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September 16 2009

(SPOILER) A review of 'The Cabin in the Woods' script. The CinemaBlend reviewer says Joss and Drew's movie "has the potential to be something special, but it's by no means a slam dunk".

I found the following comment to be very curious:

Reminds me of a certain post from Joss.
Great. He starts the Blog by saying "No Spoilers", and then proceeds to reveal the entire plot of the film. It sounds interesting, and I will definitely see it. But if, like me, you'd rather not know anything about what the storyline is going to be, don't read this article.
Hm, I'm wondering if it's the real deal. It sounds a lot like one of the presumably fake version that we know to be out there.
Ah yes, I had forgotten about the fake versions. This could certainly be one, although one does wonder - if it's a fake - why Whedon and Goddard would take the time to write an entire second script, which apparently isn't all that bad either. Seems like an awful waste of time :).

And on a different note: this doesn't really set my meter of "gore-hate" to the green zone, as The Cabin in the Woods seems quite bloody from this review. Hmmm.

Will still probably go see it, though.

ETR: two huge typos

[ edited by GVH on 2009-09-16 12:01 ]
As far as I know, there are NO FAKE SCRIPTS floating around out there in the internet-ether. The draft that has been passed around in script trading circles is apparently the legit deal (for better or worse).

Side Note: The fact that this is not the first review that has stated that at least this draft of the script contains little to no real suspense or truly-unnerving moments just furthers my worries and strong caution about the film.

[ edited by J Linc on 2009-09-16 13:40 ]
Well, it is about time Joss gave me that shout out I was waiting for. Except I'm a guy and not a virgin...

So far, this sounds highly unimpressive to me. I am not a gore hound, and I am not even a guy who likes parodies of gore-hound movies. I am wondering how Joss is getting around his past attacks on torture porn by writing a movie with lots of blood in it, but that remains to be seen.
To be fair, gore is not needed at all in order for something to be considered of the horror genre obviously, Dana.
Nor does lots of blood/gore necessarily equal "torture porn."
I haven't seen the script and I don't want to know anything. No problem with gore - Reservoir Dogs is a favourite of mine. As is Evil Dead.

A lot of a suspense of a film is in the direction and the editing (not to mention the acting.)

Still looking forward to the film.
I am wondering how Joss is getting around his past attacks on torture porn by writing a movie with lots of blood in it, but that remains to be seen.

I'd imagine he's getting around it by simply knowing that a gory film is not equal to a torture-porn film. As do most horror fans.

It didn't make sense the first time you made the point on here Dana5140 and it still doesn't make sense.
Well, it may or may not make sense, saje, but we won't know until we actually see the film. Until then, it's a legitimate question.
There's probably a legitimate question to be had, but it's not "how can he make a horror movie with blood in it when he's against torture porn".
Joss is pro-horror and horrific events (er, in movies). My take on Cabin is that it asks the questions about people which joss can't on public forum. Er, blog.
Dana5140, your question has inherent contradictions. You do understand that there can be gory, violent horror movies that aren't torture porn, yes? Evil Dead II is not Saw.
Joss loved The Descent, didn't he? It was pretty brutal at times. It wasn't torture porn.
Meanwhile my read is that .
Having read another review of the script, I'll go out on a limb and say it'll split the fandom down the middle. One half will go "wtf really!" and the other half will go "really wtf?".
Guys, there's no such thing as fake feature length scripts put out by a story's creators. It's never been done and it probably never will be done.

Here's why: scripts are hard. They take lots of work. This is probably not news. But think of it this way. Most feature scripts take three months of writing (at least) to complete. Do you really think Joss is going to take three months out of his life to write a second feature-length script, knowing it will never see the light of day, coming up with a concept close enough to what's out there to be believable as fake, and with good enough writing to fool those who review scripts for a living? All so the tiny, tiny percentage of the people who actually look for spoilers on the internet won't know the truth about his film? It makes no sense. It's one thing to lie in an interview or release a false script page, it's another to fake a full 120-page script. And if it was fake, why is it still pretty hard to find? Surely he'd want it all over the net so people wouldn't be tempted to search for the "real" script?

