Sunday 22 April 2012

Review: The Cabin in the Woods (spoiler-free)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Cabin in the Woods poster

The Cabin in the Woods (Spoiler-free. Mostly.)
95 mins / Dir. Drew Goddard

I almost didn't see this. If only because Horror as a genre doesn't really push my buttons any more, and also because the poster does little to make me think that TCITW is anything other than a by-the-numbers slasher flick. Thankfully, I'd caught some buzz from the internets that it's much more than that; indeed the phrase "game-changer" was used. That said, I immediately stopped reading the articles and went to see it spoiler-free. I'm glad I did.

The Plot: Five teenage friends go for a weekend break to a remote cabin out in the back of nowhere. The locals seem strange, and once they're unpacked, unsettling events take a terrifying turn. But something else is going on, too; a game is being played that's more sinister than even they can guess…

The Good: The film starts pairing the very traditional setup of the kids*1 packing and journeying to the woods, with scenes taking place in an underground control-bunker somewhere. The makers of tCITW do an excellent job of teasing out this (at first) secondary plot, while a 'live-action' classic horror movie takes place on the TV monitors in the bunker.

I can't really go into detail without spoiling the film. It's not a 'twist' as such, it's just the entire direction the film goes in. Aside from the control-room scenes, you get the impression something else is on its way, because most of the protagonists have been slaughtered by the 50-minute mark. And then when the tone of the movie shifts and you're going "aah, I see", Drew Goddard reminds you that you don't see, and shifts it again.

One of the strengths of TCITW (in my humble opinion) is that it goes from 'classic Horror', to 'meta-Horror', to 'batshit fucking crazy' so smoothly. Throughout everything that happens, including some Scream-style deconstruction of the genre, it made me smile that ultimately there were still supernatural forces at work. Although the curtain's lifted for the audience and characters alike, you aren't allowed to get too smug in what you think you know. It's not that the film is as 'mind-blowing' as some have suggested, but I don't know anyone who would have predicted the final scene. I pat them on the back for having done that.

Also worth mentioning is the humour. Both Richard Jenkins and Fran Kranz have genuinely funny dialogue, and delivery it brilliantly. They don't play 'comedy' characters, but in both cases, their humour is so dry it really takes the edge off the bleakness of the events unfolding...

The Bad: I fear this will become over-hyped, but without giving too much away all I can do myself is hype it more. I've seen people claim that this will change the way you view horror movies. Well, for a short while, maybe, but the things that make tCITW different don't really apply to other movies. Sure, there's a thought that maybe they could all be taking place in the same universe for the same reason (so to speak), but other movies have their own internal logic that makes the tCITW method not required. After all, while audiences enjoyed the Scream movies, it's not like people stopped making traditional slasher-films, is it?

The Ugly: Only two things I found disappointing:
1) Throughout the movie, I thought I was picking up Cthulhu type references. The final shot in the film disproved this. Bah.
2) I'm kind of surprised that Anna Hutchison's character wasn't used in a more threatening manner. Her eyes were unnerving me from her first scene before they'd even set off for the woods…

Worth £8+? If you're a fan of the genre, old or new, then yes. A "game changer"? I'm not so sure, but it's a very welcome alternate look at the horror movie.


*1 In the best tradition of slasher movies, the "teenagers" are clearly in their mid-to-late twenties. In the case of this particular film, I approve.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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