Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods review

    I liked this film, but I think the heart of the film is an argument which was made about a decade earlier.

    The first ten minutes of The Cabin in the Woods inform us that a government conspiracy of some kind is leading a bunch of college students to their doom. Throughout the story, we'll cut to the government conspiracy as we watch them dealing with the events of a typical horror movie in a bored disinterested manner.

    The movie isn't a comedy but it has a lot of moments of black humor which bear a resemblance to the best of Joss Whedon's work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Longtime fans of Buffy will remember he envisioned it as, essentially, a subversive horror movie and that is in full effect here.

The Scooby Gang. Shaggy is at the end.
    The movie is a deconstructionalist take on the horror film genre; asking the audience why it feels the way it does about certain characters and what they really want from the films. Is it to see people horrifically murdered by cool monsters? We get that. Is is to see likable protagonists struggling to survive? We get that too. Is it to simply see the same old crap re-shot and retreaded over and over again? Sadly, we get bits of that too.

    Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's script is built around the premise we don't value our protagonists more than the monsters. It's an accurate statement that some horror fans just go to the movie to see people viscerally killed. This leaves plenty of characters undeveloped because they're literally only serving the role as meat for the grinder.

    The thing is, Wes Craven beat them to the punch. Three years prior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he made Scream. Hell, before that his A Nightmare On Elm Street movies emphasized character over massacre. Much like people forget Rambo only killed one person in the first movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street is about Nancy Thompson not Freddy. It was the other ones which turned him into a wise-cracking cartoon out to murder cardboard cutouts.

This board gets a bunch of well-deserved freeze-frame bonus laughs.
    Still, I'm not going to be the one to point out that some anvils need to be dropped since I wrote an essay about the subject literally not two hours ago. The protagonists are people with feelings, hopes, dreams, and goals who we should empathize with. If we want to see them horribly killed just because, there's something wrong with us rather than the movie. I'm not sure I wholeheartedly embrace this since, at the end of the day, everyone involved is fictional but I understand the sentiment.

    Beyond the satire at the heart of the movie is an homage to virtually every horror movie made in the past thirty years. There's homages to Hellraiser, Jason, Freddy, The Shining, and probably two hundred or more others I'd have to spend all day dissecting. Even the central premise is the protagonists of the story are undergoing the most stereotypical horror movie plot imaginable: a bunch of college students are going out to a cabin in the woods.

The woman in peril trope is subverted all to hell here. Which is a plus in my book.
    The movie does an excellent job of establishing the characters at the start of the film. In about ten minutes, they do more to make me care about them than many two hour dramas have done let alone horror films. When they start to die, I found myself genuinely distressed. I would have been fully satisfied to have all of them live and that's an accomplishment for a horror movie.

    I was especially fond of Jules as played by Anna Hutchinson, not just because she's absolutely beautiful but because her character has a lot of range. Ironically, the only character I hated was Marty the resident comic relief stoner. Usually, I love these sorts of characters but Marty's character annoyed the hell out of me every scene he was in.

     Even worse, I swear, his actor goes out of his way to be Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I don't know if this was a creative decision or just coincidence (no, actually, it has to be deliberate) but the fact Fran Kanz has the audacity to imitate Shaggy's voice became extremely distracting. They even have roughly the same personality--replacing food for conspiracy theorizing.

    Overall, I really liked this movie but it wasn't nearly as fresh or original as many people think it was. I also found the ending to be distracting as well due to its troubling implications. I recommend people see it but I wasn't blown away.



  1. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil did it much better. That one though is much more black comedy.

    1. I just checked out the trailer for that! That looks HILARIOUS! Thanks for recommending it.