Anyway, long story short, the script being reviewed is the actual script. I've read it too.

As Bix said, Dana, there is a legitamate question of "how can you decry horror films within a horror film?" It's similar to the questions asked of "Funny Games," i.e. how can you give people what they want, and then chastise them for wanting it, without being a scold?

There is not a question of "how can someone against torture porn make a horror movie with blood in it?" Torture porn is defined as a subgenre of horror focusing on, well, actual torture. The Hostel movies, the Saw movies, and Captivity fit the bill. Some have tried to lump in a lot of these '70s remakes as well, but most of them don't fit (except, arguably, the new version of Last House On The Left). Torture porn is a not a catch-all term for a disturbing film, or a violent film, or a gory film, or a film some people may not like.

Or, to put it another way, the following movies have lots of blood and gore: The Shining, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Alien, Aliens, The Exorcist, The Thing, Re-Animator, The Descent, Dawn Of The Dead. They are not torture porn.


I think Cabin is about three things:

1) Why we "need" horror movies, as a society, and what that says about us.

2) The creative process of working in a collaborative art form. Seriously.


3) The difficulty for an artist in balancing what he thinks he should express versus what an audience expects (i.e. what an audience wants versus what it needs... gee, where have I heard that before?).

A lot of the reviews I've read of the Cabin script don't seem to talk about these ideas at all. They give a very glib, surface level review of things that reminds me of people who are instantly dismissive of Buffy because of its title and its perceived camp. But the layers are there, for those who wish to look.

EDIT: Other people addressed the torture porn thing while I was composing this mini-essay :) I agree with you.

Also, should I hide my comments on the script? I tried to keep them vague and it's a spoiler thread, but I saw some other people were hiding theirs, so let me know.

[ edited by bonzob on 2009-09-16 18:59 ]

[ edited by bonzob on 2009-09-16 19:00 ]
The reviews tend to be glib, bonzob because nearly seemingly every movie blogger and horror website has been on a year-long campaign to paint Joss' remarks about it (like the "horror film to end all horror films... literally" back at 2007 Comic-Con) as writer braggadocio instead of teases.

Anyone who was there when he said things like that knew it wasn't "seriously, this will be better than anything ever before and no one will want to make horror movies ever again" (the way the horror/movie sites were portraying it) and instead was simply "I'm telling you something about the movie without telling you something about the movie".

With all those movie and horror sites starting off from a position of complete BS, it's no wonder most of their script read reports don't have much thought in them. (I haven't read the one linked here.)

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-09-16 19:02 ]
I cannot even imagine what Cabin is like based on what bonzob just said the major themes were. But I really like what I've heard.
Hm, I'm wondering if it's the real deal. It sounds a lot like one of the presumably fake version that we know to be out there.

Oi. That version isn't fake. The one that's out on the net is a real draft.
bonzob: thanks for your intriguing post. The more I read about this film, the more interested I get. I'm not a huge horror fan (although I have nothing fundamental against the genre, and I've loved films like "Psycho," for example), but this sounds like horror with a big, fat twist. Extremely intriguing.
I don't know that I'd even call the first Saw movie 'torture porn'. It was actually quite clever and while there was torture involved, and puzzle solving, I wouldn't call it porn.

I gather the other films in the series are terrible and don't interest me.
redeem: I honestly think the whole term is ridiculous, and while I haven't seen Saw (ha), I really like the first Hostel. I mentioned those films because they at least actually feature torture. It seems these days any new horror film is called "torture porn."

