... and/or just us, the horror movie audience. I don't think it's much more complicated than that.
Bringing in the ancients kind of threw me off a bit. There's a sense in which you could identify the targeted voyeuer with the technicians or the gods, or ...
With friends who watched these films constantly, I've sat down and watched most of a few Saw and Hostel films. I felt sick and ashamed afterwards and still the memory comes back only with a sense of guilt.
At first I was thinking that you have a more negative view on horror films than I do, but then I realized that there is no real way for me to gauge this. I say this because I haven't really watched any of the Hollywood slasher films since a few in the 1980's so I've never seen any of the Saw's or Hostel's ect. As I've mentioned on these boards before, I do find value in good horror films. Films such as Excorcism of Emily Rose, 28 days later, Blair Witch, the Devils backbone. ect...ect...... But these films are a different breed then the slasher/mutilation films that the Cabin in the Woods is commenting on, and I've never been inclined to want to rent those in the first place (although I know enough about them to get the tropes that are found in CITW).
That would be amazing. I'm just not sure yet what exactly it is that we need in order to cause this to happen.
One thought though, is that there will always be horror films, and there always will be people watching them for various reasons. What I think we need to see is Hollywood moving away from films that concentrate on the various horrible ways that a person can be mutilated to death, to films that concentrate on ideas and concepts related to morality, and to humanities questions about it's various problems, as well as questions and fears about it's future and the unknown ... I'd like to see Hollywood making more films like Cujo, or Pan's Labyrinth (Or last years Insidious).
Besides Jenkins's comment about how they have to actually trigger a monster/serial killer of their own free will and if they "don't transgress, then they won't be punished" you have (1) voices inserting themselves inside the heads of the characters "I want to read this out loud" "Read the Latin out loud" "I want to go for a walk", etc. (2) all the characters are obviously being manipulated into making choices they normally would not make (3) Marty bringing up the idea of puppeteers, and eventually yelling that he refuses to be a puppet and is the boss of his own brain, (4) Dana trying to convince Holden that Marty was right about the puppeteers and that it doesn't matter what they decide to do, something will just suddenly happen to stop them, (5) Dana explaining towards the end that "they made us choose. They made us choose how we die" which, philosophically speaking, is not a free choice at all.
: 3 - Not much discussion of how the film handles the concept of free will on this thread. It seemed to be a fairly major theme in the film.
I actually got the opposite sense, that it WASN'T really about free will. Richard Jenkins does have a line about how the characters have a moment of freedom somewhere in the middle of the process, but the beginning and the outcome are determined by he and his colleagues; and of course Jenkins and his co-workers have a betting pool etc.; but I didn't sense anything particularly deep about this.
I could see that. In fact, both themes could probably together. In a truly chaotic world, free will is either meaningless or nonexistent. The world of this film is simply a world with evil gods whose desires are apparently identical with those desires of the consumers in our real world who have created the demand for the currently popular horror film. The five main characters are essentially trapped in a bad horror film. I understand how you might not buy any of them as "characters" but I think the point was just that they were being forced into the character roles that the cliched genre/evil gods demanded. Chris Hemsworth's character, for example, (who I'll always first remember as Captain Kirk's dad) is supposed to be more intelligent with an academic scholarship, but the role the "puppetmasters" want him to play is the jock/athlete. It's the same for all four of them, they were not really supposed to be like they appear to be at the cabin.
I guess I would say that, if I had noticed the theme at all, I might have framed it as one of order vs. chaos, with the betting pool being just one of several ways that people try to impose a semblance of order on chaos. (There's a chart on the wall, and a system for placing bets, etc., but the actual thing being bet on is still utterly random.) And then the film basically ends on a note of "Chaos reigns" (to quote Antichrist), as the living beings who have been trapped within the system break free of it and bring about the system's destruction (a la the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the book version of which was quite emphatic about the role of "chaos" in all this).
Hmmm. It occurs to me that one of the reasons I might be more open to an order-vs-chaos reading of the film than a free-will-vs-no-free-will reading is because free will -- or any sort of will, really -- requires some sort of character, and I never bought any of these people as actual CHARACTERS. The film's utter incoherence on the level of world-building etc., on the other hand, actually fits very well with an order-vs-chaos way of reading things.
I have the impression that Goddard and Whedon decided to play with audience expectation. I think Attica explained it better than I did earlier. The movie theater audience is almost conditioned to want Holden to not say anything about the mirror, just to use it to spy on Dana. The audience in my theater was laughing at Holden's apparent excitement when Dana starts undressing. The guys, or the monsters, watching the girls take their clothes off is common in the horror genre. It's what we expect. But Holden's conscience get's the better of him and he chooses not to. By denying our expectation, we are led to question why it is that we expect it. Later when the labcoat guys are watching, hoping to see Jules undress, they are all dissapointed (with the movie theater audience) that she turns away. When they finally do get to watch her undress, one of them pleads with her to show more skin (the audience in my theater laughed again). The new security guard asks what it matters, the reply he gets is that it's essentially what the gods want.
What's the reason why? At first, you seemed to be saying that it was there just as part of a general plan to deny our expectations, but now you seem to be saying that each and every case of expectation denial has some sort of deeper reason that is unique to that expectation denial. So what IS that deeper something, in this case?
If this film is even remotely allegorical, then I'd look at the evil gods as representative of the modern horror movie fan/filmgoer, and it would then make sense that what they want would be absurd. Because what the consumers who made the Saw and Final Destination film franchises possible want is absurd. They want and pay for sad excuses for stories and characters who die miserably in what is essentially a nihilistic world. Come to think of it, I don't know how you could ever enjoy a whole load of popular horror films out there without being something of a nihilist (it'd be better than being a sadist at least). So in this film, there's no reasonable explanation for what the gods want, but what they want is contrary to both humanity and morality, so it's with science that someone can force these things upon normal human beings. They didn't have to do it this way, but using government scientists allowed for more commentary on what they were really doing.
Religion leads towards mystification, whereas science is profoundly concerned with DEmystifying things -- making them explainable as much as possible. Of course, there will always be things that we CAN'T explain, so science is inherently limited and religion is one of the ways we have of going BEYOND science; and of course, to the extent that science and religion are both ways of explaining reality, they should agree on the reality that they are explaining (which leads to interesting tensions when we try to combine, say, evolutionary theory with a notion of life before and after "the Fall"). But the problem here, with this film, is that it mashes up these genres and worldviews without really exploring any of those tensions; instead, it consistently demystifies and renders absurd these larger mysteries, turning the horror-movie tropes into silly little performances ... and turning the gods into, well, an absurdly literalistic nihilistic joke ... Question: do the GODS have free will? Is there any reason they HAVE to be sated this way, or any reason they HAVE to make the threat that they have made?
The underground scientific/government laboratory would then be representative of filmmakers. They use their science to make their characters do stupid things and die senseless deaths. Why? In this film to appease the evil gods - whose desires do not make any sense, other than the fact that they're evil. In the real world to profit off of the demand the horror movie fans possess to pay for and see these types of films. So the "evil gods" of the film have to be sated this way (for example, Jules needs to take her clothes off before the monsters tear her into bloody shreds) (for example, all the bloodletting can't be put a quick stop to by any one heroic act of selfless sacrifice, thus Curt dies in vain) (for example, the characters need to act, not like human beings, but stupidly like the victims of the genre are supposed to act) because that is what the actual horror film audience likes, has come to expect and keeps paying money to see.