If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise and it ain’t no teddy bear picnic.
Much debate has arisen from the release of The Cabin in the Woods more so to do with the nature of trailers and if they give away too much, a subject we’ve touched on before. It’s an age old dilemma when it comes to marketing a movie, do you relay very little to the public hoping they will be intrigued enough to part with their hard-earned money or do you hit them right between the eyes making them feel their very life depends on seeing your picture?
Now not many people are as dedicated to the craft as us here at Spoooool who will pretty much go and see anything half decent, just glad to escape the harsh light of day. For most people the cinema is an odd treat and they want to know what’s in store for them. Granted I saw the trailer for Cabin, thought it looked terrible and pretty much forgot about it. Having just re-watched the trailer it does give slightly too much away but it really just shows some of the “what”, not delving into the “how” and “why”. If you know what Rosebud is or who Tyler Durden is it doesn’t necessarily make Citizen Kane or Fight Club lesser films, you still return to them time and time again, which just indicates their brilliance.
So is The Cabin in the Woods once such film? Not really. From the first frame you know something isn’t right and that this won’t simply be another teen slasher movie. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford walk the halls of a building reminiscent of Hank Scorpio’s layer, discussing other countries failed attempts and how it all seems to rest on their shoulders. We then become familiar with the gang, the band of stereotypes who aren’t really stereotypes. Chris Hemsworth plays the jock who’s got lots of smarts, Anna Hutchinson the bimbo with a brain, Fran Kanz the stoner who actually has it all pegged from the get go, the token black guy who isn’t only good at sports is played by Jesse Williams. Finally we come to Kristen Connolly, the “virgin” who, like all good horror damsels, doesn’t have sex and screams up a lung or two along the way.
This is the first of many knowing winks and clever role reversals tricks that writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have up their geeky sleeves. Whedon of course found fame as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has been hit with lousy fortunes since, having both Firefly cancelled and Serenity performing poorly at the box office but like any good horror villain he kept coming back for more and was even given the reigns for Marvel’s Avengers which arrives on screens next month. Goddard penned Cloverfield and with both having experience on television shows such as Lost, Alias and Angel, you get an understanding of how the look of Cabin came about. It’s nice and clean, bright and even though the characters get their hands dirty you can’t help feel their nails are a bit too clean. Both are obviously avid horror films fans and Whedon has called it both a hate letter and a sonnet to the genre.
The piece is packed to its splintered rafters with references, rip offs and reverence to horror films. The cabin looks like a complete replica of the one from the first two Evil Deads even down to the trap door but instead of a moose head we have a wolf’s. For all its bells and whistles, it still follows many of the genre’s rules and just because it does so intentionally doesn’t entitle it to a free pass.
The film is almost like an adult episode of the Scooby Doo mysteries just without Scooby. It has one major downfall though – it isn’t scary, not even slightly. It’s violent and gory though not in a torture porn way, so common in many other modern horror offerings which is refreshing. Jumps can be seen coming a mile away and are of the paint by numbers variety. The film is very funny, the highlights being Whedon’s commentary on the Japanese horror scene and the use of a four legged mythical creature for nefarious deeds. If you like horror and have knowledge of the genre there are ample opportunities for you to smoke your pipe and doff your hat knowingly but perhaps the film is just that bit too clever for it’s own good.
A tongue in cheek thesis on the nature of horror only lacking that crucial element of terror. Must try harder.
USA / Directed By: Drew Goddard / Written By: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard / Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford / 102min / Horror, Thriller / Release: 13 April 2012 (Irl/UK/USA/Canada)