For instance, according to wikipedia, Untraceable, The Passion Of The Christ, I Know Who Killed Me, The Devil's Rejects, Wolf Creek, Ichi The Killer, Turistas, and The Collector have all been given that label. I would say these are all debatable, at the very least.
I don't think the term "torture porn" is ridiculous, just overused and misused. At the time the term was invented, there was a wave of films that were basically all about the characters getting tortured. I'm thinking of that one with Elisha Cuthbert most specifically (in fact, is that the one that Joss was talking about?).

But I do think the term has been used way beyond its original meaning. Joss is clearly a horror fan, and I really doubt he meant that any time something bad or bloody happens to a character, that = torture porn. In any horror movie, something bad generally happens to one or more someones.
You know, i've since watched 'Captivity' and didn't really see it as torture porn. In that sense the marketing (which is what Joss actually took issue with IIRC and FWIW I still agree with him) was extremely misleading because where we're given to believe Elisha Cuthbert is kidnapped and tortured in fact any torture of her is basically psychological and the 2 or 3 actual torture scenes feature other characters. Must admit though, I fast forwarded through most of it because what I did find it was boring, predictable and badly written.

One problem with the label is, people hear "porn" and think "sex", if it doesn't have sex or at least nudity then they're puzzled by the porn label. And I also think it's way over/misused.

That said, "Wolf Creek" most assuredly features torture as does at least the trailer for "Turistas" ("Paradise Lost" in the UK) which put me off watching the latter and kinda made me wish I could unwatch the former. Whether they're "torture porn" is debatable though which is another problem with the label in that it's an arbitrary line as to where a torture scene becomes torture scenes becomes torture porn. To me torture has to be basically the sole focus of the horror for it to be "torture porn" but even "sole focus" is open to interpretation.

(the first 'Saw' I might call "predicament horror" as a sort of sub-sub-genre offshoot of "survival horror", not seen the sequels because, again, I was put off by their marketing. I'd stick 'Cube' in the same sub-sub-genre. And that's ™ BTW ;)
That's the thing, Saje, nearly every movie labeled "torture porn," fits much better in another sub-genre, be it survival horror, conspiracy thriller, serial killer, slasher, or what have you.

When people apply the porn suffix to something it usually implies that, like pornography, the film will have no ideas, thin characters, and a plot that is merely an excuse to get to the next setpiece (be it sex or torture). Furthermore, it implies that the torture scenes are there just to titillate disturbed minds who get off on seeing people maimed, disfigured, and killed, with no other purpose beyond this titillation.

I could imagine such films existing, I just haven't seen them hitting the marketplace, certainly not in large enough numbers to justify the creation of a subgenre.

For instance, I would argue Hostel, like a lot of horror films, is a moral film, almost puritanical in its upholding of moral virtues.


The first half of the film contains virtually no violence/gore of any kind.

In the second half, there is a torture scene, but it has a very clear function. It's the protagonist being tortured, so there is inherent suspense to the scene -- how will he get away? The twist is -- he doesn't get away. He dies. It's the Psycho switch, where the secondary protagonist must now become the protagonist.

The rest of the film contains two more torture scenes, one where hero turns the tables on his torturer and kills him, and one where another torturer is interrupted while torturing an innocent girl and is killed by the hero. That's three scenes of torture, each with a clear narrative purpose, and two of them ending in the tortured person turning the tables on their captor.

If torture porn films are designed for people who "get off" on torture, this film, the supposed pinnacle of the genre, did not do a very good job. If I was watching a porn film, and there were no sex scenes in the first half, and then two of the three sex scenes in the second half ended in the sex being interrupted, I wouldn't think it was a good porn film, you know?
Somebody should make PG Torture Porn. (Call it Buffy The Vampire Slayer). (I jest).

The version which is floating out there isn't finished. It's particularly draft. Is what I heard.

My feeling is that Cabin is going to make or break it based on direction. How it turns out from production will sink or swim it.

