THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Earlier this year when I got a chance to see “The Cabin in the Woods,” I was a bit cautious. This was mainly because I’ve never been much of a Joss Whedon fan. Sure, I know that Drew Goddard directed the film, and he should be given more credit for it than Whedon, but I know that Whedon was heavily involved.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
To note, this was before I saw “The Avengers,” which is one of my favorite films of 2012, and I was just going on my opinion of Whedon’s television series, where I stray from the typical love of the genre. However, like “The Avengers,” I found “The Cabin in the Woods” to be one of the most clever and entertaining movies of the year.
It was a treat to revisit the film on Blu-ray, which was also a cautious approach. After all, I wasn’t sure the film was going to hold up after seeing it theatrical, simply because there were so many surprises in it, I wasn’t sure things would still be interesting.
Upon watching it again, the film has held up. More so, actually. This isn’t a horror film necessarily, but a deconstruction of the genre. It’s set-up is typical: Five college students head to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend of drinking and sex. Mysterious people are tracking them along the way, and the students soon find themselves in a dangerous game.
If you haven’t seen this film yet, don’t learn anything more than what is said above. It’s one that is easily spoiled, but it’s also something that even people who aren’t fans of the genre can appreciate. Of course, anyone who knows their horror fiction trends will find a lot of great meta references in the movie. Sure, there’s still a lot of blood and violence, and there’s a nice dose of nudity (which is refreshing to see done shamelessly now in a film without aiming for a PG-13 rating). So the elements are there, but this is more than just a typical horror movie.
With some sharp writing and compelling concepts, “The Cabin in the Woods” is still one of the most enjoyable films to be released this year.
The Blu-ray comes with quite a few special features. There are basic elements, including and audio commentary with Goddard and Whedon, plus Digital Copy and UltraViolet access. Featurettes include “We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods,” “An Army of Nightmares: Makeup & Animatronic Effects,” “Primal Terror: Visual Effects,” “The Secret Secret Stash: Marty’s Stash” and a WonderCon Q&A.
For fans of the branching formatting of Blu-rays, “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods BonusView Mode” offers various tidbits throughout the film itself.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
I first learned about “Beyond the Black Rainbow” several months ago when I commented on Twitter that there was no more synthetic music soundtracks that were so fun in the 1980s. A friend of mine suggested I see “Beyond the Black Rainbow” for the soundtrack alone. (Note: this was before the release of “Dredd 3D,” which has a very fun and energetic retro soundtrack of this type.)
After such a recommendation, I kept my eyes open for the film, and was excited to see it come out on Blu-ray and DVD. Before I even mention the plot, I will champion the soundtrack. The film itself is a throwback homage to the films of the late-70s and early 80s, in style, pacing, concept and general filmmaking elements. Jeremy Schmidt’s synthetic soundtrack captures the cool creepiness of that era, yet it still feels authentic without falling into a level of camp.
In essence it’s soundtrack is the best thing about the movie. That’s not to say that “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is a bad film at all. In fact, I liked it quite a bit. However, it’s not a very accessible film. More of an art-house experiment that looks gorgeous, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” abandons much of its plot for atmosphere and imagery.
The story follows a young woman who is held captive by a deranged doctor. He is running bizarre tests on her to unlock the secret of hidden abilities she has. Firmly set in the year of 1983, the film taps into the fears and paranoia of the era, only in a much less literal fashion than you’d expect.
Ultimately, it’s a trippy film, feeling more in line spiritually with a film from the 70s than one from the early 80s, but it still works. Think of it as a twisted version of “2001: A Space Odyssey” which takes place in a psychological torture chamber rather than in the whole of the universe.
In the end, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” realistically captures the look and feel of the movies of that era. For someone like me, who is a child of the 70s and 80s, I loved its atmosphere and feel. I still don't quite understand a damn thing that happened in the movie, but it was an experience nonetheless.
For as innovative and thought-provoking as the film is, the Blu-ray bonus features leave a lot to be desired. There’s the theatrical trailer, which is actually worth watching after seeing the film. The only other special feature is a deleted special effect of a Ballistic Head Dissolve.
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Even though I am an unabashed fan of the horror genre, I’ve been tired of zombie movies since the 1980s. I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of new material that can be mined from them. Sure, in the early 2000s, there was a brief surge of new ideas, often in the zom com category with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Fido.” And there was also an offshoot of outbreak films (that zombie purists would tell you aren’t really zombie movies) with “[REC],” “Quarantine” and “28 Days Later.”
Still, zombie movies tend to be a bit boring to me if it’s just about a bunch of people running away from monsters we’ve seen before. The modern zombie movie’s heart and soul is in the people trying to survive, and sadly those characters are often poorly written and, frankly, full of dumbasses. That’s part of the reason why I loathe “The Walking Dead.”
However, every now and then, I run across a film that defies the genre and tries something different. Movies like “American Zombie” and even “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night” have attempted to tell the story from the zombie’s point of view, but I haven’t seen it done as effectively as the new film “The Revenant.”
The aforementioned zombie purists might take issue with me classifying “The Revenant” as a zombie film because it’s really a revenant film, in which revenants are ancient legends where vampire lore comes from. However, as constructed, “The Revenant” fits better in to the zombie hierarchy.
The story follows Bart Gregory (David Anders) a U.S. soldier who is killed in the Middle East. His body is shipped home, and he is given a funeral, but he ends up coming back to life as a revenant, which is a cursed soul who comes back to life with a thirst for human blood. Instead of just turning into the monster, Bart channels his powers into something productive. Along with his best friend, he becomes a street vigilante, choosing his victims by pronouncing criminals guilty on the spot.
This is one of the more unique approaches to such a story, and for that reason, I respect the hell out of it. In fact, it gives an honestly realistic view of what one might go through if he found out he was one of the walking dead. For those who remember the film “Chronicle” earlier this year, which I hated with a passion, this movie plugs a lot of the holes that I saw in terms of what someone might do were they granted such “powers.”
The film isn’t perfect, and it does fall apart near the end, but the zany comedy angle throughout much of the movie gives it an interesting diversion from your humdrum zombie comedy... or your humdrum zombie standard.
There’s a basic selection of special features on this disc, including an audio commentary with director Kerry Prior, a second audio commentary with the cast, the trailer, deleted scenes, a photo gallery and a making-of featurette.
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