[SPOILERS] Ruby Sparks and Hurting the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By Gillian Daniels, Editorial Assistant
For the uninitiated, film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term “manic pixie dream girl” to describe a female character whose only concern is to entertain, inspire, and charm the male protagonist of a work of fiction. This character’s flaws, no matter how self-destructive or misguided, are quirky. If she has a back story, it’s tragically endearing, diminished by charm.

She has appeared, to varying degrees, as Kate Hudson in Almost Famous (2000) and as Natalie Portman in Garden State (2004), cheering a lost young man onto enlightenment. This isn’t to say both films don’t have redeemable qualities, but their female leads are more muse than woman, human in shape but bubbly, ethereal, and inconsequential in action.

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[SPOILERS] The Women of "The Dark Knight Rises"

By Gillian Daniels, Editorial Assistant
The chief virtue of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is not the plots (the pace is often plodding) or the characters (most if not all already invented by the comic).  It’s the way it redresses a fanboy fantasy as a serious adventure, in this case with damsels who aren’t quite in distress.

In few heroes is the power fantasy more potent than in Batman, a playboy billionaire in public and a brooding, me-against-the-world Phantom of the Opera orphan in private. It’s a cool idea and one of the most thinly-veiled testosterone-laden daydreams in popular media today. Nolan challenges some aspects of this middle school fantasy in The Dark Knight Rises, but at the end of the day, of the main female characters introduced in the movie, Bruce Wayne becomes involved with both. Batman, it seems, remains a fantasy still largely for and about men.

Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate/Talia (Marion Cotillard) remain largely defined by the men in their lives within The Dark Knight Rises.  They’re able to challenge their roles to some extent but they never quite subvert them.

The role of Catwoman is a classic femme fatale. With her as a rival, she’s the one who somehow brings Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) out of his Howard Hughes-style funk. Hathaway’s character would be the spitting image of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl if she didn’t steal from Bale and beat him up in their first scene together. For most of the film, she questions both Batman and Wayne without appearing to like either very much.

It’s eventually revealed Catwoman’s looking for a new start in life. Even before Batman shows up, she’s a villain trying to make good. An important plot point in Nolan’s film is that Wayne is willing to help delete Kyle’s cat burglar history from every police file on the planet and allow her to start fresh, holding the key to her redemption. Catwoman’s affection for him dovetails with her redemptive arc as if only Batman could bring out the good in her. By the end, they’ve become involved.  It’s not bad that they’re involved but it’s questionable that she needs to fully rely on him for her salvation.

At least Nolan’s Catwoman is set up to be Bruce Wayne’s equal. Only she can maintain his interest and only he can maintain hers. This was certainly the goal of Batman: The Animated Series(1992) in which Batman discovers “the new cat burglar is a woman” (episode 15, “The Cat and the Claw Part I”) and spends most of the series chasing after her, both for reasons of justice and romance. In his pursuit, he tries to redeem her multiple times. The structure of their relationship is ostensibly the same except that, before meeting Batman, Catwoman has no desire to change. It’s only Batman who plants the idea in her head, turning her story into a redemptive arc. Anne Hathaway and Nolan’s Catwoman, however, has enough agency that she’s already made the decision to change and doesn’t need the main character to put her on the path to redemption. It’s a small — very small — but important improvement in the move from small to big screen. Catwoman’s story is helped along by Batman, but she’s still largely the one driving the change

Talia al Ghul has a similar story arc to Catwoman in the cartoons and comics. Batman also attempts to seduce this–gasp!–loose woman away from evil after a lifetime of working for her immortality-seeking father. Talia, like Catwoman, is unable to access her morals by herself. Unlike Catwoman, though, this is because Talia is lured repeatedly back into helping her father, Ra’s al Ghul.

In The Dark Knight Rises, this is very much the same. Miranda Tate, in revealing herself to be Talia, shows that she seduced Wayne, tricked him into building a bomb, and has had the entire city threatened for months, all in service of getting vengeance for her father. Even her dying words relate to Ra’s al Ghul and his rivalry with Batman, his role as her father and Bruce Wayne’s antagonist defining Talia in her last moments. She’s a woman used by a man to get back at another man.  A child seeking vengeance for her father isn’t a bad story line, but it’s problematic that we never get any reason for her goals beyond genetics.  Talia feels like a tool used to get back at the main character.

