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April 14 2012

"Cabin" Illustrative of the Critic vs. Audience Divide? "The Cabin in the Woods" has received quite favorable reviews from most major critics, but CinemaScores (when polled what audiences have rated a movie after seeing it) for it have been less than stellar with the majority giving it a "C" and females in particular giving it a "D+." What do you think audiences aren't connecting with that critics are?

Maybe people were confused about the plot, or accused the movie of being a too-soon imitation of the Hunger Games (especially with how the people behind the scenes did remind people of Seneca rigging the game). The low grade among females has got to be reaction to how Jules acted and how Dana was abused. Maybe people prefer a horror movie that isn't too complicated.

[ edited by impalergeneral on 2012-04-14 09:53 ]
More like the collective "let's not reveal anything about the movie" mantra didn't help.
Who cares? Cinema scores are usually indicative of one thing: the general audience wants to see the same stories told in slightly different ways. Based on the ads I think most people went in expecting a *slightly* more out there "Friday the 13th" type movie and were outraged when it was something else entirely. Plus, DANCING AROUND SPOILERS the ending was ALWAYS going to be divisive. I loved it but I know a lot of people which hate any movie that would dare to end the way Cabin did.
This may sound dismissive, but a lot of people who pop out to go see a horror movie on Friday nights don't want to see something too far off the beaten path.

There was a noticeable restlessness in my theatre during some of the less traditional scenes.

[ edited by rabid on 2012-04-14 10:38 ]
Well, I can only go on the fairly packed, but small screen showing I saw it in last night and this does not match my experience. The audience (mostly young too,) lapped it up. In fact, I would say it was the behind the scenes sequences that had everyone most enthralled, if we take out Marty's film stealing lines.

Of course, anecdotal evidence is the weakest of all arguments, but an 81% user rating on Rotten Tomatoes would also go against this.
People on RT, etc are film fans. They like putting thought into their films and TV. CinemaScore, on the other hand shows people searching for the least-objectionable content. They are CBS watchers. Nothing wrong with that, but this is a film that (apparently) challenges a lot of film-goers. They won't go onto websites and after saying "That was dumb," they probably won't think of it again.
It's very clear doing a Twitter search for "Cabin in the Woods" that a surprising amount of people hate the movie. And I mean, HATE. Almost 50% of tweets are negative. The other 50% is extreme positivity. It's the marmite of films.

Two common themes emerge in the comments - confusion, "weird", and "not scary". I think the humour confused people.

You know, I really don't care. I loved it. It will make money for Lionsgate - the predicted take for the weekend is in line with their expectations for good performance.
When people go to a movie they have certain expectations. When those expectations are not met, they are unsatisfied.

The people who paid for the Stooges movie got pretty much what they expected, hence the decent grade. Critics go to every movie with as blank a mind as possible, and take each movie as it comes.

So a movie that deliberately defies audience expectation like Cabin is going to have wonky cinema scores.
I found it to be like no other film I've ever seen, and absolutely loved it because of that. I guess some people don't like change that much, which is ironic seeing as it was the entire subtext of the film.
Yeah. I believe - and part of me dies typing this - a lot of people expected torture porn and weren't happy they didn't get it. Going to and putting in "cabin in the woods" is vaguely depressing.

But, you know, I'm pretty sure at least 50% of America would hate Glee if they watched it. The people who Love this movie - and there's a lot of them - will be the people who tell their friends too, buy the DVD etc. It's very clearly going to be on a lot of 'best of horror' lists for decades to come.
I think it is because the movie is too self-conscious; it is too meta. You need to be in on the joke to get the joke (as critics clearly are, knowing all the tropes) and too many people are finding that they do not get the joke- and they don't like feeling they like they are less intelligent.
In a way, it probably taught those looking for torture porn a lesson, and gave a reason for the mindless killings that they so enjoyed, which made them feel bad about watching it. Such was the point, I believe. Thus they disliked it.
"...and too many people are finding that they do not get the joke- and they don't like feeling they like they are less intelligent."

