A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Don’t Read That Latin | THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

In Horror on April 16, 2012 at 6:15 am

Have you ever watched a horror movie and wondered why the scantily-clad nymph runs upstairs as opposed to her car? Or why the jock dude and slutty vixen decide the have passionate sex in the most foreboding of locales, only to have their faces ripped off? Well, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS will tell you why those and many other horror/slasher movies tropes exist.

Mixing in a little of Wes Craven’s SCREAM, with some dashes of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON… okay, and some sprinklings of other self-aware horror movies (I’m thinking RUBBER, CUBE, TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL…), The Cabin In The Woods is here to explain why these teenagers are to be repeatedly slaughtered for eternity, and what might happen if these movies were to stop being made.

Of course, the fact that this movie was shot a number of years ago, shows that this movie has legs. It stars a pre-THOR Chris Hemsworth, an around the same time as DOLLHOUSE Fran Kranz, and a couple of other actors that might be recognizable to TV viewers – but I didn’t know who they were. (Ranging from GREY’S ANATOMY to POWER RANGERS, not to discount that they’re all adequately acceptable performers.) Naturally, this makes sense, given the pedigree of the filmmakers behind the movie. Joss Whedon (co-writer and producer) has created a couple of the biggest pop-culture icons of the last couple decades. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the futuristic cow-pokes of FIREFLY, and the director of this Summer’s AVENGERS. Drew Goddard (co-writer and director) has been there as a writer on most of those shows, adding LOST and ALIAS; and also the writer behind CLOVERFIELD.

I will admit, there are definitely parts of the movie that feel like this is taken from a gory, sex-infested, tv show. Sort of a more hardcore version of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Overall, the movie avails itself well and will gladly be placed in the upper-echelons of horror-fantasy, for years to come. But the joy in this movie comes not from its TV-ness, but from the wit and imagination brought to the fore by these guys.

The story starts out, I want to say conventionally but because it’s in some kind of office break-room – with two great performers (Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, as well as tossing in Whedon-alumni Amy Acker) – discussing child-proofing their house for their non-existant baby… Well, for what the movie is supposed to be, it doesn’t make sense. But, then we cut to a fun introduction of our two main female characters (Kristen Connolly and Anna Hutchison), where one is ditzy and just dyed her hair blonde; the other is nerdy and seemingly had a crush on her professor, only to now be prancing around in her underwear. Soon, they’re on their way to the cabin, for a weekend of debauchery including sex, drugs, and possibly some light reading — Russian Economics or something.

They’re on the road and almost there when they need gas. They stop at the requisite scary gas station, where they should be thoroughly warned away from continuing on. There’s jagged mountain roads (which these giant mountains seem to appear from nowhere), along steep never-ending cliffs. And soaring eagles that are smashed flat by invisible force-fields. Until they make it to the cabin. It looks eery enough. There’s a lake, there’s strange animal heads, and naturally, two-way mirrors. Wait… what? Of course Jenkins and Whitford are watching along – so we know things aren’t what they seem. Then all hell breaks loose.

Actually, let’s just take a step back for a moment. There’s been a lot said on spoiling this movie, or how unspoiled this movie can be. I want you to know right now, I’m going to start getting into some details. So, if you haven’t watched it yet, GO!! Go now and see the glory of what you’ve been missing. Then come back and we’ll finish this.

A more fun, less theatrical poster by the folks at MONDO... If that doesn't make you want to go see this movie, I don't know what will...

So, the fun of Cabin In The Woods comes from how not only self-aware the entire movie is with itself, but because of the secondary fall-back of getting to see the fates of these kids through the eyes of Whitford and Jenkins’ characters. Setting up these kids to die horribly IS their job. The cabin is a killing field, set up to dispatch intruding teens in a number of spectacular ways. So many ways, that the place these guys work for sets up a betting pool with the different creatures that could befall the hapless victims. And there’s a purpose. A seemingly good purpose… At least from their perspective – and once some of our main characters discover it, it seems right to them too. They watch with impatience to see if the slutty girl will show her boobs – much like normal teenage any boys men would, and are disappointed when it doesn’t. They freak out when the characters do something smart and unexpected, leading to their need to change something in the world. Either by changing the rooms they’re going to sleep in, or by saying they should all stick together. It’s fun, and different, and makes sense in a world where horror movies are real.

So, there’s only one part of the end that I want to discuss. The majority of it is so bat’s nuts crazy, that I feel you should discover it all on your own. But there’s one niggle that really irked me about its self-awareness. And that’s in the casting of “The Director”. Throughout the movie, comments are made about this errant Director who doesn’t really care about what’s happening, but then when they mess up, he/she’s all over them. Now, naturally, with a role like that you’ve got to get someone iconic. Someone that would seemingly never be in this kind of movie – because they were more than likely in a version decades ago, and have since become horror/sci-fi royalty. And there’s one actor in recent years that has repeatedly been cast in this position. Sigourney Weaver. I love her. I love seeing her in these roles. But in this movie I was disappointed that that’s who it was. Why couldn’t it have been Christopher Lee, or more appropriately in this kind of flick, Jamie Lee Curtis?

But, in the end, if my main complaint about this movie is that it feels a little TV at times and they went a little too cliche with the lead “baddie”, that’s not really too bad. It’s a smart, fun, and not in the least scary, horror film – but it is plenty gory in certain parts – it’s a must see!

  1. Jamie Lee Curtis? No, Sigourney Weaver was a terrific choice.

    Not in the least scary? I definitely think it has a scary or frightening tone. In all honesty, how many truly scary films have you seen in the last couple years?


    • I was saying that Curtis has more of the pedigree to be in a slasher/teens being murdered movie than Weaver; who’s Ripley and is now the go-to sci-fi geek embodiment of “the man”. Again, I love Weaver, but she was kind of a eye-roll moment for me.

      And it’s got some good gross-out moments, and a couple of good jump scares, but the tone of the movie is never scary or really tense in the least. For me. For tension, I’ll admit the Paranormal Activity movies are terrifying. (Though, again, they’re not scary, just they ratchet the tension up to 11, which makes it feel scarier.) I’d definitely say Cabin In The Woods is one of the best horror movies to come out in the last… five years.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I often felt more like I was in the facility than in the woods, in that the horror part wasn’t always there for me, but the puzzle, the backstory and outcome were forefront in my thoughts. It had me thinking, playing the observer and moral compass, even director as I saw areas that appeared to be flaws in the movies logic. But I enjoyed it from beginning to end, even if it didn’t leave me wrecked like a tradition horror flick. It was something different but it can’t really market itself any other way at the beginning. It has value in revisiting.

    • I would guess that that was the point. Having that separation from the “horror” part of the story is where the satire of the movie comes from.

      And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it again, and taking as many friends as possible… As opposed to seeing it at noon on a Sunday, alone.

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