“Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony, ephemeracy, inconsequence, abstraction, disorder, boredom, angst, ennui – these are the true hero’s enemies, and make no mistake, they are fearsome indeed. For they are real.” So we are warned, by David Foster Wallace. His novel, The Pale King, is a clerical epic, set in the catacombs of the Internal Revenue Service, where men and women fight against the “soul murdering” nature of their dreary, repetitive jobs, and the “true heroes” embrace boredom, as a path to bliss. Wallace believes in enlightenment through wilful attention to complexity. The enemy here is not tedium but the idea that the majority of life is tedious. Boredom is the coward’s way out. A hero welcomes monotony.
Well kids, if you want to know what the 90s were like; The Cabin in the Woods isn’t a bad primer. People had a lot of fun, back in the 90s, with concepts like irony. The TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, became a touchstone for the smart/dumb paradigm, and the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, was revered like a king. Funnily enough, Joss Whedon is the writer of The Cabin in the Woods, so I’m not too surprised that the movie plays like a good episode of Buffy. All the Whedon trademarks are here: sexy girls, smart aleck quips, a hefty dose of meta-fiction, and a splodge of the macabre. The result feels like being pricked by a pair of inverted commas. While it might tickle you with its cleverness; irony never cuts too deep.
Flattery will get you anywhere, in a thriller. The whole genre is founded on subconscious bravado; the secret belief that, when faced with injustice, any Regular Joe could win a fight. “If I was mad enough…” you kid yourself. “If my loved ones were in danger…” you lie. The truth is: most of us couldn’t whip cream, let alone the “ass” of a man with a gun, who would most likely shoot you before you found your gumption. Thrillers understand that the audience is deluded; more Walter Mitty than John McClane. In a movie like The Cold Light of Day, the film-makers don’t even bother explaining how the civilian hero becomes Jason Bourne. He does so because he’s in a thriller. The rest is left to your cocky imagination.