you know it knows you know are coming. In many ways, it seems like Cabin in the Woods comes from a very raw and personal place from both director and writer, one conflicted over the genre as a whole. From the outset it’s clear that Whedon and Goddard truly love the conventions and the thrills, while loathing the inherent voyeurism and nihilism that is almost inseparable from those aspects. It’s a weird dichotomy, and Cabin in the Woods is a weird film, but weird in that most brilliant of ways.

Who is afraid of the big bad wolf?

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