The truth being, of course, that many of them actually are less intelligent.

Okay, that's kind of rude, but it's also probably true. I could maybe be kinder and say that they are more set in their ways with what they want to watch, or they don't have the time or energy to want to have to think about anything they are watching for entertainment, but in truth it's simply that if a story isn't dumbed down to a ridiculous level these days, many people just don't have the intelligence to understand it.

It's the exact same thing when it comes to television. Reality television series like the brain numbing American Idol or written-by-the-numbers procedural shows such as the various C.S.I. or Law and Order series get massive audiences because they require almost no intelligence or actual thought to watch. The dots are joined for you. You don't even have to figure out where you left your pen. A show like Fringe however that requires you to pay attention and perhaps think about what you are watching for a few minutes, people turn away from, despite the fact that the writing on the show is incredible and its cast, especially the mighty John Noble, is doing amazing work each and every week. I'm not even saying that you have to be especially brilliant or enlightened to watch and understand Fringe. You just need to want to think. That's all.

Same is going to go for Cabin in the Woods. It has a meaning and intent that goes way beyond anything that most of the audience will either expect or be able to understand. They just wanted people to die. Not to have to understand some sort of deeper meaning behind their deaths. That would be a ridiculous waste of their remaining capacity to think, which they will likely need to save in order to fully comprehend what Randy Jackson has to say on Idol next week.

Sorry, bit of a rant I know, but it annoys me that the majority rules when it comes to television and movies and usually that means that the brainless masses get to decide what is a success and what is considered a failure. I want more Fringe and more Cabin in the Woods being made and yet all I know for sure is that Simon Cowell will never be short of work. Annoying things are annoying.
I went to the cinema with my girlfriend and a few other friends and even though they had no idea what was coming they still loved it. I really don't get the how people can hate it.
Five Horizons, I'm going to take the optimistic view of your scenario and simply be happy that there are enough people consuming culture of all sorts that it is a big enough monster to support the artsy, clever, silly stuff on the side - that films like this can be made, can find an audience, can still please people who weren't expecting what they got. Yes, the cleverest things will never be the mainstream, but if they were... well, then, they wouldn't be the cleverest things any more.

(It's still depressing reading people say it's the worst film they've ever seen, though. Seriously?!)
Yeah, the people claiming it's the worst film ever made. Yeahhhh. I've seen Sharks In Venice.
Thing is though, skittledog, I'm not sure that that is going to be the case for much longer. I mean, have you seen what the four major networks are currently airing? There have been maybe ten shows on all of them combined this year that are actually worth watching and not either reality, comedy or procedural in nature. The majority of them are on the verge of being cancelled or possibly being given a minimal order for next season. I keep hearing of plans for new reality series and at least two of the networks increasing their comedy programming by an hour, but I'm hearing less and less news about any new shows I want to watch as the seasons go by. FOX can't even stand to not have Idol on the air all year round anymore, and so has allowed X Factor US to fill the gap when it's not around.

I like your optimistic view (and thanks to the cable channels I currently still believe it possible) but I also think that there is a fair chance that eventually movies like Cabin in the Woods will cease to be, when the studios finally decide that intelligent audiences are just too few and far between to cater for.


Why would you admit that?
Its hard to say whether the twitter reaction is going to help or hurt it's chances. Some guy that hosts a MTV show in the US and has a few hundred thousand followers described it as the one of worst films ever. But Hayley Williams from Paramore, who has over 2 million followers, said she wants to see it 10 more times. Not sure if the love its getting will cancel out the hate.
Which is why I love Hayley Williams.

Okay, not the only reason but the most recent one...
I mean, have you seen what the four major networks are currently airing?

