Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by Drew Goddard

You were warned. The tagline for the film states "You think you know the story" and many moviegoers are going to see this film thinking they know exactly what they are in for. But even if they watched the trailer over and over again, they will still think they know exactly what to expect, and that will be their downfall. You were warned about this Drew Goddard-Joss Whedon lovechild, but you will probably ignore the warning...just like the teens in countless horror films ignore the old man's warnings to stay away from danger. The Cabin in the Woods is a flick that is probably the most difficult film to review, simply because you cannot fully review it without spoiling it. Since the surprises are part of the film's key strength, The Man-Cave will do its best to give you a firsthand account of the film without ruining anything that you have not already seen in the trailer. 

A group of stereotypical college students head to a cabin in the woods to party down after one of the group member's relative just bought the place that is literally off the grid and in total seclusion. You know the usual roster you find in these films: the alpha male athlete (Thor's Chris Hemsworth), the dumb blonde slut (Anna Hutchison), the stoner (Fran Kranz), the token racially diverse and good guy (Jesse Williams), and the sort-of virgin (Kristen Connolly). They all end up at a small, creepy looking cabin complete with a trapdoor in the floor leading to a creepy cellar filled with all kinds of oddities that will make you scream EVIL DEAD...but you won't even be half right.

While the teens are going through the normal motions seen in most of these manufactured slasher flicks, there is something happening below unbeknownst to them and completely out of their control. Come saw the trailer a zillion times from the trailer, so you definitely know about the damn elevator. But with that my friends, that's all The 'Cave can provide, or you'd all be dealt a major injustice. 

Cabin is a slasher flick which celebrates the manufactured horror film mold and is one that will only be appreciated by serious horror fans, because it is heavily garnered to them (us). It contains a powerful message for the Hollywood horror film packaging plant, made by those in the industry who want to see a new age of horror and that message will only be recognized and appreciated by those who are in on the joke. 

There are more references to the genre than you can fully digest in one viewing, especially in the exciting final act, but a Scream or a Scary Movie this film is not. While those films parodied the genre and listed the long list of cliches found in horror films, this film is a smack to the face of genre flicks. It is a social commentary of sorts and maybe even satirical, but it is a a call to action to both horror fans and those who are manufacturing the same ole'-same ole' brainless horror films in the mainstream to step up the creativity. This call of action may not be followed in the future, but don't blame Whedon and Goddard at least they tried to get the point across to all of us.

The weird thing about Cabin is that you might not enjoy it while you are actually watching it, but the message and metaphors will stay with you for days after and you won't be able to stop thinking about it. The message is not profound or philosophical like a Citizen Kane or Memento, so horror fanatics will understand what this film is trying to express while others are going to storm out of the theater complaining that they just got taken for $12. That is where the major rift of hardcore horror fans and mainstream/casual fans in the audience is going to form. However, shouts of praise for it being "pure genius" among horror fans might be taking it too far and marking out for the plethora of references is going to be too much, because the references as well as the film's mantra are intended be extremely obvious to them.

This movie is clever and will make your eyes light up once you have that "Ah-Ha!!" moment and will have no middle ground on what side you devote your loyalty. Cabin is thwarted by a slow first half, but things pick up when...well you'll see. Those expecting a serious horror film will also be disappointed because this one is heavy on laughs, with injections of both light and dark comedy, to the point of being a horror-comedy in every sense of the hybrid phrase. 

The acting is rather good. Franz is outstanding as our stoner, plus Bradley Whitfield is vintage Bradley Whitfield. Is there a more convincing snarky, condescending smart-ass actor on the planet and who has been doing it in the business longer than Mr. Whitfield? Absolutely not. Richard Jenkins is also a great casting choice for his role and will also keep you laughing.

So there you have it. The Man-Cave's best attempt at reviewing a film that really cannot be discussed without ruining it, however feel free to discuss and spoil in the comments section below. Again, it's a clever film in its messaging, a marketing nightmare to promote by the studios due to major spoilers and one that you should see in the theaters only if you are an extreme horror fan - because this film is for you and your possible ideologies. Mainstreamers might be best waiting for it on video or totally skipping altogether. You were warned.

3.5 out of 5 Creeper Santas





Planet of Terror said...

A fantastic film the will no doubt be talked about for a long time. It exceeded every expectation and then some.

dtmmr said...

It’s funny and witty at times, and it has some decent jolts here and there. It’s also pretty clear from The Cabin in the Woods that co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard love horror movies almost as much as they are annoyed by them, and the fun they had making this film comes out onto its audience. Good review.

Powdered Toast Man said...

I don't really see horror in the theater. I am not a big horror buff. I will wait for it to rent.

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