Also - "The difficulty for an artist in balancing what he thinks he should express versus what an audience expects" from bonzob above makes me grin. Dollhouse was kinda like that. Not only from within the show, but from when it aired - you could almost hear a good portion of the fandom saying "When is Faith going to to punch Adelle?" as each episode aired.
Gore and torture porn are not the same thing. I'm pretty sure Joss Whedon wouldn't make anything (as writer/producer) that he personally disagrees with.
Shapenew, there's things in Dollhouse he says he's not sure he agrees with.
I don't think any of the Saws are actual torture-porn. For that term to apply, I think the film needs to revel in what it's doing. Hostel meets that standard (though it's certainly exposing it in an intelligent way). Captivity certainly does. Saw has always treated the people behind the actions as villains, and in one film (Saw III) completely demystifies what they do.
If you cut about 30 seconds then 'Captivity' would be a (poor) thriller IMO. Most of it revolves around Elisha Cuthbert being held in a basement being emotionally manipulated and subjected to psychological torture. And the people doing it are portrayed as villains.

When people apply the porn suffix to something it usually implies that, like pornography, the film will have no ideas, thin characters, and a plot that is merely an excuse to get to the next setpiece (be it sex or torture).

The label's certainly become pejorative bonzob and as you say, if you put "porn" into any genre label it ceases to be neutral in the way that e.g. "survival horror" is basically neutral so yet another problem with the label is it has a pre-judgment built into it so that it's very easy for people to call something torture porn and then just dismiss counter-arguments by (implicitly or otherwise) suggesting that if you're defending it or even just questioning whether it even is torture porn then you're already some kind of deviant.

That said, I don't think the torture scenes in a horror film need to be gratuitous to earn the label "torture porn" and I don't think the film needs to be devoid of ideas or well-developed characters (i.e. even though i'm not a fan of it, i'm happy to accept there're well made torture porn horror movies and badly made torture porn horror movies).

If the horror only or largely revolves around torture set-pieces (to the extent that any other gore is slight and incidental) then it qualifies IMO, particularly where the element of the victim being helpless and at the torturer's mercy is emphasised (slasher flicks have a lot of running away and - for the victims - ineffectual fighting back i.e. the victim is at least an active participant in the scene rather than just being an object to be taken apart while alive). That seems a less subjective and less loaded definition.
Fair enough, Saje, that's probably a better definition.

The problem still exists, though, that the term has become/always was entirely pejorative (as you mention), so that while you may acknowledge that there is such a thing as "good" or "bad" torture porn, I don't think the critical community at large does.

I certainly have never heard a critic go "wow, what a fantastic torture porn I just saw."
gossi, I didn't mean that there are actions/dialogue/characters in Joss Whedon's work that he doesn't agree with -- what made people like, say, Holland Manners and the Operative sharp villains is that there was some legitimacy in their viewpoints. But I don't think Mr. Whedon is going to make something in a *style* he disagrees with, or with an overall viewpoint he disagrees with.
The "porn" in torture porn implies (more than implies) enjoyment in the torture. And that's where I draw the line - if the film exists solely to torture characters, and that's where the entertainment value of said film comes from, then it's torture porn. If torture is a facet of the film, but nothing to be cheered at, then it's not.
By that definition, what would you include under the torture porn banner, Dark Shape? Maybe The Devil's Rejects, since the protagonists are psychopaths who kill and sometimes torture, and are still supposed to be sympathetic, even cool? Do you consider Saw or Hostel to be torture porn?
I'd say Hostel is, because it revels in the violence. Captivity, yes. I don't know if I'd call Devil's Rejects torture porn because there's nothing in the way of actual torture.
This is where I have a problem with the term "torture porn" altogether. If torture is a part of the movie it gets smacked with this label. In addition, this is a fairly new term that seems to have arose since the popularity of Hostel. I would suggest that torture scenes in horror movies have existed for a very long time and serve the story in a very specific way. I don't think anyone would consider Argento's Suspiria "torture porn" but clearly in some scenes the protagonists are tortured, by way of example, the girl that falls into the razor wire.

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