Probably not with as much clarity as you, since I'm in the UK. ;)

I'm still not convinced: I think it's always easy to see a trend towards lowest common denominator, as once a model has been established that's the most successful way to go. Far less easy to quantify or observe are the new models being established, or the people playing with old models on the side. I also think that as we experience more and more of culture ourselves, we're more likely to see new things as derivative, therefore we think there are more derivatives now than there were when we were first dipping our toes in the culture pool. I accept that culture could be dumbing down - I've no firm evidence that it isn't - but I need more than just my own dissatisfaction at 80% of what's out there to prove it.

And, switching genres/media ever so slightly, if I have to strike out past the ten Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in London's East End to find the small artsy theatre where people geek out over Sondheim, I'm still happy that the whole genre exists and is supported enough for both to have an audience.

(So yeah: Optimist. Sorry. ;)

[ edited by skittledog on 2012-04-14 13:32 ]
The audience reaction when I saw it last night versus a more geeky audience a couple weeks ago was pretty striking. Few laughs at the geekier jokes throughout. Zero at "I learned it from watching you!" and the opening scene before that. Lots more gasping and screaming at the parts meant to startle and scare. And lots of people laughed when a major character died, which really surprised me. I don't think it means people were dumb. I think they were expecting a straight-up horror experience and the mood whiplash and trope playfulness didn't meet those expectations.
"I also think that there is a fair chance that eventually movies like Cabin in the Woods will cease to be, when the studios finally decide that intelligent audiences are just too few and far between to cater for."

On the other hand, Inception.

It is fairly insulting and dismissive to say that the audiences that don't like the film are just idiots. A lot of people get turned off by things that are being too meta, trying to think of itself as more than it is and sneering at those that don't get the joke. I loved Cabin, but I can certainly see people getting the joke and disliking it. Sometimes you just have to accept that other people like other things and is not a sign of intelligence or the lack of it.

Also, there are plenty of people who like X Factor and it's ilk but are still smart. It's not like Cabin doesn't show love for the trash.

"People on RT, etc are film fans. They like putting thought into their films and TV. CinemaScore, on the other hand shows people searching for the least-objectionable content."

Fair enough, but I think we could probably have guessed the trend before the release. Cabin does require knowledge of other horror films to really appreciate and to get the nods to other films. I would have expected a slightly higher mark from the general film going public, as the horror tropes are so ingrained into culture now that we all know them, but it perhaps does highlight that the audience did not get what I would readily admit the film does not provide and should be expect from a horror film, namely the scares.
"On the other hand, Inception."

Except I consider Inception to be a really stupid movie.
Inception against every dumb movie which makes large amounts of money, that be the problem. It's an exception rather than the rule. (For the record, I liked it).

I don't overly think it's an intelligence problem people are having with this particular movie - it really isn't complicated - I think it's more expectations and problems with things like, say, the bad guys in the 3rd act and the non-traditional ending. I do wonder what reception Evil Dead would have if it was re-released now. I can imagine a lot of kids hating it, as it isn't Saw 14, and it has jokes. Mixing horror and comedy with American audiences, for some reason I don't understand, can be problematic.
"Probably not with as much clarity as you, since I'm in the UK. ;)"

Me too, it's just that pretty much all of the television I enjoy is US based, Doctor Who, Torchwood and Being Human aside, and so I tend to pay more attention to what's going on over there than I do with our channels. Don't even get me started on the squinty-jillion hours of programming our major channels waste on soap operas every year. That's a different soapbox for me! ;)

"I accept that culture could be dumbing down - I've no firm evidence that it isn't - but I need more than just my own dissatisfaction at 80% of what's out there to prove it."

I guess the only evidence to help prove my point I can offer, if you can call it evidence as such, is that if we say I currently share your dissatisfaction with 80% of what's out there, five years ago that was probably more like a 70% dissatisfaction. Ten years back, more like 50%. I don't think that in those ten years I've particularly changed in taste or suddenly become more difficult to please. I just think there is simply less on offer for me to enjoy and a hell of a lot more out there that I find absolutely unwatchable and I see that divide getting greater as every year goes by. Only my personal experience though.

