Just Seen: The Cabin In The Woods / The Dictator / You’ve Been Trumped

The Cabin In The Woods

Everyone raved about this meta-horror earlier this year, and I have to admit, the ersatz clichéd marketing worked too well, all but convincing me it was just another run-of-the-mill scarefest featuring a bunch of implausibly attractive teens and accompanying tropes in the dependable old cabin. Of course, it’s anything but run-of-the-mill: everything from the title onwards takes the mill and positively twists it inside out, until you’re not quite sure what just happened. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon (who, with this and The Avengers, has had a terrific year) have by some means managed to both make a highly original genre pic, and vociferously skewered said genre at the same time – a bold, brazen feat.

As many commented at the time, it’s funnier and cleverer than it is scary, and if you go in hoping for a cathartic 90 minutes of horrific emotional trauma, you may be disappointed. But though the light touch and self-reflexivity dampens the scares, the hook is too intriguing, and the conclusion too satisfying, for any meaningful protest about the lack of shit in your pants. I found myself laughing at both carefully-timed visual gags, and with exhilarated surprise at the ingenius and increasingly improbable plot developments. This is undoubtedly a film that rewards ignorance of the ‘twist’ – the less you know about this film, the better. In a horribly overcrowded genre that splutters up the same old phlegm at a prolific rate, The Cabin In The Woods is less a breath of fresh air than it is a tank of pure, undiluted O2.

You’ve Been Trumped

Real-life billionaire tyrants are disappointingly detached from those depicted in our favourite fictions. Donald Trump may share Charles Foster Kane’s penchant for naming everything after himself, and Mr Burns’ aggressive hostile takeover tactics, but he possesses none of the wit or humility of Kane, nor the malevolent evil genius of Burns. Trump is just an asshole, as evidenced in Ant Baxter’s soaring documentary (which aired on BBC 2 last weekend, despite the best efforts of Donald Trump’s team of lawyers), exposing the property developer’s aggressive attempts to plonk a garish golf course and hotel resort on an area of outstanding natural beauty and scientific interest in Aberdeenshire.

Baxter is pretty unambiguous in his bias, but you excuse it – it’s fairly unambiguous who is in the right. Trump uses heavy-handed bullying, and his endless supply of cash, to ensure that politicians and police are bought and paid for, whilst residents helplessly watch their land torn up and destroyed. The film alludes throughout to Local Hero, another story of belligerent billionaires set against humble villagers; sadly, You’ve Been Trumped does not share that film’s happy ending.

The Dictator

Borat is one of the funniest, smartest, most original comedies to have been made in the last twenty years. The Dictator, on the other hand, is one of the worst. Sacha Baron Cohen makes the error of returning to scripted comedy, his first since the diabolical Ali G Indahouse, and it’s a serious misstep: immediately, we lose that manic, anarchic off-the-cuff comedy from tricking bigots and idiots and Americans (usually all three) into thinking his character is real.

Here, he cack-handedly casts his gaze on oppressive middle-eastern regimes, which, save for a half-hearted closing speech poking fun at American politics, mainly takes the form of sub-schoolboy humour about boobs and virgins and jews and such. Despite the weight of an inflamed budget and a prestigious cast (what in criminy is Lord Sir Ben “Ghandi” Kingsley, CBE, trading lame gags about blowjobs? Does he need the pay cheque?), it’s laboured, dull, and gratingly unfunny.

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