Tag Archives: Stubby of Reschs

A Fortnight of Terror: The Cabin in the Woods novelisation

CITW novel

In the world of books, novelisation is kind of a dirty word. Perhaps it is the fact that, even more than film, literature is the ultimate auteur art form. Indeed whilst the director is the creative focus of the analysis of film, their vision is filtered through and enhanced by collaboration with others. Literature is a solitary art form though. With a novelisation, the author is essentially a bringing someone else’s vision to the page. That may be why the novelisation is derided somewhat as an art form.

I cannot even remember the last novelisation that I read, I know I definitely read some as a kid. So I thought I would take a look at Tim Lebbon’s novelisation of the fantastic Whedon/Goddard horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012). With its meta approach and visceral, visually arresting finale, the film is one that perhaps does not lend itself totally to the written form. It is a credit to Lebbon then that he is done a pretty darn good, if pulpy, job of bringing it to life. Anyone who has seen the film will know that it is essentially a film split in two. On one hand are the ‘puppet masters’, pulling the strings from an industrial lab style setting. Then there is the titular cabin in the woods, where what is essentially a standard slasher in the woods narrative takes place. This part of proceedings hews very close to The Evil Dead (1981) actually.

Some of the incredible visuals from the end of the film

Some of the incredible visuals from the end of the film

Initially the book is a little jarring to read. Most of this is down to a relatively clumsy method used to insert more narrative voice into the book (generally incorporating narrative voice is an issue going from page to screen, but I wouldn’t have thought it necessary when doing the opposite). These italicised insertions are bothersome, but once you get into a rhythm of the book, they become less noticeable. As a writer, Lebbon is best at establishing place. The early run down servo is an especially good (and bloody creepy) example, but both the cabin and the puppeteers’ compound are also starkly brought to life. Whilst I would definitely not argue the book is better than the film, it does do some things exceptionally well. It fleshes out some of the underlying themes and ideas, possibly even better than the film does. The notions of surveillance and nanny states, as well as the toying with ideas of free will are all thrown around in a really interesting way, which makes them much more than just superficial. I guess to balance that, the final explosive passage of the narrative (which I think is one of the most mind-blowing sequences I have experienced on film for a long while) is hurt by not being as searingly visual as it is in the film. But that is not to bag Lebbon. I’m not sure that any writer could bring it to life as well as the film does.

Whilst not always blisteringly written, this is an enjoyable experience and I very happily flicked the pages over at a rapid pace. Like its filmic source, the novel does a good job of engaging with and subverting horror/slasher film conventions without becoming too wink wink about it.

Verdict: Stubby of Reschs

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Chronicle

Of the films that I saw popping up on numerous top 10 lists of cool bloggers I like last year, Chronicle (2012) was the one that had really passed me by. The trailer looked totally uninteresting to me… teens with powers, who cares?

Convinced by all the praise going its way, I thought it was time to give Chronicle a chance, and I am glad I did. Whilst it would not have made, or been particularly close to, my top 10 for last year, it is a pretty interesting take on both the superhero and teen film genres. In fact it was so original, that I am kind of disappointed that I did not like the film more than I did. The set up is pure teen film. Andrew is trapped by his alcoholic father, desperately ill mother and the fact he is a social outcast at school. Clearly he needs to escape. However in Chronicle, the escape is a little left of centre. Along with two other guys from his school, he investigates a mysterious hole in the ground. What they find there in that mysterious hole imbues them with mysterious telekinetic powers. Powers that Andrew masters much quicker than his peers.

Andrew

One of the successes of the film is that the three protagonists actually do feel like normal teenagers. Not the clearly fake ones that generally populate teen films. As such you can go along with their trials and tribulations, not to mention the angst that they endure. The film also endeavours to bring a certain realism to the superhero origin story by asking seriously, what would a kid do with super powers? Would you just hang around skimming rocks, fight crime or start robbing banks. Great power surely brings the temptation of great corruption and that is something that the film refreshingly does not shy away from at all. Some of the emotional moments in the film do lack a little punch. There are a number of deaths that should really hit home, but for whatever reason do not quite do so. Having said that though, the film is not afraid to embrace a fair bit of darkness along the way of this journey. Another part of the film that slightly disappointed me was the balance of the narrative. I felt that the early, teen scenes could have been a little more dramatic. Whilst the more comic book film style conclusion I felt overplayed things a little, in the sense that it jarred with what had come beforehand.

Flying ppl

Chronicle is a found footage film. This style of filmmaking immediately gets some people offside, due to its inherent shakiness. I am neither here nor there with it, though I do think that it is rarely done all that well. It is done pretty well here though. My issue with it, both generally and specifically to Chronicle is that the narrative justification is always so contrived. Here for example, Andrew just happens to have bought a camera and is “filming everything now”. Well that deals with that then. In addition, I don’t think there has ever been a found footage film where all of the footage could have legitimately come from the ‘found’ source. This film is no different in that regard. I am nitpicking I know. But if these things take me outside of the world of the film, then that reduces my overall enjoyment so I think they have to be mentioned.

For all its flaws, Chronicle is really original. I would prefer something try to be this original and not 100% successful rather than aim for just ‘good’ and get there. This film functions effectively both as a pretty good teen drama and a realism laced superhero film. Take a look.

Verdict: Stubby of Reschs

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Broken City

Broken City has flown under the radar a little. But the trailer suggested that it could be a bit of a sleeper, with police and political machinations perhaps resulting in a taut thriller to blow our minds.

broken-city-movie-poster1

Unfortunately though, the action never reaches the desired level of tautness. It is all pretty ok though. Mark Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, a New York cop who finds himself off the force due to a shooting incident. Some years later, a mysterious call from the mayor of the city, Russel Crowe, plunges him into some deep, dark, money laden places. The film is definitely attempting to play into some noir sensibilities, with a pretty feeble attempt to position the mayor’s missus as a femme fatale. Whilst this aspect fails, somewhat more successful are the more blurry ethical conundrums faced by numerous characters. Though the film is ultimately not willing to go dark enough in this regard to come up with something genuinely hard hitting. Exploring themes of manipulation of power, the contemporary political environment, alcoholism and vigilante justice, there is a fair bit here. Ultimately though it only manages to fall into the helping to hold your interest realm, rather than being all that thought provoking.

TrioThe opening title graphics are somewhat reminiscent of a mid 90s TV cop show. Which is kind of apt, because in its plot and much of its execution Broken City often struggles to rise above the contrivances of that standard.  What is definitely not mid 90s cop show standard are a number of the performances. Russell Crowe really is one of the best actors of this, or any generation. Even with this middling material, he reminds you that it is between him and Denzel for this generation’s acting King of the Universe. No one else can match them. Matching him here though is Jeffrey Wright, who brings a real intensity to his performance as the conniving Police Chief. The film is far and away at its best when the two of them share the screen and I would have loved to have seen more of them. Especially Wright. Damn he looks fuckin badarse with a shaved head and goatee. I guess unfortunately everything else in comparison to these two is a touch average. Marky Mark and Catherine Zeta-Jones give good performances. But they are not on the same level as the aforementioned two. While the script starts off particularly sharp, especially in its dialogue, the plot spends too much time concerned with disinteresting subplots that do not bring anything to the core narrative – the romance of Mark Wahlberg’s character by far the worst offender. And no mind blowing twist is forthcoming. Actually those that do arrive fall really rather flat, delivering no real sting.

Broken City is good, however always being far too mild to ever approach being great. It is worth a watch if you see it playing somewhere. Though to be honest, there will probably be something else on the cinematic menu that looks a little more enticing.

Verdict: Stubby of Reschs

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