@Sunfire and Vandelay

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that it's either one way or the other. That you either like the movie, making you obviously intelligent or you don't like it and are therefore clearly stupid. I'm not so arrogant to think that everyone who doesn't see things exactly the way I do is somehow brain dead. As I said above, don't think it's necessarily about not being able to understand something. A lot of the time it's a case of not wanting to bother even trying.

A non-television/movie example of what I'm saying. My nephew is a bright young kid and yet often writes in text speak, mostly just on the internet but often in real life as well. He knows how to spell. He even knows that most of the abbreviations he uses are not really that much shorter than the words they are replacing, but he does it anyway. His reasoning being that it doesn't matter and he can't be bothered to do it properly. It's that exact same attitude that I often find when discussing television and movies with friends and work mates. They are more than capable of watching and understanding more complicated shows and movies. They just can't be bothered to have to give them the thought they require. Better to watch yet another murder on C.S.I. be wrapped up in exactly the same way it was last week, or see which X Factor singer messes up the most. It's easier that way. No thought required.

This opinion doesn't extend to people that genuinely didn't like the movie. Having a 'genuine' opinion is one thing. My problem is with those that just can't be bothered to form one.
I try not to be annoyed with people who don't want to think about stuff. I see procedurals kind of like sudoku - people want a small workout for their brains, a little puzzle to play with, but they don't want their entertainment possibly judging them for not being good enough for it. Since people should probably be putting more thought and effort into their work and real relationships than into their entertainment, I think it's a perfectly acceptable thing to expect to just be able to relax with something comfortable that doesn't force you to think about your own experience of it.

...obviously, that's not really what the film thinks, though. So we're right back to why some audiences won't like it. Heh.

(Oh and in that case yes, ugh, let me agree with you on a general dislike of our obsession with soaps over here. So glad at least that the rest of the world doesn't fill its primetime with that type of repetitive melodrama.)
Just skimmed #cabininthewoods for the last 5 hours and reaction is like 90% positive. It'll be interesting to see what word of mouth does.

Loved seeing it last night, but already knew the story. I'll be going with son and brother-in-law next, neither of which know a thing about it. Can't wait for their reactions.
Chris, search "Cabin in the Woods", not the hash tag version. Here's a direct link to Twitter stream.

[ edited by gossi on 2012-04-14 15:40 ]
I think it's about expectations. I suspect that a great many people who saw it opening day were expecting a straight-up horror film with a few snappy one-liners, and what they got was completely different.

I am surprised it got such a low mark from the female demographic, though. To me it had a decidedly feminist bent.

It will be interesting to see how those numbers trend as more people see it. This is a hard movie to market and I'm hoping word of mouth will get the right people in the theaters - the "right" people being the ones who will appreciate the metaness without being disappointed by the lack of torture porn.
I agree that the people who were expecting a straight-up horror movie may not 'get' it and may have been disappointed. Personally, I thought it was amazing.
I think there are valid reasons a viewer might dislike CABIN IN THE WOODS, mainly that it's not all that scary. But when I looked at the negative tweets last night, around a quarter to a third of them were some variation of "CABIN IN THE WOODS is the gayest movie I've ever seen." I think it's safe to say those tweeters are idiots.

As far as INCEPTION goes, I love when a good puzzle movie challenges me, INCEPTION didn't do that. Compared to MEMENTO and THE PRESTIGE, I felt INCEPTION was a really dumbed-down film for Christopher Nolan. I still like the film but mostly as a fun popcorn flick. So I didn't find its success with the masses all that shocking.
People don't mind twists in general as long as they're still generally getting what they expected. Cabin has been marketed as a horror film while I personally think of it more as a comedy for fans of horror films. I don't think it ever intends to truly scare the viewer, which might disappoint some. It also requires a certain amount of intelligence to keep up with what's going on and sadly, I think that general audiences sometimes lack that.