The biggest difference Nolan has worked into the movie, though, is including Talia’s backstory. While Cotillard’s character eventually comes to be defined by her father and then Batman, Nolan makes sure to detail her childhood and the person she is before becoming entwined with the destines of both. Talia’s escape from her circumstances is emotional and riveting, and while Bane (Tom Hardy) takes part in her escape from the prison in which she’s raised, Talia’s agency drives her to run away and find an escape route where no one else could before her. She’s an awesome female character.

Yet the price of admission for a main female character still seems to be sleeping with the cool male lead. It’s a pessimistic point of view, but Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) probably doesn’t have to sleep with Bruce Wayne to become his protégé. To my knowledge.

Probably one of the most innovative aspects of the movie having to do with gender is the female cops in the background when Batman first returns to Gotham. They seem to disappear during the stadium cave-in, though, and are, to my knowledge, largely absent when the cops descend once more to the streets. They are still women in casual roles who do not appear to have a romantic interest in the protagonist or are defined by their father’s whims.

In a story like Batman’s, where the main character is simultaneously a Lothario and a loner, it’s difficult to create a female character outside these parameters. Nolan manages to make due with the material he has, though, showing that “fanboy” doesn’t have to be an exclusive label. The Dark Knight Rises still disappoints, however, by keeping its otherwise kickass female characters defined by the men in their lives.

Dark Shadows and Edward Scissorhands: Sympathy for the Devil

By Gillian Daniels, ACP Editorial Assistant

A man, played by Johnny Depp, is viewed by the world at large as a monster. His story, however, is really that of a misfit condemned to walk an unusual path.

This summary is an apt description of many of Tim Burton’s films, including the excellent biopic Ed Wood (1994) and the less excellent but still intriguing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). There always seems to be an individual, often an artist, against a world that has difficulty understanding exactly who he is and what he’s trying to accomplish. Even Pee-Wee’s Big Adventures (1985) follows this trajectory to an extent, swapping Johnny Depp for Paul Ruebens.

The sympathy for a much more literal monster is portrayed in the films Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Dark Shadows (2012). One features a Frankenstein’s creature of a man constructed by Vincent Price while the latter involves a rich gentleman, Barnabas Collins, cursed into a vampire by a witch.

Burton’s most recent cinematic offering is his attempt to stamp his style onto a supernatural soap opera from the 1970s. In many ways, Dark Shadows‘ story of an outcast is identical to Edward Scissorhands. Dark Shadows fails, however, when it comes to the sympathy Burton tries to create for his main character.

Both films, for example, have Johnny Depp disoriented by the contemporary world. But where Edward has been locked in a creepy house on the hill for all his unnatural life, Barnabas Collins has been trapped inside a coffin for centuries by an evil witch, Angelique (Eva Green) that he wronged romantically. Depp plays Edward as a nervous waif, a victim of circumstance. Collins, meanwhile, is a stubborn gentleman with an active part in ensnaring himself in misfortune, romancing Angelique and then spurning her for another.

When made mobile, Edward and Barnabas stumble through the artificiality of contemporary life. The polished sensibilities of Barnabas Collins rankle at the libertine 1970s. He’s a snob awash in one of the most superfluous periods of pop culture. He’s an amusing snob, at least. Edward, in comparison, is a lonely goth kid in a black cat suit adrift in the pastel of the suburbs. Each clash of artist vs. the outside world provides some of the most amusing scenes of their respective movies.

They both find their place in this world, at least. Edward finds solace in making his monstrous shear hands useful in shrubbery and hair cuts while Barnabas Collins rebuilds the family fishing business his heirs have been unable to maintain.

Despite their efforts, in the third act, both Edward and Barnabas come to be terrorized by the foolish town folk. Their movies are clever reversals: instead of the monster terrifying the innocent mortals, the monstrous mortals terrify the innocent monster. The deviant artist has proved unfit for the rest of society. Edward has found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, accidentally fulfilling the vision of the villain held by the folk in the suburban sprawl.
The idea of innocence in Dark Shadows, however, is much more problematic. Barnabas Collins, a vampire, really has killed more than a few people to sate his thirst. The townsfolk are perfectly justified. It’s not really his fault, the narrative claims, he was cursed by Angelique. Barnabas is far less innocent than Edward Scissorhands, though, and certainly made the choice to lead the evil witch on romantically in the past. He didn’t make the choice to turn into a vampire, of course, but in the movie’s present, we watch him snack on one human after another with little hesitance.

