Odds and DEAD Ends: Watching from below: Voyeurism in ‘The Cabin in the Woods’

Voyeurism in The Cabin in the Woods

Released in 2012, The Cabin in the Woods struck a chord in a genre dominated by ‘torture-porn’ and remakes of paranormal horror from Asia. By taking the formula of The Evil Dead film and using the codes and conventions as part of its narrative construction, it seemed to revitalise a genre that many felt had gone astray. I’m going to discuss the film’s use of cameras and the theme of voyeurism, to heighten the film’s tension by subtly shifting our allegiances and questioning our morality.

By default, massive spoilers if you haven’t seen the film.

The film is uniquely structured in that it follows two sets of characters. We have the teenagers on the ‘top floor’, unknown sacrifices to the gods below, and the crew on the ‘bottom floor’ to ensure their demise. Whedon and Goddard state on the DVD commentary that they were going to keep the second floor a secret until a way into the film, but eventually decided against it. This way, they set us up from the beginning with the fear of being watched.

By giving us this knowledge, we place ourselves in a position of power, having information that the main quintet of the piece doesn’t. This aligns us with Alfred Hitchcock’s theory of suspense; that the audience must know something that the characters don’t, be this a wallet about to fall from someone’s jacket or a killer in the closet, to create tension. You can watch Sir Alfred himself explain it in the video below.

Being watched is always powerful in creating paranoia and fear because it is an invasion of our privacy, someone forcing their way into our innermost thoughts and deeds. When Marty says that the idea of the trip is to ‘get off the grid’, he highlights this need for privacy, which we know to be nothing but an illusion. If a metaphor is needed for this invasion of privacy, it is embodied by the two-way mirror in the cabin.

One of the ways this voyeurism is used is through its desensitisation those working below must undergo in order to protect the world. Consider the scene before Jules’ murder and the way in which she must be ‘the whore’ before she can be killed. Kirk says to her “‘we’re all alone’”, followed by a shot of everyone watching it happen. Though this is played for laughs, it’s a real fear that they will be discovered, something every teen couple fears. Later, when asked if Jules showing herself is necessary, we are told “‘we’re not the only ones watching’”, and that they “‘need to keep the customers satisfied’”. The teens are produce, goods to be shown, approved of, and then sold, and it requires such an extreme degree of desensitisation, of dehumanisation, that they must force themselves to do, that we begin to side with those below.

The teenagers are being spied upon from a functional point of view: people need to know what they’re doing in order to do their job right. The comedy Goddard extracts from the workforce means that we align our morals with them. This comes to a climax when the group is heading to the bridge and we get the call that it’s still intact. Who do we support here? Do we support the victims, trying to survive? Or do we support the men trying to kill them, trying to save the world? We are put in a moral quandary here which only adds to our tension.

As another note, not only is the floor below watching the top through their cameras and monitors, but they themselves are also being watched by their boss and the gods. Layers upon layers of voyeurism and the need to look over your shoulder are piled up here in a single film. We cannot get away from eyes everywhere, watching us, wanting us to kill or be killed.

Viewing them through the cameras perhaps helps those below deal with the situation. They don’t have to meet the victims; they can deal with the situation as if they were playing a video game. They are test subjects in a Saw-like game. And one shouldn’t think that this emphasis on viewing as a theme is coincidental. After all, co-writer and director, Drew Goddard, also wrote Cloverfield, one of the movies that re-vitalised the found footage genre along with REC and Paranormal Activity, a genre that emphasizes horror viewed from a first-person perspective.

The desensitisation that the workers go through in order to do their job is passed onto us. This presents us with questions of morality that arise with the film’s conclusion. We side with the heroes and yet also need them to fail. This places us in a tricky situation. Who do we support? The final act’s big dilemma would not resonate so much if we simply sided with the victims, and so we must watch them suffer, with as much black humour as we can get from it so that we also want those trying to keep the gods happy to succeed. It’s the only conclusion we can come to. But is this the right decision? What is the right decision?