*SPOILER* At the end of the day, the film certainly compares the Old Gods with the audience, wanting things to pan out the same old way and Hulk smashing when that doesn't happen. Drew and Joss seem to have made a pretty accurate observation.

All that being said, I was expecting an overwhelmingly strong positive reaction and I'm really bummed about this. I can understand this not being someone's cup of tea, but hating it? Between this and Mass Effect 3, I think 2012 is the year that I lose all faith in the opinions of general audiences. I guess it's about time. It's been hanging by a thread for a long time now.

Now if audiences don't like The Avengers...
@WindTheFrog, Yes, using the word "gay" as an adjective that means "bad" is a pretty sure sign of stupidity. I'm assuming they aren't referring to some homosexual subplot that I somehow missed the first time around.
Slayerinthedark, I'm in the dark with you. The Mass Effect 3 response to the story blew my mind, and not in a good way. I can't believe the studio is making an alternative ending.
I was having a discussion about LOST a few years back, around the time that season 4 had just started airing, so late 2007 or so. There was me (an obsessive LOST fan), a friend who also followed the show quite closely and another friend of his, who didn't. He had apparently seen up to the end of season 2 but had then given up. When I asked why that was, he said something along the lines of "If I wanted to have to concentrate on a story, I'd read a book".

True and very sad story.
I dont think the movie is a comedy in the same sense hat i dont think Buffy is a comedy. Buffy could mix loud out funny and terribly dramatic sometimes allmost in the same scene, and i believe Cabin can do the same thing with horror and humor, in my opinion. Its perhaps tame compared to the torture porn of nowadays and the nihilistic nature os so much horror, but i cared and sufered for the victims and felt theyre horror the same way i could laugh a second before or after a very sad Buffy scene.
I saw a tweet that said, "It was hilarious. I laughed all the way through. Don't waste your money."

Over an hour of laughter sounds like money well spent to me, but whatever.
I work at a movie theater and was tasked with cleaning the theaters yesterday, and I made it a point to stand outside the theater when the 7:20 show (the busiest) got out so I could listen to everyone's opinions. I expected glorious "OMG THAT WAS INCREDIBLE" (which was my reaction when I saw it Wednesday), but instead it was a mass of confusion and hate.

It made me very sad.
I heard somebody say they laughed until they started crying, and it sucked. Whatevs, humans.

[ edited by gossi on 2012-04-14 18:36 ]
I'm thinking that critics are like grizzled panhandlers, who have just shifted a hill of mud and crud, and are excited to find a good sized gold nugget. (The sheer volume of mediocre movies making them happy to see something unique.)

I suspect much of the audience is like someone going on vacation (only a few movies a year), and being disappointed that the gold pebble doesn't look like a Fort Knox bar.
I work at a theatre as well and I stood outside the door to the Cabin auditorium for most of the night and told everyone who would listen that the movie is awesome and really fun. I told them that it would be both funny and scary and that it would subvert their expectations about horror.

I figured the people who hated it really just didn't understand what it was trying to do. Plenty of people on twitter complained "It's stupid. People were laughing at how bad it was." Uh no.. it was intentionally funny. I think the majority of kids have gone stupid from watching shitty television. They have an awful sense of humor and couldn't recognize good writing if their lives depended on it. Also, people complained about it "making no sense"... was it really that complicated to follow?

A movie should be judged on its merits, not by one's expectations of how it should fit a shitty mold. -___-
Since technically Cinemascore reflects the general audience (which means they were probably trying to correct for the heavy fan turn out the first night anyway), a low score is par for the course. Horror is not a general audience genre; it's very niche. Cinemascore has only given out six F's out of seven to horror films. A majority of all horror films make the C grade anyway. I haven't parsed women's reactions down to that level, but I suspect you would see a similar reaction (but again, haven't checked).

In the same vein, look at the movies that make A+ at Cinema Score and they are usually Oscar nominated, but another word comes to mind for me: harmless. The antagonists are simple (if present at all) with causes a modern audience would be either unquestionably against or if they are reasonable they see the good in the protagonist's cause at some point.

