Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review! Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere. This week Dave and Patrick review the 2011 horror comedy classic Cabin in the Woods!
The Flick: Cabin in the Woods
What’s it About: A group of twenty somethings are unknowingly being manipulated by a mysterious organization to head into a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. The group encounters a all kinds of classic horror movie tropes, all directed by this organization. When the kids discover a room full of strange objects int the cabin and touch one, the strange organization sends monsters after the group to kill them all. As the mayhem increases one of the group, a woman named Dana, unravels that there is much more to this sinister plot than meets the eye.
Metacritic Score: 72
The Nerds’ Take on Cabin in the Woods (2011):
Patrick: We missed out on a Halloween Nerd Review last week, so we decided to make up for it with a fun little horror comedy from the minds of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard called Cabin in the Woods. What I find fascinating is that we likely have The Avengers to thank for this little gem. You see, Cabin in the Woods was sitting about in film limbo waiting to end up in theaters someday maybe or, more likely, direct to video. Then this little action flick directed by one of Cabin’s writers and starring some dude named Hemsworth came along, and boom! Theatrical release. Little did anyone know at the time that this was more than some cliché horror movie. What audiences saw was a clever skewering of the horror film genre.
The movie begins with two corporate looking shlubs played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins walking through what appears to be an office building discussing mundane tasks like baby proofing a house before they are confronted by a coworker warning the two to take their upcoming weekend task seriously. Cut to a group of twenty somethings packing up a van and heading to a cabin for a weekend getaway. As the audience follows this group on their trip, they also are taken back to this office setting where Whitford and Jenkins are watching the group on their trip and orchestrating various encounters for them. From these corporate guys we learn that the group is having their behavior modified in various ways to fundamentally change their personality. No one seems to notice this except for the eccentric pothead Marty played by Fran Kranz. Every encounter fulfills some sort of horror movie trope such as reading from ancient texts to party out of control. Eventually, virginal protagonist Dana reads from a text found in the cellar causing an undead family of backwoods zombies to rise and start killing the group.
But wait, there’s more! Every time a zombie makes a kill, the two guys watching and controlling the action say a prayer of some sort, pull a lever, and take some of the blood of the victim to fill a strange symbol. Eventually the audience learns that the corporation must fulfil a sacrificial prophecy in order to appease an ancient god or risk world ruination.
Cabin in the Woods is such a creative little flick. The idea that horror movie tropes are all part of some ancient ritual to prevent ruination is a great deal of fun. That the whole thing is orchestrated by two working stiffs just adds to the appeal. Whitford and Jenkins really sell their role well. The scene where Jenkins races through the building to orchestrate a cave in is hilarious. He’s just a harried worker trying to meet his quota. The real highlight of the movie though, is when Dana and Marty figure out that there is more to what is happening and make their way to the headquarters. If you haven’t seen the flick, you know why. If you haven’t I am not going to ruin what is some terrific mayhem and an all time great cameo. The script is smart and filled with the macabre humor that is a trademark of Joss Whedon’s. The cast is solid with Chris Hemsworth’s Avengers fame being the catalyst for the movie’s release. Fans of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer television shows will spot some popular former cast members as well. All in all, Cabin in the Woods is a fun little horror comedy with a twist that definitely satisfies.
Patrick’s Rating: 3.15/5
Dave: Those of us who grew up in the 1980’s generally like to consider that decade the “gold standard” for horror movies. It saw the launch of hugely popular franchises such as Friday The 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play, along with a slew of other memorable films and franchises. So it is common for children of the 80’s, such as me, to throw significant shade at the spate of modern horror movies as being largely unoriginal, quite forgettable, and something akin to splatterpunk without substance. There are, however, notable exceptions to this rule. The Cabin In The Woods is such an exception.
The Cabin In The Woods is an immensely entertaining, unique, and refreshingly different sort of horror movie. The general plot involves five individuals who are going to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. That is pretty standard for many horror movies, such as Evil Dead. That might seem very tropey but it is balanced out by the knowledge, right off the bat, that there is something else going on. You know this because there are two guys in suits who look like they are producers of a television show or, perhaps, a scientific experiment of some sort. As it turns out, that is exactly what is going on, but in a way you don’t really expect. This is what makes the movie so much fun. On the one hand, you have the five persons in the cabin ending up in a basement amidst all sorts of odd items that are, in reality, a means of choosing their own specific manner of doom. Zombies end up attacking the group and much of that is rather paint-by-the-numbers. But the big reveal comes in the final third of the movie when we realize that the victims of this night of terror are really lambs being led to slaughter in a modern variation of ritual sacrifice.
Therein lies the brilliance of this movie. It takes the concept of sacrificing a group of individuals, including a virgin (or possibly two) and a fool, among others, to appease the ancient gods of the earth, and gives it a modern coat of paint by portraying the sacrifice as a reality TV show. People are placing bets on which horror the group will unwittingly unleash upon themselves. The fool of the group (Marty) discovers that something very strange is going on and he and the virgin, Dana, end up in the unenviable position of sabotaging the best laid plans of the puppet masters but are also faced with the difficult choice of sacrificing themselves for the sake of humanity or being seemingly selfish and bringing about the end of the world. It is all done so very well. I cannot remember another movie quite like The Cabin In The Woods where what is happening to the victims is so relatively irrelevant to the bigger story being told. Once you start to realize that there is something going on that does not make sense, you find yourself completely immersed in the movie and wanting to find out exactly how everything fits together.
