Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods and Revelations: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: an advanced screening of this film was provided by Alliance Films.

**here be lots of spoilers.

Director: Drew Goddard.

Writers: Joss Whedon, and Drew Goddard.

Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison.

If you are a horror fan and if you have not seen this film, then skip this review and head out to theatres. You will not be disappointed. For those who have seen it, The Cabin in the Woods is a great film to see with friends as Joss Whedon (Serenity) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) tease fans with horror tropes in comedic fashion. The crowd at this film critic's theatre was roused with laughter, which is unusual and a nod to the talent of the filmmakers. The Cabin in the Woods is a successful film because it addresses horror film cliches, but the film takes them one step further. There is a reason why there are so many recurring character types in these films (horror) and the directors explain their existence while also taking a novel look at supernatural creatures and monsters.

It is impossible to discuss how a movie turns the horror genre upside down without providing examples. So, let the spoilers begin. The character cliches of: the jock, the scholar, the slut, the stoner and the virgin are in horror for a reason. In The Cabin in the Woods they serve as sacrifices to an underworld god or gods. They must be sacrificed to satisfy these gods' desire for entertainment and murder. If they are not sacrificed, then the hand of god comes to smite the world. Also explained is the repetitive line "let's split up," often spoken in the presence of an attack. There are invisible gasses about. A pheromone gas makes other characters randy and this might explain why characters in horror are so oversexed. More surprises lie in wait.

"No zombie solicitors please!"

Monsters are actually real as the writers would have us believe and props serve as a catalyst to murder. Those monsters are housed deep below ground in an underground government warehouse where the: cannibal zombies, mermen, werewolves, serial killers, malforms and other oddities await ascent to the world above. They are released depending on what the five friends do on the surface. Read a book and a family of zombies is released. Play with Hellraiser-esque cube and a seven foot tall killer is released. All of these supernatural creatures are set free late in the film.

Another surprise awaits. Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) makes an appearance as the director of the underground facility. Film watchers seemed shocked when she appeared but this actresses' voice can clearly be heard in earlier scenes. Her character is there beckoning the stoner and the virgin to throw their lives away so that the world can be saved. That is a fairly big request considering that these two characters have already fought their way through a labyrinth of carnival and late nite horror feature creatures.

There are really dozens of horror creatures on the screen at one time. And this is part of the film's charm; it celebrates horror and makes the genre fun again. The music is a little more melancholy and reminiscent of The Descent (2005). Yet, the music is sombre when it needs to be. Less sombre are the characters. They are more terrified. Each of the characters are given some scream time. However, most will be plucked from the screen at the most surprising time. Expect to feel tense much of the way through this film as sharp weapons come out of nowhere. More expected is the use of dramatic irony with the audience aware of who some of the puppetmasters actually are. The story is multi-layered as Goddard and Wheddon shift back and forth between the underground facility and its managers with the characters struggling to save their lives higher up. All of these elements create for some great tension and some great laughs.

The Cabin in the Woods is a film for long time fans of horror films. You know the cliches and so do the writers of this movie. They approach the cliches of the horror genre from a fresh perspective and it really is a shame that this film took so long to reach fans. In the end, there are a lot of screams to be had in The Cabin in the Woods and a lot of laughter too. Just don't laugh too hard because the next shot could involve a brutal slashing or beheading, which could leave the squeamish churning and the stalwart wanting more.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (the film feels fresh and innovative, an interesting look at the horror genre, lots of gore, lots of horror creatures, an over the top ending).

*the film took so long to release because of MGM Studios' bankruptcy troubles.

The film's homepage is here:

The Cabin in the Woods Official Website

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