Hell, if we're being really honest... Is Evil Dead really a classic to the general audience or is it a classic to students of film, genre, and horror? I'll bet it's the latter. Shiny two bits up for grabs people!

And a last nitpick... it's unreasonable to expect every human being to have the same level of pop culture/film awareness you do. You'd better believe the people I recommend Lars Von Trier to is a relatively small list. My hope for this movie is only that it at least doubles its production budget, and it is innovative enough that it spurns some kind of change in the genre. That it gets the same reaction as Titanic? Well, that was never a realistic goal.
As far as INCEPTION goes, I love when a good puzzle movie challenges me, INCEPTION didn't do that.
I wonder if that might be because, as I argue, Inception wasn't a puzzle movie. As for whatever divide exists or doesn't between critics and audience on Cabin, I don't have a lot to say. It's day one. Ask me again after the first weekend is up.
My favorite movie of last year had the same problem. Drive got a 92% RT rating and a C- Cinema Score. Why? Because the audience didn't know what it was getting:

Because they felt tricked. If a person in any given week has three hours of real free time and wants to spend that free time at the movie theater, a studio better be honest about the subject matter of a movie. As is the case with 'Drive': If someone is using their free time to watch an overly stylized and extremely gory art-house film, well, that should really be what that person signed up for. If a moviegoer thinks he's using his valuable time to watch Ryan Gosling drive racecars (or, really drive anything for a substantial amount of time), no matter how good 'Drive' is, that viewer is going to be pissed off. Honestly, I can't blame them.

A woman actually sued the movie because she was so incensed that the movie did not actually involve Ryan Gosling driving for most of the movie.
And people sued movie theaters because The Artist was in black and white and had no sound (speaking sound, that is). Go figure.

But, you know. This website is not really the best place to discuss why someone does not like a Joss Whedon project; we have a hard time seeing past our own biases. I do not think people are dumb; I think many go to movies to escape real life. They want what they want, and that's fine. If they don't get what they want, social media provides a means for them to tweet or otherwise make comment. That seems to be the case here.

Five horizons, I gotta disagree with you on the "mindlessness" of CSI. It has had long arcs, some of which took years to pay off (the most notable of which was Grissom and Sara, 7 years in the making), it has characters who are not clear cut good or bad and who develop over time; it has striking feminist leanings (no more so than with the utterly fascinating Lady Heather), etc. But you need to invest- like you do for Cabin- to really see this; otherwise, it really is just an hour of escape per week. But I assure you the board I go to for CSI is every bit as passionate as this one is about Whedon, and every bit as literate.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-04-14 20:14 ]
Another comment which keeps coming up: "Sooooooo confused! Not sure if it was supposed to be funny or scary...."

Can't a movie or TV show be both? For the first time in my life, it feels like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel have been off TV for a generation of people.
Yeah, I do take issue with the idea that people who don't like Cabin in the Woods are just dumb. I think Drive is a fantastic comparison--people didn't know what they were getting. Even I didn't know what I was getting as I walked in--I expected a lot more horror, and many fewer laughs. Difference is, I still at least had my experience with watching other Whedon productions, and so I could adapt and change my expectations.

I wish everyone loved it. But I do think it's terribly dismissive to insist that the audience's reaction is coming from a place of stupidity. Complain about TV these days all you want, but TV has always sucked. As have movies. Just, with the years, we forget the bad, and we're left only with the classics to make us think, "Boy, this medium used to be something special!"
Just saw film. True horror aficionados will get it on several levels delicious. Those numbers quoted should make no difference. Joss and Drew did great. On Kindle hard to type effectively. More later.
From my experience, every time someone asks me if so and so movie is good I'm very careful. What I've found is that there seems to be two types of audiences out there. One audience is in it for entertainment purposes only (for escape). These individuals are the ones I They are directly tied to movie advertising conventions and will not forgive if said movie deviates from what they expected to see.