The cast is rather good and it features Chris Hemsworth as Curt. Hemsowrth would be better known for his portrayal of Thor that same year, but he was quite good in this movie as well. A cameo by Sigourney Weaver as The Director in the closing moments was also done very well. There are other good, solid, performances but nothing that will really stand out to anyone as notably memorable. That being said, The Cabin In The Woods is somewhat of a rarity: A really well done, well-acted, entertaining, unique, and original modern horror movie with a twist. It is easily worth the investment of 90 minutes and is the type of movie that you will likely have to watch more than once in order to catch all the little things you probably missed the first time through. It is perfect for a date night or for really any night of the week. This one is easily one of the better horror films to have been released in the past decade. Highly recommended.
Dave’s Rating: 4/5
Overall Nerds Rating on Cabin in the Woods (2011): 3.55/5
BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: WarGames (1983)
The Nerds tackle WarGames! The movie from 1983, not the wrestling match. Global Thermonuclear War sounds like a fun game! Right?
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review! Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere. This week Dave and Patrick review 1983’s classic WarGames!
The Flick: WarGames
What’s it About: Underachiever David Lightman has no interest in school, but loves the world of computers. When David finds a backdoor into a computer system named Joshua filled with interesting games. David thinks he’s stumbled onto a fun distraction and chooses to start a game called “Global Thermonuclear War”. What David doesn’t know is that his discovery is much more dangerous than he could ever imagine.
Metacritic Score: 77
The Nerds’ Take on WarGames (1983):
Patrick: “Would you like to play a game?” That’s the question asked of David Lightman when he stumbles into the computer system of an unknown game company in the 1983 film War Games. What follows is a film that introduced many audiences to the concept of computer hacking, pushed the noton of artificial intelligence and tapped into the public’s fears of a Nuclear War with Russia during the Cold War. Loaded with tension, WarGames holds its audience throughout with a climactic scene that is as visually stunning as it is intense.
David Lightman is a bright, but underachieving teenager more interested in his computer than he is at achieving academically. David has learned how to use his modem to find his way into various computer systems (including his school’s system) and looking for ways to manipulate things to his benefit. One day after purposely being sent to the principal’s office so he can steal some passwords, David encounters his classmate Jennifer who takes an interest in David and his skill with the computer. One David learns of a game company on the verge of releasing some new games and decides to try and break into their system and play the new games before they are released. While searching for a way into these various systems, David’s computer comes across a system he can’t seem to enter. Intrigued, David discovers a “back door” into the system, where he comes across various innocuous game titles…and one called “Global Thermonuclear War.” David, thrilled to have a new game to play, starts a round as Russia and immediately launches an attack on the United States. Miles away at NORAD, David’s game registers as a legitimate attack from Russia and the military personnel begin to launch a response. Fortunately, a technician figures out it is a simulation and convinces the military to stand down.
After the incident is resolved, the Government eventually tracks down David and brings him in for questioning. While in custody, David discovers that the computer, now known as Joshua, is still playing the game David and the Government thought was stopped. The computer continues to escalate and execute its strategies, resulting in the United States and Russia gearing up for an attack and retaliation. David, realizing something must be done to stop Joshua, seeks out the computer’s original programmer to try and stop the computer from launching World War 3.
War Games is a fascinating window into the fears and uncertainties of its time. Computers were still relatively novel in the consciousness of the American people and the idea that one could be infiltrated and possibly cause a world war was terrifying. Complicated by the tensions between Russia and the United States, War Games is adept putting the audience on edge. Given the film is nearly 40 years old (YIKES!), things naturally extraordinarily dated. Younger viewers will undoubtedly be curious as to what a modem is and why people are putting quarters into a phone to use it. But for its time, the technology is cutting edge. Nowadays the idea of hacking is commonplace. One scene that has aged well, though is the final scene in the heart of NORAD. In an effort to show the computer Joshua the futility of war, David forces the game to play itself. As it does so, all of these oversized monitors start running simulations. The audience is assaulted with a dazzling display of light and color that even today is still quite powerful.
The movie’s cast is carried by young Matthew Broderick, still three years away from his turn as Ferris Bueller. Broderick does really, really well playing a kid in waaaaay over his head, desperately trying to convince hardened federal agents he is not a spy. Years before her turn in the Breakfast Club, Ally Sheedy plays Jennifer. The great Dabny Coleman plays head programmer McKittrick. In true Coleman fashion, he plays the role of slimy asshole better than anyone. My favorite cast member though is the great Barry Corbin in the role of General Beringer. Corbin goes from exasperated to stoic at the turn of a dime. When the threat ultimately passes (38 year spoiler alert) he nearly melts into his seat with relief and the audience can feel the tension leave him.