Tim Burton, in 2012, has given us a hero devoid of heroism. Barnabas Collins isn’t just a monster, he’s the villain. I’m unsure if the movie or its marketers know this. Maybe Tim Burton does, though.

Edward Scissorhands is not only superior in its protagonist but in the personal quality of its story. Burton’s gentle-hearted monster is a reflection of all artists and, thus, a direct reflection of the director. It’s autobiographical in a spiritual, “me against the world” perspective, if anything else.

If Edward Scissorhands is Tim Burton, then, I believe, so is Barnabas Collins.

Tim Burton, when he came into the mainstream in the 1990s, was just the right amount of stylish and strange. Now the director has turned his brand of gothic storytelling and design into, well, a brand. It’s hard to blame him, though. With his name on any feature, it’s pretty much guaranteed to make money. This concept isn’t new. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t actually directed by the ambitious gentleman, after all, just produced by him. His name is associated with a certain look and feel.

Barnabas Collins is a reflection of the present day Tim Burton. While Edward Scissorhands created art by hand, Collins turns his skills to reclaiming the honor of his name and maintaining the family business. Both are honorable professions, but the latter is a direct reflection of Tim Burton’s attempts to maintain his commercial empire. Once he saw himself as a gentle outcast, quietly making his art in solitude. Now, I wonder if Burton sees himself as a lord and profiteer, put upon by those around him and now more interested in having his fun where he can.

Or maybe he just wanted to remake a soap opera from the 1970’s because it sounded like a cool idea. He’s using the common plot thread of man vs. society, sure, yet this isn’t the sort of plot Burton needs to confine to a single film. I hesitate to call him a sell-out, because that’s not a fair description of an artist’s development especially when priorities change over the course of a career. Burton is looking to impress with image and visuals, these days. Like Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before it, Dark Shadows is a movie of style.

I think Edward Scissorhands is the film with more substance. It feels like a more personal effort. Dark Shadows is personal mainly in the fact that it’s from the director’s own childhood. It’s a lumpy movie compared to others in Burton’s filmography, a story that could have done well to celebrate the heart beneath the monster rather than celebrate the monster itself.

The World-Building of Avatar and the Role of Discipline and Language

By Gillian Daniels

Dialogue doesn’t have to be realistic in mass media, it just has to be good. Or, to rephrase: “realism” is secondary to dialogue than, say, reflecting the world and social norms of the story. 

Quentin Tarantino’s movies are often seen by fans as realistic in their use dialogue, but I can’t imagine the quips and speeches delivered in Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs swapped in conversation between any two people off the street.

The animated shows The Legend of Korra and its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, do not have realistic dialogue. Sometimes characters point blank tell their emotions rather than show them.

One example is during the recent finale of the twelve episode season of Legend of Korra.  One character, Asami, says to her father during “Endgame,” “You don’t have any love for Mother anymore. You’re too full of hatred.” It’s a line that tells the characters emotions rather than shows them, marking a pivotal realization. It’s also a bit clunky in its exposition and, for a fight with one’s own father, terribly restrained.I also found it eerily similar to how Zuko admonishes his father, Ozai, during “Day of Black Sun 2: Eclipse” in the third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Zuko faces his father in his throne room, he discusses why the Fire Nation needs to stop The Hundred Year War. “We’ve created an era of fear in the world,” Zuko says at the end of a speech. “And if we don’t want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace and kindness.”  It’s a line that’s a little cheesy, but it shows innocence and enlightenment.Like Asami’s realization that her father’s love for her mother has vanished in empty obsession, Zuko must come to terms with the grievances of his own nation.

Both series have lines like this. These examples of dialogue wouldn’t be real to us if used in our world, but they’re real to them. One would think it’s mainly due to the fact the show has writers who initially expected to write for younger viewers.