The other audience is like most of us here. We also enjoy movies as entertainment, but if we see something different we're willing to take the journey and see where it takes us.

Do I think its because one group is smarter than the other? No, I don't think that's the case. It's all about the exposure, what you've been watching upto now. If you look at the reaction to the movie, the so-called "geeks" and critics have that in common. The issue is as presented by Drew and Joss: does Hollywood want to do something about it or should it continue to be an individual journey as it is now?

[ edited by delirium_haze on 2012-04-15 00:18 ]
Just saw it for third time. Nobody laughed at the speakerphone scene. So nobody laughed during the whole movie. It was a weird experience because of this. Also, I love the movie a whole lot, and kind of want to marry Dana.
"From my experience, every time someone asks me if so and so movie is good I'm very careful. What I've found is that there seems to be two types of audiences out there. One audience is in it for entertainment purposes only (for escape). These individuals are the ones I think "Cabin" refers to as the Old Ones. They are directly tied to movie advertising conventions and will not forgive if said movie deviates from what they expected to see."


Interesting you should say that the audience who is only looking to be entertained is the Old Ones (specifics that had not crossed my mind, but sounds about right,) when we consider the final shot of the end of the world and the hand crashing down on the screen.

The perceived* backlash from this audience against the film sounds almost as if it is predicted by the film itself.

*I say perceived, because I'm still not convinced that the majority of the audience is coming out disappointed. I've gone on Twitterfall a couple of times today and the majority of tweets seems to be people saying they are going to see it, then it is the positive reactions to having seen it, closely followed by something along the lines of "The Cabin in the Woods is the craziest film I have ever seen!" The actual negative "dumbest film", "don't waste your money", are there, but definitely seem to be the minority.
It's odd to me that even quite a few Whedonesque members on here who really liked the movie have said that they didn't feel it was much in the way of actually scary; Joss and Drew have stated many times in interviews that "Cabin" is first and foremost a horror movie and is meant to be taken as such.

... Guess then for those people the movie on one hand failed to do what it set out to do?

[ edited by J Linc on 2012-04-15 02:04 ]
The only scores that count are the RottenTomatoes ratings.
I saw it last night and took two friends (non-Whedonites). One of them laughed at all the funny parts and liked the movie BECAUSE of all the funny parts. The other one laughed at some of the jokes, but really didn't like the movie as a whole. I loved the movie up until the last five seconds - I thought the very end would have been better left to the imagination. It was also less scary than even I had been expecting. That may have something to do with why some people don't like it. I really couldn't gauge overall audience reaction though because there were very few people in the theatre we went to - a very sparse audience. As to the intelligence of theatre goers being the problem... I don't think people are less intelligent now than they were 20-30 years ago. However, because of our (U.S.) ever declining educational system, I do think they are much less literate than they used to be. So, thanks to being poorly educated, I don't think people are sophisticated enough any more to understand a movie as complex as CITW.
J Linc I think the film did exactly what it set out to do and you can see intention from start to finish as far as plotting goes. I think it was called a horror movie because that was the target. But outside the jump scares and an extremely violent third act, the tension (which is usually a horror staple) aspect is undercut by the structure. That is, it's hard to be scared when you know exactly the rules are, who's controlling it, and they are providing the MST3K running commentary. So from a tone aspect it can be muddled for a meta unaware audience. But honestly, it's a success to me because it was exactly the "loving hate letter" it was supposed to be. The audience just isn't universal.

@steverogers - I don't think the literacy they teach in schools has anything to do with it. If you are not a horror fan, a Joss fan, a critic, or your viewing pattern doesn't somehow intersect those three in some way, I'm pretty sure that would be a baffling film.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-04-15 03:55 ]
I am not really sure that the only scores that count are Rotten Tomatoes. I would think the real only score that counts is the box office.
I see a lot of people saying they expect the Cinemascore to be based on many people going in expecting one thing and being dissatisfied. I have to say, based on one trailer, (and nothing else, I didn't want spoilers), I went in expecting a not scary, but really funny, spoof on horror movies. That is basically what I got, but I was still disappointed by the ending. Then again, I would have given it higher than a C, so maybe I'm the minority?
The box office estimates have been raised to $15m for weekend, which says a few things. First of all, I'm not sure negative social media buzz means much. Second, easily higher per screen average than all other releases. Third, it's well above the first Saw film, and there's still international numbers and openings (Australia in July) to come.
Has the social media buzz really been that negative?

