Cabin in the Woods (2011)

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Autobiographical side bar: I am old, old, old. I am not Li’l Sharky, Teen Sharky, or even Adult Contemporary Sharky. I’m Ol’ Sharky, an ancient relic from a cooler and weirder world. I carried Agamemnon’s sword; argued with Aristotle; and dogged Cleopatra like she was made of bacon. I shit the pyramids and danced with dinosaurs. I used to carpool to work with Gilgamesh, and even he called me “Gramps.” So when I tell you that I don’t go to the movies much anymore, you’ll begin to understand why. It’s too risky. I can’t be away from my climate-controlled condo for lengthy periods or my aorta will explode. I tried once, and the Visigoths that run the multiplex refused to let me pitch my oxygen tent in the theater. Bastards. All bastards.

Even so, I found myself in the vicinity of a theater with time to kill yesterday, so I purchased a ticket for the moving pictures and saw Cabin in the Woods. I’m very glad that I did. Joss Whedon is getting justifiably blown by critic and fanboy alike for hitting a box-office home run with The Avengers, but that’s no reason to overlook this marvelous muffin basket of a monster movie that he produced, co-wrote, and (second unit) directed. Sadly, the specifics of the story arc prevent a detailed critique, but let’s just say that this is a horror movie on a grand “meta” scale that dwarfs Wes Craven’s Scream series.

What Whedon does with Cabin in the Woods is place the late 20th century horror movie, and more specifically the subcategory known as Hack and Stack (a.k.a. Doomed Teenage Campers), into a miraculous context, one that weds the most dreadful aspects of Lovecraft and Phillip K. Dick. Whedon has created a horror movie mythos that dares to explain why its characters make such monumentally bad decisions, and why it’s imperative that the fools suffer before meeting their (mostly determined) gruesome fate. It’s a groovy concept, but really, just this once.

I don’t anticipate a rash of imitators, because this looks to be a genre only big enough for one. And Cabin in the Woods is it. At the same time, I can understand why some horror fans didn’t care for it. To them I would say, don’t think of this movie as an attempt to subvert the genre in a contrived or overly clever way—it’s more of an elegant novelty, an intricate lark that stands as a singular testament to outside-the-box thinking. In other words, Whedon’s laughing with us, and not at us.

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009)

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Sometimes the universe is benevolent. Sometimes there appears to be a force at work that intuits the single thing you need in order to restore your equilibrium and good humor. I don’t try to understand it. Anyway, last night I was unhappy for no reason in particular. I hadn’t seen a horror movie in a few days, but I wanted something a bit more whimsical than usual, and that would still satisfy my need for a blast of darkness. I found what I was looking for with The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu, a glorious nerdgasm of Lovecraftiana seasoned with humor, serviceable effects, and an agreeable cast.

Jeff (Kyle Davis) and Charlie (Devin McGinn, who also wrote the script) are childhood friends who’ve grown into a couple of bored cubicle drones, withering away their days writing ad copy for a schlocky products company whose corporate mascot is named Squirrely Squirrel. One day, the guys are visited by an old professor (from Miskatonic U), who informs Jeff that he’s the last of H.P. Lovecraft’s bloodline, and that his help is needed to prevent the return of ol’ Cthulhu himself. Jeff is tasked with protecting an evil relic, and thus foiling the efforts of Cthulhu’s slimy minions, led by the sinister Starspawn (Ethan Wilde), a tentacled terror in the master’s service. And it’s funny, see, ’cause neither Jeff or Charlie are even remotely heroic. But when you have to save the Earth, you do what’s necessary, in this case, getting advice from a nerd acquaintance (Barak Hardley), who still lives in his Grandma’s basement, and then enlisting the help of a legendary sea captain (Gregg Lawrence). Oh, the cards are definitely stacked against this bunch, but the guys man-up like a couple of dipshit Hardy Boys.

The Last Lovecraft (which is not animated despite the cover art) is a blast and built for speed without sacrificing brains for blood. Guts and gore erupt with Raimi-like frequency while the chaotic spirit of foolhardy adventure courses throughout. It would definitely be an entertaining lark to spring on your own Lovecraft posse—unless they’re the  type who are going to frown and correct every line that isn’t 100 percent accurate with the source material. Oy vey. Get over yourself, nerds!