Or perhaps it’s a much more integral part of world-building in Avatar, one that takes a little more thought.There’s something fundamentally innocent about the Four Nations and the people in them. Despite the more mature themes of both series, like war, social unrest, family dysfunction, and genocide, many characters remain restrained, respectful, and disciplined. Their revelations about the betrayal of friends and family must be expressed through words rather than physical violence. They wouldn’t survive otherwise.

A good example of this restraint can be found in one of the original show’s biggest symbols, Zuko’s scar. For an entire country where a good percentage of the population can manipulate fire, it sure is surprising that Zuko is one of the only characters in the Fire Nation we see with permanent flame damage. One would think there would be more accidents or mutilation in the background. Not even big scars, either, just signs that these folk live in a world where some people throw fireballs. And Zuko’s scar is far from an accident, too, but something caused by direct abuse between parent and child.

Maybe the writers had to leave that stuff off to the side or else de-accentuate it for fear of catching the wrath of Nickelodeon executives.

But I think in a society where people can move certain elements, possibly have control over others, discipline is central to building a civilization. Super powered humans seek discipline and enlightenment through fighting styles, strong student-master relationships, and basic social norms. Without them, they would just burn, bury, drown, and choke one another while subjugating non-benders.

The society for Avatar is a little more gentle, a little more proper than the real world because it must be. In a very Darwin sense, society couldn’t exist in this fictional universe unless the ancestors of said characters learned to be restrained in order to live together.  It’s no accident that so many episodes in Avatar: The Last Airbender involve kinds seeking out and wanting to earn the respect of teachers, including “The Deserter,” “The Waterbending Master,” and “The Blind Bandit.”  In this case, these characters are looking for discipline in their lives.

This need for discipline is reflected in the more innocent dialogue. In the original show, after all, it appears that phrases like “Monkey Feathers” were used as a substitute for more inflammatory language. Respect for the mothers of one another, it seems, must be observed no matter who they’re “fucking.”  A magical society built without respect or restraint, where one group is genetically more powerful than another, is a society that would literally incinerate itself.

Still, doesn’t that just prove this is a show originally made with a younger audience in mind?

Not necessarily. Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra are much more aware of the delicate social balance, I think, than viewers give them credit for.

One of the major storylines in Legend of Korra involves social upheaval. Specifically, the Equalist Movement in Republic City. In this plot, a small fringe group of non-benders demand that all benders be de-powered.

Their world has changed since the first episodes of A:TLA. Instead of being separated among four nations, all four types of benders live in one city. The delicate social balance has been upset. In the first episode, gangs of benders roam the streets looking to bully non-benders and people weaker than them. A modern, more technological city has forced great change on this society. Much of Legend of Korra deals with this fallout, a disturbance that has begun to rock a culture to its core.

In one of his most super villain-esque moments, Amon, the mastermind behind the Equalist Movement, allows Korra and her friends to get away during the episode, “The Revelation.” Amon justifies this to his lieutenant by saying, “Let her go. She’s the perfect messenger to tell the city of my power.” It’s the line of a bad guy if I’ve ever heard one.

It’s also a line that, in the context of Amon actually wanting to show off his de-bending power, in a world where people depend on respect and certain social norms to get things done, makes perfect sense.

Leave it to Avatar to build a world so lushly detailed, even its PG-rated constrictions feed into the epic, continuing story.

[SPOILERS] The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers: Celebrating and Deconstructing Genre Film

Joss Whedon’s involvement in The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers this summer represents two opposite takes on current film genres.

The first, Cabin, as mentioned in my last post, is a transgressive entry in horror movies. It attempts to lampoon and dissect the current “torture dumb teens” clichés of the industry. The Avengers, meanwhile, is a celebration of the superhero form. Its tropes are treated with reverence rather than bile, an attempt to hold up what’s being done right in a golden age of superhero film making.

Now, Whedon wasn’t the only man behind each film. He only co-wrote Cabin, and while he directed The Avengers, he’s dealing with a preexisting universe and has had a build-up of approximately six movies. In both, however, he’s definitely a welcome addition to the team. Whedon has garnered a massive fanbase due to his respect for every medium in which he works. He has a long history horror, dating back to his work on the television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2002). I don’t think he always produces perfect entertainment, but he does put himself wholeheartedly into his projects. 

