By Martin Smith
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Horrors of capitalism

This article is over 10 years, 3 months old
Issue 369

Is it just hype or is the new horror film Cabin in the Woods a gore fest, a butt clenching, genre defining classic as some claim?

It was a dark rainy night when I along with four friends – Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy – ventured from our home town of Hackneyville to the Ritzy cinema, Brixton, in the deep south (of London) to investigate.

We laughed and screamed as we drove off. All was well as we crossed the piranha infested river Thames, but as soon as we reached the alligator infested swamp of Southwark we were soon lost.

Up ahead we spotted a gas station. We pulled in to ask directions. A wizened unshaven man came out to greet us. He pointed us up towards a dusty old track called the A3 and warned, “Be careful, there are strange goings on up there”.

Undeterred we drove on. The locals just stared. They were mesmerised by Daphne’s ring. One local pointed and shouted, “If you’re heading for the Ritzy, its the last house on the left.”

Suddenly through the fog and bathed in moonlight we see the ramshackled Ritzy Cinema, half covered by mist with bats circling above.

We park up and go inside. There, standing before us, resembling a zombie, was the usher. He looked us up and down and said, “Don’t look now here comes the crazy gang”. Then letting out a blood curdling yell he said, “You just don’t want to go in there.” Was it a bad omen? I was scared – all I wanted was my mummy.

I’m sorry – that last horror film name-check is too much. It’s time to stop. And to be honest apart from a surreal opening section, it loosely follows the opening scenes of Cabin in the Woods. They are, if truth be told, a homage to a myriad of teen horror films like Friday 13, Blair Witch Project, Bootcamp and High Tension.

So far, not so good. Hardly original and certainly not a genre game changer.

But, and without the use of a “film spoiler alert”, the movie takes an unexpected and brilliant turn.

Powerfully it makes you challenge society’s (and in turn) your moral code. And with real humour exposes the horror of capitalism. The film also has a unique take on the question we all ask – “who in their right mind would go back into the haunted house?” Of course Cabin in the Woods is not unique in using the horror film as a tool to look at wider issues in society.

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was written at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. It was an allegory about mankind’s distortion of nature and ability to destroy itself. All the Frankenstein films have, for better or worse, portrayed this conflict.

Likewise in the 1950s, the Cold War was used by US governments to feed fears of the danger of the “Red Peril”. At the same time, the left in America was broken by the McCarthyite witchhunts.

This climate of fear and paranoia silenced Hollywood which spent most of the decade producing blockbusters, musicals and romances. But for some horror film directors, the genre was the perfect vehicle to recreate the era and mock the anti-Communist hysteria.

Films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Another World and The Blob bear witness to this.

Likewise the threat of nuclear war fed visions of rampaging mutants and the end of the world. Again horror came into its own with films like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla and Them!

Monsters, freaks and pod-like humans symbolised the spirit of the age.

Again from the late 1960s through to today, George A. Romero has made a number of brilliant zombie films. They have remoulded the genre and challenged racial and gender stereotypes.

Night of the Living Dead is a reaction to the revolts of the 1960s, Dawn of the Dead is a satire on consumerism, Day of the Dead a study of the conflict between science and the military and Land of the Dead is an examination of class conflict.

But what you really want to know is what happened to me and the gang?

Well as you can probably guess Fred and Daphne got it first, impaled on a spike whilst making out in the back row of the cinema. Velma was next – I don’t know for sure but it had something to do with salted pop corn and a Kia-Ora orange drink. Shaggy fell through a trap door and was impaled on a metal man trap.

Me? Well in the nick of time I worked out that the fiendish ghoul was the projectionist, who doubled up as the garage attendant. I hid in the box office and poleaxed him as he came through the door.

So a happy ending after all. That’s all folks! See you in July!

(PS: Name the horror films mentioned and hidden in this column and you can win two cinema tickets. Please email Socialist Review!)


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