Warning. May contain spoilers.
This rather mismatched double bill is courtesy of LoveFilm choosing to send these two flicks to me at the same time. I’d chosen both as I missed them in the cinema last year, but watching them back-to-back was a bit weird.
First up, is The Vow. This is a romantic drama which from the trailers looked like it was going to be a total slushfest, but I’m a bit of a soft git so I wanted to see it.
The movie stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams as Leo and Paige Collins, a happily married couple who spend their time larking about and enjoying beautiful together. That is until they are involved in a car accident, and when Paige wakes up she has no memory of the last few years of her life, including meeting and falling for Leo.
With Paige being a very different person, they attempt to help her readjust to life and hope to jog her memory, but are hampered by her intrusive family who had previously been estranged from her and the fact that the person she was all those years ago is very different from who she would become. However, still devoted to his wife Leo attempts to support her, despite the events shaking him deeply and struggling to cope with the changes.P
Paige’s father, Bill (Sam Neill) is disapproving of her new lifestyle and attempts to use the memory loss to get her back on the path she initially intended to follow.
The couple part until Paige is reminded of the event which drove a wedge between her and her family, and slowly starts to make similar decisions to what she did at the first time. The film ends optimistically with the pair bumping into each other and Paige feeling the spark and the two going off to get a coffee.
As the premise suggests, it’s a very slushy film but it works at what it’s for, and I can’t lie and there weren’t times when I got a little bit choked up, or found myself shouting at the TV. It’s all rather sweet and Channing Tatum, who’s been on the man crush list for a while now plays pretty much the perfect man- sensitive, devoted, loving and, of course, incredibly good looking.
He delivers a charismatic, endearing performance as Leo, the man who’s life has fallen apart and is increasingly hurt by his wife’s changes in behaviour. His attempts to jog her memory are very sweet and it’s a character that oozes decency throughout.
Because of this, at times I got a little frustrated with McAdams’ Paige, although the actress does a good job at capturing the confusion and turmoil her character experiences, especially the conflicting feelings of her past self and her present emotions as she begins to develop feelings for Leo. It also helps that the leads have great chemistry together, both in the flashbacks and their new, fledgling relationship.
The supporting cast do their jobs well enough, particularly Sam Neill as the hissable villain of the peace, Paige’s controlling father who tries to capitalize on her condition to cover his past mistakes and to regain control of her life.
The ending of the film is well handled, with Paige still without her memories but there being an optimistic feel and a sense that they will get back together. What makes it even better is the revelation that the film is based on a true story, although the real life couple are no match for McAdams and Tatum in the looks department, but, hey, that’s Hollywood.
Verdict: Somewhat predictable and very slushy, but rather sweet and benefits from two likable leads who work well together. 7/10.
The second of the double bill is The Cabin in the Woods, produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, the brains behind Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog and last year’s Avengers Assemble. The film was shot a few years back, but sat around for a bit until it got a bit of heat thanks to Whedon hitting it big with the Avengers and one of the cast, Chris Hemsworth becoming a big star.
The movie follows a group of five college friends who go up to a deserted cabin in the woods, where very quickly things go awry. However, while there are frequent nods to the Evil Dead style of horror, it’s established early on that more is going on and the cabin, the students and the creepy stuff that befalls them is all being orchestrated by technicians in a high-tech, underground facility.
Not only have they orchestrated the attack by a family of zombie serial killers, but they’re actually drugging and messing with the students to get them to behave in certain ways. The film’s protagonist, Dana (Kristen Connolly), is the traditional innocent girl and soon her companions are acting like slasher film stereotypes- best friend Jules (Anna Hutchison) becomes increasingly slutty, while her boyfriend, Curt (Hemsworth) shown early on to be smart and sensitive becomes increasingly macho and boorish. Curt’s friend, Holden (Jesse Williams) who they’re attempting to set Dana up with becomes a bit more nerdy and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz) is the closest to working out what’s going on, but bumbles around in his weed-haze.
The movie has a lot of fun playing with horror conventions, which is also part of the plot, and the technicians clearly represent the desensitized horror audience- largely male, they watch the horror with detached enjoyment although some seem conflicted and a few even root for Dana.
With the group being picked off they finally stumble onto the facility and work out what’s going on. At which point it all kicks off as the various creatures and nasties in the facility are unleashed and make short work of the technicians in an enjoyably blood spattered sequence filled with anarchy. Can Dana and her fellow survivors work out what’s going on and why they’re there? And when they work it out will they continue to fight for their survival or agree to play their roles.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this flick, due to Whedon’s premise I’d gone in with high expectations, which the film never lived up to. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable, as some of it is rather fun and the script has Whedon’s ear for comedy and character. The problem is that while it’s playing with genre conventions some of the characters are a bit 2D and I got annoyed when I thought they’d whacked the student character I liked the most. Luckily they come back later on.
The technicians have several great moments, bickering and bantering away, betting on which critter the students will unwittingly unleash, although I worked out what was going on a bit before the reveal, which was disappointing. Also, I think the film shows it’s hand a bit too early, I’d have liked for them to have played it straight and then had the big reveal later on, whereas early on they let us in that all is not as it seems and that it might not be an accident that the students wind up in trouble.
There are nice touches- the array of creatures in the facility are interesting and handled well, with a few creepy ideas in the mix, and some nice spins on mythical beasties. And the chaotic scenes as they tear through the staff once released is a gory delight, and for a Buffy fan it calls to mind the government organisation which was collecting various monsters.
Also, the explanation of the character’s behaviour is rather neat, tying in with stock horror archetypes.
The cast do well with their roles, even if a few are under written, and there are a few Whedon regulars who crop up. Connolly does well as the plucky good girl heroine and Kranz’ is the standout as the quippy stoner Marty.
The film just about works, mainly when the conspiracy is revealed or in the comedic, dialogue led sequences, and there’s enough gore and references to keep horror fans happy.
Verdict: A mixed bag, there are nice touches and the final act is very well done, but on the whole it rather disappoints and there are a few missed opportunites. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.