Yikes. I don’t know if I should be appalled at the utter horribleness of this movie because, I mean, it’s Joss Whedon! (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my all-time favorite tv shows) or be mesmerized by the campy commentary on the horror movie genre and the state of humanity today because I mean, it’s Joss Whedon!
Nothing in this movie is what it seems, which is why it both sucks and is brilliant. The audience is left feeling a bit like stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), out of sorts and yet seeing the truth about society that no one else can see because they’re too close-minded.
First, there is no real protagonist. We know we’re supposed to root for Dana because she’s the virgin and will presumably be the one to escape. But she’s not really a virgin, and she doesn’t even participate in trying to save her own life or her friends’. (Come on, I don’t care how cute Chris Hemsworth is, you never split up.)
(There actually isn’t enough substance to any of these characters to make me want to root for someone. Except maybe Bradley Whitford. And the only thing that could make this anti-climactic movie better would be if Marty was the virgin after all. )
But I guess that’s what this movie is all about–participating, or rather not participating, in your own life. We are addicted to “reality shows” because our lives are so boring that watching someone else’s seems more entertaining. But I pose to you, if we weren’t so busy distracting ourselves with other people’s drama, wouldn’t we be more inclined to create our own destiny? Try staying off Facebook for one week and see how much more you can accomplish.
None of the other characters are what they seem: Curt is not the athlete, he’s a sociology major; Jules is not really a whore, it’s just her hair dye; Holden (what’s up with his face?) only becomes the scholar when he puts his glasses on midway through the movie; and Marty, as I’ve said before, is not just the Fool but the only one who can deduce what is really going on. There are others: the two middle-aged (and then some) scientist geeks who kill people for sport and contest (and to save the world); and the creepy guy in the gas station who speaks in pseudo-religious cryptic warnings until he suspects he’s been put on speakerphone. The moral of this story, then, is that is doesn’t matter who we try to portray ourselves as, we are who we are and we shouldn’t try to be anything else.
The horrors these characters face are not real either. They are imagined nightmares controlled by man, or rather middle-aged scientist geeks. Is this to mean that as much as we create our own fears, we can control them too? Are we like those kids in the basement who think we have freewill but our choices are really programmed by our interactions with others and the environment around us? What happens when we are finally stripped of outside stimulus and forced to survive on our own? Will we try to jump a ravine on our dirt bike without knowing if we will even make it to the other side to save ourselves and our friends? Will we plunge into the depths of our nightmares to find an escape from fear? Or will we shoot our friend in the back to save ourselves (and technically the rest of the world)?
As incredibly not scary and laugh-out-loud as this movie is, it poses some interesting questions we should all ponder about our own existence. Because I mean, it’s Joss Whedon! it’s what he does best.