I have a soft spot in my heart for War Games. While much of the movie is dated by today’s standards, it was far ahead of its time in its portrayal of the act of hacking. While it would be lovely to think that the World is nowhere near a third World War, it seems we may be as close as ever. WarGames ends with a great sense of relief in a war avoided, but it also shows how fragile maintaining a peace can be. While I don’t think the path to such a conflict would necessarily happen the way it did in WarGames, the threat is sadly still very much a reality. Watch this movie for the nostalgia, the dated technology, the strong cast and its dynamite finally. It hasn’t aged perfectly, but WarGames still has some punch.
Patrick’s Rating: 3.78/5.0
Dave As a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C in 1983, WarGames hit home on many levels. This was a time when the Cold War was still very hot and living at Ground Zero, we were all keenly aware of the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon that hung over humanity on a disturbingly regular basis. WarGames played upon this reality as well as any movie of its era and it is still one of my absolute favorites.
The general plot of WarGames revolves around the idea that when faced with the reality of turning a key and ending the lives of millions of other humans, the humans in the silos might not have the stomach to press that proverbial button. So, the US Government decides to remove the men from the loop and have a computer, the W.O.P.R., be completely in charge of the USA’s nuclear response in the event of a nuclear strike from the USSR. Meanwhile, David Lightman, a high school genius of sorts and computer wizard at the dawn of home computer technology, is busy using his computer knowledge to change his biology grades and avoid summer school. He gets wind of a new lineup of games from a company called Protovision and he decides to try and find the Protovision computer so he can, in essence, hack into it and play those games before anyone else can. Instead, he stumbles across a remote connection to the W.O.P.R machine and learns all about the man who developed it, Professor Stephen Falken. Using a password that Professor Falken created as a backdoor to W.O.P.R., David gets into the Defense Department’s computer system and decides to play a game called Global Thermonuclear War. The problem is that the game is not a game at all and the aspect of W.O.P.R. that has learning capabilities, also known as Joshua, conducts such a convincing simulation that it convinces the military that the simulation is real. This leads the world to the brink of World War III and a race against time as David and his girlfriend, Jennifer, try to convince Professor Falken to let the military know what is really going on before it is too late.
The movie has an awesome cast, led by a very young Matthew Broderick who plays David Lightman, an equally young Ally Sheedy who plays Jennifer, John Wood as Professor Falken, Dabney Coleman as Dr. McKittrick, and a host of others you will immediately recognize. Everyone works together seamlessly and almost perfectly. While the move almost certainly takes some liberties with the reality of the situation had it actually been presented, WarGames does a fantastic job, especially the last 30 minutes, of taking you inside the control room at NORAD as Joshua displays on its screens an overwhelming Soviet nuclear strike. The tension gets ratcheted up as General Beringer orders the system to DEFCON 1 as some 2400 Soviet ICBMs are being tracked. When David, Jennifer, and Professor Falken show up at NORAD and convince the brass that everything is just a simulation, everything seems to be OK…. until Joshua tries to access the launch codes on its own to launch the US missiles and complete the game.
WarGames has so much good stuff going on. It deals with early concepts of things that are commonplace now, such as the beginnings of what would eventually become the Internet, hacking, and AI. The idea of a computer being able to learn may not seem so far-fetched now but in 1983, it was all rather ground-breaking. Lost amidst everything however, the most important lesson to learn about nuclear war is: The only winning move is not to play. Clearly, the movie means something very different to me than it will to those who did not grow up in the 1980’s prior to the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block. It came out at a time when many people either believed that a nuclear war could be won or, in the alternative, that acceptable losses could exist in any such apocalyptic event. WarGames hammered home the senselessness of any such belief and instilled in many of us the hope that those in charge would never knowingly order the annihilation of the human race. Thankfully, some 38 years later, no one has made the mistake of challenging that belief.
It also is worth mentioning that this movie could, and possibly should, be watched with another 1983 movie, albeit one made for TV, The Day After. Where WarGames showed the logic of avoiding nuclear war entirely, The Day After showed the other side of the coin, about how a nuclear war could start, the catastrophic results of the war, and what happens the day after. WarGames was hopeful; The Day After was hopeless. Still, for anyone who wants to get a good idea of how things were in the early 1980’s watch those two movies back-to-back and you will learn a great deal of what you need to know. As for WarGames though, it remains one of my all-time favorites from the 1980’s. No East German judge here guys.
Dave’s Rating: 5/5
Nerds’ Rating for WarGames (1983): 4.39/5.0
Bandwagon Nerds #62 – WandaVision is Here!
The Nerds review the debut of WandaVision, discuss some casting news in the MCU, and break down Netflix’s announcement to release one new movie a week for 2021
WandaVision debuted this week on Disney Plus and the Nerds are excited and have tons of questions. Patrick, Dave and PC Tunney try and decipher what is happening with Wanda, find MCU Eater Eggs, and who is pulling all of the strings? A couple of casting tidbits have the Nerds intrigued although one rumor may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The Ray Fisher/DC story finds another twist. And the nerds react to Netflix’s announcement that they will release one movie a week in 2021. Finally, the Nerds recognize two icon celebrating birthdays.
About Bandwagon Nerds
Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, and a rotating cast of guests as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!
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