The Cabin in the Woods has a group of teenagers manipulated and slaughtered by a sinister organization. Apparently, it’s been responsible for every contrived horror situation to befall a group of young people for centuries. “Ritual sacrifices” are made in order to sate the masses with no respect towards their intellects or tastes. Characters we grow to care about are killed gruesomely in true Whedon fashion while small jokes are sprinkled throughout.

Co-writers Drew Goddard and Whedon use this conceit to ask why we continue to watch these sorts of scary movies when the trajectory always seems to be the same. Cabin in the Woods shows young adults being purposefully tricked and drugged into acting like clueless individuals, deciding to split apart the group when there’s strength in numbers or going out into the woods for ill-advised, salacious adventures. They repeatedly make mistakes and are put into positions where they’re unable to consider the consequences of their actions. 

The Avengers has a similar shadowy organization: S.H.I.E.L.D. They probably haven’t killed thousands of people over the centuries (probably), but their efforts also prove to be dark. It’s the characters of this film and their reactions to this attempted puppet show that gives audiences what Whedon truly wants to celebrate about superhero movies: the power of the individual in times of hopelessness.

S.H.I.E.L.D., as in the Marvel comics, is a fictional government organization headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Struggling to deal with otherworldly threats, Fury assembles a group of superheroes. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions in this case are noble even though it’s hinted their methods, specifically when it comes to the many deadly uses of the mysterious Tesseract, is not.As previously mentioned, characters we grow to care about are killed gruesomely while small jokes turn the film into lighter fare. These movies are more similar than one would think despite starkly different tones.

In Cabin, the initial conflict lies in whether or not all the characters will perish at the hands of the organization and its bloody ritual. The Avengers, however, has its characters asking why they should deign to listen to S.H.I.E.L.D. and work together in the first place. Captain America (Chris Evans) has strong reservations about returning to active duty, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is there to settle old debts, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is only moved to join once he realizes how much he’s needed. The rest of the characters in this super group, especially the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), are critical of hopping onto the band wagon.
It’s the autonomy and distrust of each character that changes the piece into a celebration of heroes and critical-thinking people.Superhero films tend to be about the importance of an individual. One man or woman rises to be a game changer in a world or system gone wrong. Like horror films, this idea is one that potentially appeals to very base instincts. In horror, those instincts are fear, and Cabin in the Woods implies we can be doing a lot more with what fear means and why it’s often too convenient to have trusting young people menaced by forces beyond their control.  
In superhero films, though, those “base” instincts revolve around power fantasies and personal actualization. Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) put the intelligent and savvy title character in the position as Gotham’s savior. Superman Returns (2006) goes so far as to become a direct Christ-allegory, an individual putting it all on the line to help a planet that may not even appreciate his efforts. 
The Avengers has its cast of heroes eventually banding together to save humanity. The characters, due to their respective natures, continue to distrust S.H.I.E.L.D., and wisely so. Nick Fury may succeed at manipulating them at some turns, but the film’s heroes are never entirely taken in. They are, after all, part of a genre that holds them up as role models and challenges them to be better, smarter people in order to aid those they love. Here, Whedon tells us, there is much to celebrate about their place in cinema.
The same cannot be said for the horror genre. This conclusion is clear in The Cabin in the Woods, where the bureaucrats and the unassuming young adults they’re trying to kill remain at odds throughout the film. It’s revealed that this organization, like S.H.I.E.L.D., is also fighting to protect humanity and does what it does for the greater good. This greater good isn’t good enough, however, and the film’s protagonists soon rise up against the organization with gory results. 
Whedon and Goddard, it seems, are raging against helpless character archetypes in this sort of cinema, manipulated every step of the way by trite situations set up by an unseen hand. The audience is left asking what they can do to make horror a more compelling genre, as this movie indicates it can be.

A similar challenge is left at the end of The Avengers. In this blockbuster, Whedon has taken all the ingredients of the film’s predecessors and distilled them into a well-paced, quip-filled, clever story with distinct characters. Unfortunately, not every Marvel film can claim all these traits. Joss Whedon is again asking for improvements in a genre, but in The Avengers, he’s not just asking for them, he’s paving the way.

Dismantling the Cabin in Our Woods (Spoilers)

It’s tough to say if Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s meta-horror film will be remembered as the genre re-defining parody that Scream was in 1996 or a peculiar cult film separate from the current wave of torture-porn Saw movies. It’s hard to say which films will stay alive in the popular consciousness and shape others. Cabin in the Woods, regardless of its legacy, is certainly its own monster.