In conclusion, the voyeurism displayed throughout the film aids the shift in our empathy just from the side of the victims into the centre of the two sides. We find ourselves in a world of moral greyness, where we aren’t sure who we should root for. We are between Scylla and Charybdis, with the pressure mounting, the clock ticking down, and no clue how to feel. Horror is comprised, at its core, of choices. Whether to run or fight, go up the stairs or out the front door, cut our leg off or not, we have to deal with choices. Goddard puts us in that point where we don’t want to have to choose, but we must. And that’s what makes The Cabin in the Woods, through its theme of voyeurism, just that little bit special.

Article by Kieran Judge (Paranormal Activity, 2007)

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Institute, A. F., 2008. Alfred Hitchcock On Mastering Cinematic Tension. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPFsuc_M_3E
[Accessed 20 09 2018].

Paranormal Activity. 2007. [Film] Directed by Oren Peli. USA: Blumhouse Productions.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

 

FRIGHTENTING FLIX BY KBATZ: MORE KID FRIGHTS!

 

More Kids and Family Frights!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Because there are just so many tales of twisted teens, killer kids, and paranormal abnormalities!

 

Alice, Sweet AliceFrantic Hail Marys, church bells, rectories, and crosses in nearly every scene steep this 1976 slasher in layers of iconography alongside matching yellow jackets, similarly named long hair lookalikes, sisterly favoritism, and saint versus sinner parallels. Little Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan) is fond of her priest, goes to confession, and is gifted with a crucifix necklace while twelve-year-old Paula Sheppard (Liquid Sky) wears a mask to scare the cook. The ceremonial crown, veil, and white dress feel medieval bridal amid the Latin sanctity and old fashioned Sunday best formality – composed women in hats, gloves, pearls, and Jackie O suits are soon hysterical once murder blasphemes the sacred within its very walls. Creepy hints of the strangling attack, feet dragging beneath the pews, and a charred fate intercut the kneeling at the altar and passing wafer, turning the white confirmation into a black funeral. The uptight roosts point fingers, cast blame, and belittle husbands, but the parents are also too busy to notice the gluttonous downstairs neighbor obsessed with cats promising not to bite Alice if she visits him. Out of wedlock, divorced, and remarried taboos squabble while hidden periods and no longer playing with dolls maturity layer the well-done shocks and mask scare. Intense lie detector tests, cold yes or no questions, and scary needle movements add atmosphere along with thunderstorms, bugs, and basement hideaways. This murder acerbates a preexisting family strain, and such repressed attitudes would almost rather there be a grief approved death than admit to potential schizophrenia problems. Retro cameras, typewriters, big phone booths, classic cars, old school police, and formal psychiatrist interviews reiterate the mid-century rigid while prank calls, cramped stairs, and penetrating stabs invoke a frenzied response with violent twists. Do some of the victims get what they deserve? Confessions, warped revelations, mother Madonna saintly and Magdalene whore shaming cloud the case, and the children pay for the sins of the father indeed. This is a taut little thriller with fine scars, mystery, and parables made horror.

The Cabin in the WoodsBradley Whitford (The West Wing), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and more recognizable faces anchor this 2012 horror satire written and produced by Joss Whedon. Droll corporations and mysterious technological surveillance parallels the intentionally cliché coeds off to a lakeside weekend – the blonde, a jock, a virgin, the fifth wheel jester filled with zany pot wisdoms. Naturally, the GPS goes haywire amid retro Rving, backwoods confrontations, throwback tropes, and nods to old school slashers. The hokey isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but eerie mountain tunnels and hidden systemworks add suspicion. Though at times cryptic for cryptic’s sake, it’s pleasing to have the experiment aspects up front – trick paintings, double mirrors, camera observations, and a cabin that’s bigger on the inside than outside. Useless scenes, comedic quips, and windblown characters that delay rather than inform are annoying, and the attempted Buffy for the big screen tone is apparent with social commentary and upending the genre expectations. Ironically, these Initiative knockoffs never feel urgent or dramatic. Some viewers may wish this was either straight horror or totally from the scientific parody perspective. The global fright-creating branches are often more interesting than the typical teens disregarding warnings to not read Latin aloud amid zombies, free for all monsters, fun house mayhem, and meta on meta horror that plays into stereotypical scares just as much as it lampoons them. Fortunately, a self aware attitude adds intrigue – despite being up to something sinister, the technicians cast bemusing bets and celebrate their wins over predictable spooky cellars, creepy antiques, fanatical pasts, and ominous diaries. Occult prayers, bloody rituals, and creative set piece kills accent the inevitable price to be paid. While slow to start for longtime horror viewers, often silly or derivative, and uneven in its multi-layered execution, the familiar ensemble has a good time with this spooky puzzle. Youthful audiences tired of the same old scary movie banal or casual, horror lite fans can enjoy the uniqueness here.

 

PhenomenaJennifer Connolly (Labyrinth) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween) star in this 1985 Italian production from director Dario Argento along with Walkmans, a giant computer, overhead projectors, retro school buses, huge headphones, big boob tube TVs, off the shoulder sweatshirts, and crimped hair. The horseshoe phones are so hefty one breaks through the floor when it falls, and top heavy metal names such as Iron Maiden anchor the score. Pretty but bleak Swiss scenery, foreboding roads, suspicious chains, and an isolated cabin speak for themselves with blood, shattered glass, cave perils, scissor attacks, and strangling violence contrasting the rural vistas and scenic waterfalls. The on the move camera tracks the scares, panning with the staircases, chases, and penetrating knives rather than hectic visuals working against the action – leaving heartbeats, ticking clocks, and rage music to pulse the frenetic dreams. Congested tunnels, dark water, and rotting heads build tension alongside sleepwalking shadows, blue lighting schemes, and saintly white symbolism. Insects, monkeys, and bizarre medical tests collide with missing teens, amnesia, and an old school sense of being lost in the foreign unknown. Despite the young protagonist, the horror remains R without being juvenile or nasty. Although necrophilia and rape are implied amid girls in short shirts, dirty old men, and killer penetrations, the innuendo isn’t like today’s overt teen T-n-A exploitation. Doctors and a strict headmistress suspect epilepsy, schizophrenia, or drugs before the otherworldly but friendly communication with animals – cruel schoolmates and religious extremists view such talents or swarming commands as demonic rather than embracing the literal fly on the wall fantastics. Would you follow bugs to the scene of the crime to see the decomposing victim through their eyes? The notion to be in tune with nature and commune with insects as allies is unique in a genre usually reserving such crawlies for scares, and cool bug eye viewpoints, covered mirrors, freaky dolls, and maggots accent the deceptions, twists, and escalating revelations for some gruesome surprises and a wild finish. And oh my gosh there is a classmate wearing a Bee Gees t-shirt. Want it!!

Tale of Tales – Salma Hayek (Frida), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Toby Jones (Infamous), and John C. Reilly (Chicago) star in this international, R rated dark fantasy bringing three Italian parables to life with medieval castles, vintage plazas, and divine forests. Colorful period costumes add to the carnival atmosphere amid jugglers, fire eaters, and traveling wagons entertaining at court. There is, however, a sinister to the bemusement with youth and beauty versus old age, life and death bargains, nudity, and sexual undertones. Parallel fates, duality, and mirror imagery accent the charlatan fortune teller promising a sea monster’s heart cooked by a virgin and eaten by the queen will ensure pregnancy. Good suspense, underwater effects, gory slashes, choice red, disturbing violence, and bloody carcasses escalate the action without making the fantasy a ridiculously overblown spectacle. Ogres, funeral processions, albino twins, and creepy old ladies share in mystical connections, enchanted springs, separations, and temptations. Precious offspring are mere extensions of their parents’ rule, but man that is one freaky giant pet flea! We don’t notice the two hours plus length thanks to unexpected circumstances, ironic riddles, and brutish suitors. This is a beautiful looking movie with a little bit of everything remaining entertaining even in its darkest moments with caves, terrible bats, and deceptive appearances. Changing one’s skin may not change what’s inside, but some people will help or hinder fate for their own selfishness and there are consequences for trying to change what’s meant to be. This is sad at times and not scary for many – most may not like the collected meanwhile in the realm style either. However, Hollywood would Princess Bride frame these Basile tales with narrator bookends toning down the brutal and not shy with a Disney gentrification. This is period accurate and elaborate for adults but no less a fantasy with darkness and charm bringing the well paced, quality stories full circle. The lessons are learned without being as exploitative or nasty as Game of Thrones, and I wish there more mature baroque fantasies like this instead of the same old cutesy.

Once Upon a Scream Author Spotlight: Sara Lundberg

Horroraddicts.net publishing has recently published our 4th anthology called Once Upon a ScreamRemember the Fairy tales that you grew up reading? Well, they are back again with a horror twist. Once Upon a Scream includes 18 tales that are fantastic and frightful. One of the authors in this anthology is Sara Lundberg and she recently talked to us about her writing:

OnceUponAScreamFrontWhat is your story in Once Upon A Scream called and what is it about?
My story is called “Curse of the Elves.” It’s about Jenna and Frank, a couple who own a butcher shop that’s about to go bankrupt. A single act of kindness leads to them being “blessed” by a mysterious benefactor, where each morning they wake up to a stock of delicious meat pies to sell. Frank is ecstatic, but Jenna is too much of a cynic to trust the miracle and decides to look the metaphorical gift horse in the mouth. What she discovers is horrifying, and the blessing suddenly seems more like a curse. A curse she can’t seem to get rid of.

What inspired the idea?
I write short stories for a website called The Confabulator Café. Every month they have a different writing prompt, and I wrote this for a fairytale retelling prompt. I chose to modernize “Shoemaker and the Elves” and give it a horror twist.

When did you start writing?
I remember writing silly stories with friends all the time as a kid, but I didn’t really take it seriously until my eight grade English teacher told me that he was sure he’d see me in print soon. Unfortunately, it took nearly twenty years for his encouragement to sink in and result in my first short story publication. He passed away a year before that happened, though, so he never did get to see it.16004757

What are your favorite topics to write about?
I like to write about the fantastical (and sometimes horrific) things that I’m sure are (lurking) just around the corner. Does anyone else half-expect to find the TARDIS waiting for them one of these days? I just have to keep looking for the right corner…

What are some of your influences?
I absorbed high fantasy when I was a child—Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan—and as I got older, discovered Michael Crichton, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. Throw in some Joss Whedon, and you end up with my weird mix of fantasy and horror.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?
What people are capable of in their very worst moment—good and bad alike. Also, the twist. Whatever I’m reading or watching or playing, I love trying to predict when the twist will come or who the betrayer will be. I’ll be honest, though. Joss Whedon still gets me every time. Every. Time.

27308048What are some of the works you have available?
Just small stuff right now. A piece of horror flash fiction called “Who’s for Dinner” was published in the Shadows of the Mind anthology, and a dark fantasy piece titled “The Heart of Stone Monsters” was included in the recent Misunderstood anthology. I also have several short stories I’m very proud of at the Confabulator Café, but I’m hoping to get a novel out before too long.

What are you currently working on?
I’m writing an urban fantasy trilogy right now. Working to get the first book out into the world while I write book two. And still trying to write a short story every month for the Café. Keeps me in shape.

Where can we find you online?
I live at a few places across the internet. I have a Facebook author page where I announce stuff like publications and Café stories, a Twitter that I mostly use during National Novel Writing Month, and a writing blog where I try to keep myself accountable on this crazy writing journey (and sometimes post pictures of my puppy).

HorrorAddicts.net 101, Ann Wilkes

Horror Addicts Episode# 101

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

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138 days till Halloween!

ann wilkes, murder weapons, lee, cushing, price

vincent price, baycon, horroraddicts.net panel, laurel anne hill, j. malcolm stewart, ha facebook page, buffy the vampire slayer, christopher lee, peter cushing, vincent price, horror addicts guide to life, look back in horror, j. malcolm stewart, a treasury of recipes by mary and vincent price, fashion avatars, world goth day, hr giger, band poll, end of the world radio, murder weapons, perish, even hell has standards, chantal noordeloos, tim lichtenberg, zombie nights, 60 black women in horror fiction, sumiko saulson, camp 417, web of deceit, smothered, deep like a river, tim waggoner, ghosts of punktown, jeffery thomas, events, halloween, jamie lee curtis, michael meyers, lost boys, goonies, joel schumacher, buffy the vampire slayer, joss whedon, kate beckinsale, wesley snipes, dead mail, not for norms, writer’s block, flash fiction friday, anne wilkes.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddicts101.mp3

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

Murder Weapons, “Perish”

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Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

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h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

Sapphire Neal, David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz, Mimielle, Dawn Wood

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard co-wrote the film The Cabin in the Woods back in 2009.  The film was then shot and directed by Goddard and was completed in May of 2009.  Sadly the film was shot under the MGM umbrella who later filed for bankruptcy putting the release of the film on a severe hold as the film fell into limbo.  However, in 2012 the film finally came to release just over three years from its original completion date.  Thankfully for Horror Fans the film is out in release and eventually will end up on DVD.

The film’s opening credit scenes may leave some wondering if they have entered the correct theatre as they start.  You are shown images of ritualistic sacrifices through many different cultures.  You will obviously find yourself asking what does this have to do with anything in regards to the film.  To be honest this is a brilliant opening sequence as it’s the first hint of what is to come as the story moves forward.

The film starts with Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) doing the normal thing of talking about life around a coffee machine. As they walk through their non-descript office building they are approached by Wendy Lin (Amy Acker) who is concerned about other operations around the world.  Sitterson and Hadley point out that one of those countries remaining has a spotless record and there is no concern.

The viewer is than taken to a house were a group of five college aged kids are getting ready to take a vacation to a cabin now owned by Curt Vaughan’s (Chris Hemsworth) cousin. Curt is taking a long his girlfriend Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison), her friend Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly), a pot smoking friend Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz) and lastly Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams).  Holden is the guy Kurt and Jules asked along in hopes of hooking him up with the now relationship free Dana.

As the group takes their RV out to the cabin we flash back to the office that Sitterson and Hadley are working in and we begin to see that they are tracking the group.  At this time we are not sure why but as you watch you begin to see something begin to unravel.  We get an idea on how much trouble the group is going to be in as we watch a hawk follow their RV as it enters a tunnel.  As they drive thru and emerge on the other side the hawk is seen flying and it suddenly bursts as it hits a field that stops it from following the RV any further.

This is the viewer’s first hint that something isn’t right about this cabin in the woods and we watch as those at the mysterious office watch what happens to the kids inside.  There is a hidden motive to all of the struggles the kids go through and it will eventually become evident.  The joy is watching how things are revealed on how things are set to take place.

Whedon and Goddard in away take a direct shot at the current trend in horror films. You can see how their story seems to glorify the things that make horror films great to one aspect of the audience. However, at the same time they seem to ridicule aspects of more modern horror that have become a great trend in the genre.

This is what makes The Cabin in the Woods such an interesting film.  Along with the way the story is told and things unravel it helps to bring questions about what makes horror great, and at same time bad.  This is all handled in the way the film moves and paces as the college students seem to avoid stereotypes that are associated with these films.  There are hints at some of them and we watch as people pay for that fact.  The really interesting thing is as you watch the film we find out a major secret about what, or who, could kill the kids.  The fact they have an option of foolishly choosing the implement of their own death from horror film stereotypes is well done.

The Cabin in the Woods is a film that horror fans should try to see either on the big screen, or when available on DVD.  It’s a film you will find both fascinating but at the same time quite intriguing.  It turns those horror film stereotypes we’ve come to see on their head and makes you think.  Of course, any Joss Whedon fan will want to see this just to show support for his works. I know this Brown Coat saw it for that reason as well and really enjoyed the film.