How 3D killed 'Cabin in the Woods' for me

The 3D craze is several years old now, but the 3D projectors they're shown on can still ruin normal 2D movies such as "Cabin in the Woods."

Which version of the movie would you rather watch? Lionsgate/CNET

As we patiently wait for Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" to open Stateside some of have turned to another of his projects playing at the moment, "Cabin in the Woods."

The trailer hints that something isn't quite right in this "teenagers stalked by ruthless killers at a remote cabin" and it's a funny, scary homage to horror movies. But my enjoyment of the movie was spoiled by one big problem.

A year ago, the Boston Globe wrote a story about how 3D projectors were being left in 3D mode when showing normal 2D films, and how this resulted in poor image quality.

Director Peter Farrelly told the Globe that he saw a screening of his movie "Hall Pass" with the 3D filter still in place, and he wasn't impressed. "I walked into the room and I could barely see, and my stomach dropped," he said. "That's no way to see a movie."

Sony's 4K projectors are used in the majority of 3D cinemas, and apparently changing them from 3D to 2D is "above the level of most movie staff," as they need security clearances and Internet passwords to change lenses, and will shut down if accessed incorrectly. As a result, most are left in 3D mode, and while this is easier for the guy making minimum wage, it looks terrible, as I found out.

As a television reviewer I'm a stickler for image quality, and probably more so than most people. But when something's not right I feel I have to say something or do something about it. Almost a year after the Globe article was written, I experienced the problem for myself.

I was at the AMC Loews on 84th Street in New York watching the 2D "Cabin In the Woods" and was first struck by the shadow of my giant popcorn appearing on the seat in front of me. That's not usual. According to the Boston Globe, the way to tell if the projector is set up in 3D mode is if you look back and see two beams of light (for the left and right eyes). I only saw one, but that's probably because one was pointed directly at my upsized snack.

But what was worse is that "Woods" is a very dark movie -- thematically as well as literally -- and the oppressive darkness presented on the screen was more of a slightly upset mist because of the lack of contrast. By leaving the polarizing filter in place, the brightness of the movie is reduced by half and the picture becomes fuzzy. After 90 minutes of concentrating on this, you'll be left with considerable eyestrain, as I was.

After I had watched the movie, I inquired about getting my money back, but was eventually escorted to the large line outside the theater for tickets. Rather than wait, and then having to explain the problem to the clerk, I went home.

My colleague Scott Stein told me this week he was going to see the same movie in the same theater, and despite my warnings and forebodings and cartwheeling arms, he still went along. And it was fine. They must have gotten around to changing the projector.

As an interesting aside for my fellow Australians, despite starring a local ("Thor's" Chris Hemsworth), the movie won't even be released in the cinemas there and will go direct to DVD. But given my experiences, could it be they're actually getting the better deal?

Have you had a similar experience? Were you able to get your money back? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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