(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reverend's Reviews: Horror-ific

Great horror movies are few and far between in my experience. I can count on one hand what I consider the best genre entries of the last 40 years: The Exorcist, Halloween (1978), Dawn of the Dead (also 1978), John Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing, and 2001's underrated, under-seen Session 9. Although they aren't as accomplished, I also appreciated or at least enjoyed Poltergeist, David Cronenberg's 1986 version of The Fly, Land of the Dead, and the first Saw film. The many Jason, Chucky, Freddy, Jigsaw and Hostel iterations simply can't compare.

The Cabin in the Woods, opening nationwide today, boldly references virtually all of these earlier movies to great effect. The smart, keeps-you-guessing screenplay by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) and Drew Goddard (making an impressive directorial debut after writing the hit monster movie Cloverfield) also incorporates elements from the writings of horror masters Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft as it gleefully theorizes the origins of all such tales.

It's difficult to write about The Cabin in the Woods without potentially revealing spoilers, so I won't say much. The plot synopsis in the film's press notes is amusingly limited to "Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen." Viewers may well think they've walked into the wrong movie based on the first five minutes, in which two technicians played by Richard Jenkins (an Oscar nominee a few years back for The Visitor) and Bradley Whitford (of TV's The West Wing) have a discussion at the water cooler about everything but the film's main storyline.

Other members of the game cast include Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth; Kristen Connolly; Fran Kranz (who is currently on Broadway in Mike Nichols' acclaimed revival of Death of a Salesman); and Jesse Williams (from Grey's Anatomy). The film's finale also features a terrific surprise cameo by a big-name genre veteran, along with an abundance of zombies, werewolves, ghosts and other creatures of the night.

The provocative thesis Whedon and Goddard seem to propose via The Cabin in the Woods is that our time-honored indulgence in cinematic and literary horror stories with their fairly archetypal, "sacrificial victim" characters ultimately helps to keep the real monsters that lurk among us at bay. While I feel the movie cuts to the chase a little too soon, possibly due to budget constraints, it's one heck of an entertaining ride.

Also opening today for a one-week engagement at Landmark's Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles is The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a documentary on the British, allegedly-groundbreaking musician/performance artist Genesis P-Orridge. Considered a 1970's-80's progenitor of industrial music, Genesis founded the boundary-pushing bands COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Genesis met his kindred spirit and soulmate Jacqueline Breyer, whom he would term "Lady Jaye," in 1992. Subsequently, as both an act of devotion and as a living form of performance art, Genesis underwent a sex change in an effort to appear more like his beloved.

Seeking to capture Genesis' unique brand of "Romantic consciousness," director Marie Losier's film is informative but it is also more often than not irritating in both content and technique. The photography and editing seem intentionally slapdash, and Genesis himself is off-putting as a subject. One can see how Genesis has perhaps influenced comedian Eddie Izzard, but Genesis' cultural impact today is otherwise negligible. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is more to be endured than enjoyed.

Reverend's Ratings:
The Cabin in the Woods: B+
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye: C-

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment