The Cabin in the Woods

Director: Drew Goddard (2011)
Starring: Thor, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kanz, Anna Hutchinson
Find it: IMDB

Not only is The Emperor wearing no clothes, but in the case of The Cabin In The Woods, certain circles (all of them) are holding his flabby cock and man-boobs high, proclaiming them to be detail on Joseph's Technicolour Dreamcoat. Make no mistake, The Cabin In The Woods is rather good. But it is not groundbreaking and nor is it a game changer. It's a Scream film with more wit and ambition, but a Scream film nonetheless.

For its action, script, direction and insane third act, I give The Cabin In The Woods the following score. This is not a bad review. The Cabin In The Woods is a lot of fun. 

But it is also very flawed and a victim of its own hype. Every review out there will tell you to go in un-spoiled and not to read any more reviews. I did just that, as much as I could. But those reviews effectively spoiled The Cabin In The Woods in a sense far more literal than my knowing what happens. I went in expecting to see something I'd not seen before. Instead I saw a mildly predictable sci-fi Scream movie.
Written by Joss Whedon (and director Drew Goddard), the script sparkles with the same humour and pathos that made Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly so successful. Fans of Whedon will love it. The characters here aren't so three dimensional - and in the case of the stoner arsehole (a rubbish Xander on weed), they're downright annoying - but they do the job. It's probably the point, but they feel like cardboard cut-outs. As soon as Fran Kanz arrived on the scene with an enormous bong, I knew that he and I would not get along well. He and his college friends bundle into a van and travel to the titular cabin in the woods. Spoilers ensue.

Once there, they discover a creepy ******* in which they find a number of ********, each of which represents a different ******. They choose a ******* from a ****, which unleashes a ****** of *******.  But it's not quite as simple as that, for the ******* and the kids' very lives are all part of an age-old ****** designed to prevent *** *** of *** *****. As they are knocked off, one by one, the ****** ******* is revealed. The ******* is pulled **** completely as **** and ***** enter the ***** of the ******** and all **** breaks loose. If you were running an ********** ********* of ********, why would you create a ****** to free them all at once? That's some remarkably bad design-work, there. It's by far the movie's most entertaining part though. There are ****** and ******* and *********** and ******. At one point, a man gets impaled on a unicorn. Thor ******* into an ********* ****, which provides one of the film's best moments. ******** ****** shows up at the end too.
Cabin In The Woods is a lot of funBut there's always that feeling it could have been something more; that it could have transcended the genre rather than commenting upon it whilst snuggling comfortably within its confines. I enjoyed Cabin In The Woods. But probably not as much as I was supposed to; sorry.

The Hunger Games

Director: Gary Ross (2012)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson
Find it: IMDB

Well, if I am going to watch a kids' film, it had better have half of the children in it violently murdering one another. Unlike pretty much everyone else in existence, I would like to conduct this review without comparing The Hunger Games to either Twilight or Battle Royale. The former proves easy, since The Hunger Games is cock all like Twilight. The only similarities I can see is a hefty female fanbase (although men can enjoy The Hunger Games too), silly character names and a female lead. Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) shits all over Bella Swan though, with her competence and personality.

Not comparing it to Battle Royale proves difficult though, since I am a lazy reviewer and it is a bit like Battle Royale. In a dystopian future, the working class are split up into 12 Districts. As a punishment for an earlier uprising, the ruling government forces each of those districts to give up two of their children for participation in the annual 'Hunger Games'. The Hunger Games pit 24 children against one another in a battle to the death. There can only be one survivor. When her cute wee sister is picked out for the year's Games, gutsy Katniss Everdeen has no choice but to offer herself up instead. She and fellow tribute Peeta (Hutcherson) are whisked away from their district and trained for the fight of their lives.

Like the book, it takes an age to get to the actual fighting. It spends as long getting Katniss and Peeta ready for the Games as it does for Bruce Willis to get to the asteroid in Armageddon. It feels like a series of Metal Gear Solid cut-scenes in this respect. "Yes, it's very pretty but STFU up and let me kill something, will you." And then, when the action does get underway, it's shot and edited in a manner that makes it impossible to see anything. Most of the participants die, offscreen, with little explanation. I wasn't expecting to see gore or explicit violence, but I hoped to see something. Well, maybe not that bit with the stupid dogs.

My favourite hunger game.

My impatience and bloodthirst aside, The Hunger Games is a very enjoyable piece of kiddies' cinema. Woody Harrelson is typically excellent as the drunken Haymitch (although I would have liked to have seen them keep the scene from the book where he collpases in a pool of his own vomit), as are the ever reliable Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks. Donald Sutherland phones it in a bit, whilst - shit, is that Lenny Kravitz? Jennifer Lawrence is good in the leading role. It's a shame that the film has her screwing up and being rescued all the time, as it would have been far more entertaining to see her go all Rambo with that bow and arrow. If the film does have a Damsel In Distress, it comes in the form of Josh Hutcherson and his wimpy Peeta. I suppose there's another Twilight similarity there; neither of the potential love interests seem remotely desirable. It looks great though, particularly the shiny, shiny scenes in the Capitol and those with Stanley Tucci and his blue hair. It's funny too, and even touching at times. Wooden as some of the young actors might be, none of them are actively irritating.

That braggarty tagline has come good, it seems. The world is indeed watching. Even me, and I normally hate this sort of thing. Watch The Hunger Games: yes, it has kids in it, but most of them die.

Who Can Kill A Child?

Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador (1976)
Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo
Find it: IMDB

The mother of all 'horrible children' films. Village of the Damned and The Omen are more widely recognised, but the children in those movies are far too polite for my liking. Who Can Kill a Child? captures the inherent creepiness of children like few other genre films. Its brats are recognisably foul and horrible, whereas I would gladly put up with an apocalypse in exchange for some Village of the Damned or Damien children. You wouldn't find Damien rioting in Footlocker or the Village of the Damned raiding their local Tesco. Who Can Kill a Child? is an accurate depiction of a society overrun with bloodthirsty children.

Tom (Fiander) and pregnant wife Evelyn (Ransome) travel to the remote Spanish island of Almanzora, where they find the streets deserted and the buildings empty. The only life they encounter belongs to the island's rude and giggly children. Obviously Tom and Evelyn never saw that episode of Star Trek with the planet of children, since alarm bells don't start ringing until they're in terrible danger.

The hot, deserted streets of Almanzora make a great setting for this atmospheric, gripping bit of paedophobic horror. Despite it being mildly creepy in places, the hysterical overacting tends to make it a difficult piece to take seriously. Prunella Ransome's screaming and shrieking during the later scenes is a little hard to take, whilst Lewis Fiander's Tom is a remarkable tit. Sure, it's the 1970s, but his condescending attitude towards his wife will have you rooting for the children. Neglecting to tell her about the terrible danger she's in, he wanders off several times, leaving her with only a local crying dad for company. And while we're at it, I hardly think it's responsible to be dragging a woman with freckles like that to a place like Almanzora.

Despite the worrying title, Who Can Kill a Child? is a lot of fun. It's like a cross between The Birds and Night of the Living Dead. It predicts Twilight by over thirty years in one utterly fantastic scene, and the ending is gloriously demented. Sure it's called Who Can Kill a Child, but I never expected to see the film break out a machine gun. By the time Tom began literally beating the children off with a stick, I was in love with Who Can Kill a Child? It's the perfect school holiday antidote.


Director: Joel Schumacher (2011)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Cam Gigandet
Find it: IMDB

Nicolas Cage gets a lot of stick for his bizarre performances in odd movies. Lately he's become more of an Internet meme than an actor. However, shut up. Nicolas Cage is, frankly, awesome - and never more so than when doing an Adam West impression in a superhero film, screaming about bees or forcibly putting bunnies back in boxes. Besides, if Trespass is the result of Nic Cage playing it 'straight', well, long live Crazy Cage.

Diamond broker Kyle Miller (Cage) lives in a lovely house with his lovely wife (Kidman) and daughter (Liana Liberato). Their bourgeois paradise is shattered when four masked killers break in, demanding that Kyle opens his massive safe and shares out the diamonds and cash within. Seemingly having watched Ransom recently, Kyle tells the crooks to go swivel.

Aside from his wearing glasses and having reasonably stupid hair, this might be Cage's straightest performance yet. It makes for distracting viewing, expecting him to break out some characteristic craziness - which he never does. Nicole Kidman is reliably strong as Sarah, but fails to escape the orbit of an archetypal 'terrified wife' role. The crooks are as dull and uninteresting, with Cam Gigandet playing a character that seems developmentally delayed but apparently isn't. The plot, cribbed from Hostage and a number of other home invasion movies offers nothing new or innovative, aside from the novelty of seeing Nic Cage play a character who doesn't do anything remotely interesting.

It's not a particularly bad movie - the action works well and the actors' performances are strong - but neither is it a very good one. By the standards of its director and lead actor, its bizarre how straight it is.

Trespass is a workmanlike action film that ticks all the right home invasion boxes but fails to fill in any of the 'use a separate sheet if necessary' sections. It's utterly unmemorable, which, from the likes of Joel Schumacher and Nic Cage, is quite odd in itself.