This monsters turns against its own genre, revealing a nefarious villain that’s been here since the inception of horror films.

In Cabin in the Woods, every horror film situation ever brought to the screen has actually been created by an organization bent on spilling the blood of innocent teenagers. It’s a high-concept premise, re-framing every slasher movie enjoyed by audiences as part of some grander, carefully structured scheme.

At a pivotal point in the film, a room is revealed that contains every magical, technological, supernatural, and mutant creature trapped and ready to be deployed by said organization. It’s a dream-like sequence, with each creature imprisoned in a see-through box, rotating *around one another like glass elevators from some obscene version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Even when they’re released on the antagonists of the film, however, these are not the true monsters. The organization that detains and sets them on unsuspecting young adults isn’t, either. They’re just a complex studio carefully putting together a well-worn mousetrap of a narrative for movie-going audiences.The true villains are the underworld-dwelling elder gods that need to be fed. By satiating these sleeping gods with sexy, entertaining sacrificial lamb, the organization makes sure they don’t rise up and destroy the world.

In short, the elder gods and true villains are a pretty thinly-veiled portrait of us, the viewers of slasher fair.

We, the audiences who shell out cash repeatedly for a chance to see some poor girl get her bloody comeuppance for sneaking into the wrong isolated haunted house to make out with a guy, are the ones who support these horror movies. The audience members are the gods who demand three-dimensional human beings boiled down to flat, stereotypical characters so that their deaths feel less personal. The sacrifice of nubile women and headstrong men satisfy our ancient, throw-them-to-the-lions desires. Sometimes, if the deaths are corny and the movie is cheesy enough, we laugh.

Take, for instance, the scene in which Jules (Anna Hutchison) is the first among her friends to die. She can’t just be slaughtered by the zombie rednecks randomly; the organization has to catch her having sex with her boyfriend. Otherwise depicted as an interesting, funny person, the technicians have to drug Jules with pheromone spray, her roofie’d “dumb blond” hair dye, and put her in a fully-controlled forest make-out pad with mood lighting so that she’ll be killed in the most conventional way possible. Her death is sobering. In the grand tradition of sexually active characters being punished in horror movies, Jules has been manipulated to become an exaggerated caricature and is killed for it.

And all this means that Cabin in the Woods thinks the gods have pretty poor taste. Or at least taste that could afford to be more discerning.

When Dana (Kristen Connolly) lets loose the collection of other world serial killers on the technicians of the organization that’s killed her camping friends, the blood that flows is so over-the-top, it’s comical. “Let’s get this party started,” she says, pounding the button that releases the nightmares and splatters thick layers of blood over the walls, floor, and ceiling. It’s funny, dark, completely over-the-top, and does nothing to entertain the gods down below.

The mass slaughter of the organization’s members is the take down of the traditional horror mechanisms key to a basic slasher movie. The god-viewers expect a pattern, which this isn’t.

Dana’s remaining friends have to die. That’s what the narrative of “x amount of teenagers get trapped in x and pay the price” has lead us to expect, and that’s what we want. The story turns in on itself, though. Even Dana isn’t a traditional, pure heroine because her beliefs, by the end of the film, fall prey to human flaw, unusual for the fictional women who tend to survive being stalked by creatures of the night.

It’s not a crime for the gods to be satisfied. The people killed on-screen are, of course, fictional. It’s a crime, however, if this fictional reaping is devoid of passion or involvement. The viewers, gods or monsters, aren’t creepy because they want someone dead, they’re creepy because they don’t want any other kind of story that will make them dead. A story where uninteresting, tropic people are isolated, haunted, and killed remains with no chance of deviation. We can dream bigger.

The survivors of the massacre darkly joke that maybe it’s better if humanity is killed by the ruling gods if it means the chance of being replaced by something better. I agree. Maybe it’s all right for horror conventions to die if it means there’s a better, more complex story out there.

Cabin in the Woods is an indictment of audience apathy and a demand for better films in the genre. The gods that rise up against humans at the end of the movie don’t necessarily indicate a dark ending. They’re just viewers who hunger for something more than the film studio organizations that feed them now provides.