A film as meta as this was always going to be more of a cult movie than an immediate mainstream hit. There seems to be a very underdog, us vs them mentality in this thread that's casting the film's reception in doom and gloom when it's only been out for three days. Ultimately genre fans and critics are going to be the ones who decide how Cabin is historically remembered and they all seem to love it.
It's split between people who hate it and people who love it. The people who hate it tend to say things like its the "dumbist" or call it gay, though, so you know.

One of the things which surprised me looking at this whole subject is how audiences rate things. Transformers 3, for example, got the highest grade CinemaScore. Do a search for 'Battleship' on twitter and it's almost universal praise.

[ edited by gossi on 2012-04-15 17:14 ]
I think gauging audience reaction to The Avengers will be a much more interesting case study than this, considering it's going to be a lot more mainstream and the marketing is more in line with what the end product is going to be.

And the only reason Battleship has universal praise from people who have seen it is because it might as well have a huge neon banner over it reading "based on a board game." 'Cos of that anyone who's liable not to like it won't be seeing it.

[ edited by Jackal on 2012-04-15 17:24 ]
Yep. I don't think it's a marketing fail with Cabin, or a fail at all for the studio. I just find the reaction of people seeing anything different puzzling. I can see now why studios are risk adverse: us.
I can see going into Cabin and thinking "Texas Chainsaw redux" based on the marketing though. Can't blame them for being annoyed at getting something decidedly more comedic if that's what they were in the mood for. People would hate Titanic if it they went in expecting an action movie and got a love story. It's just an inherent problem when you create anything designed to subvert expectations.
Indeed. I never would have advertised Cabin as a horror comedy, that's commercial suicide in the US.
Yeah, horror comedies don't tend to do well in the US & Canada, because a lot of people just don't like mixing those two genres. They go to horror movies to be scared and don't mind the occasionally funny line to break the tension, but don't like it when comedic elements are pushed too much to the forefront.

If they are caught off guard by the comedic scenes and they don't laugh during the speaker phone scene as gossi mentioned and then don't laugh through out the movie, I'm not expecting that crowd to enjoy the movie. I think that this could explain the negative reaction you are seeing from some rather than it being too much of a thinking movie.
Yeah, the not laughing at the speaker phone scene caused people not to laugh at all. I could see people shifting in their seats from then on - the audience wasn't sure how they were supposed to react. But I've been to screenings where people were laughing from the opening scene. It's almost like somebody in the audience needs to break the usual horror movie silence barrier for everybody else to 'get' it.
That's pretty common. Stand up comics deal with the "dead room" all the time. Lively rooms usually need one or two people who will "start" the mood and if they're not there, it just stays dead.

My first screening, it was pretty dead and then I just started laughing loudly at jokes and the whole thing picked up considerably.
We were lucky, we saw it today and the majority of the audience were "in on the joke" so it was a riot to watch in a group. It is too bad that people are so polarized on it, I didn't think the trailers played like a straight up, garden variety slasher. At the end of the day though, Cabin is too high concept for some people, and their response is to label it dumb. Oh, Irony.
I guess that explains CBS sitcoms + laugh tracks.

I saw a morning screening with only about 30 people, but it seemed to play decently. Better than Serenity did with non-fan audiences (sadly).
Interestingly, in the ads here in the in-theater fliers that the movie venue puts out, the stars listed for acting in Cabin were Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. SO, not even Chris Hemsworth was listed, which would not really draw in the young ones.

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