Monday, April 16, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2011, released 2012)

The Cabin in the Woods (2011, released 2012)

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

Summary from IMDB, The Cabin in the Woods

Before I get to the spoilers I'll give a safe response for those who don't want this ruined. 

I'm a Joss Whedonite so I was predilected to want to like this.  And I did enjoy it.  I give it a thumbs up to anyone who likes Joss' general penchant for deconstructed genre work.  It has horror, humor, and a conspiracy regarding said horror.  It had good actors, some very familiar to Joss fans.  I liked the dialogue.  Production values were solid.  Although I plan to complain in the spoiler section, I did enjoy it overall. 

I think key to your enjoyment is to not focus on being scared.  Even though it has strong horror themes it feels closer to a black comedy.  It is more like Shaun of the Dead or the Screams, but with fewer scary jump moments. 

If you are going to this movie to be scared senseless you will be disappointed.  Go with Joss' previous work in mind and you'll have a much better time. 


I think it fell short of what it could have been.  The plot is essentially - government run death trap for college kids who turn out to be necesary sacificial victims in order to avert Lovecraftian apocalpyse.  The story is balanced between the unwitting Scooby-Doo/Friday the 13th-esque sacrificial victims to the Ancient Ones and the mundane government bureaucrats running said sacrifice program. 

It hops back and forth and both halves are enjoyable.  The ridiculousness of the bureaucrat side is funny and an interesting approach and contrast to the inevitable college victims who are chemically manipulated into victim archeypes. 

The Cabin itself is attached to a huge underground complex and holds a vast number of classic monsters to be used on the sacrifical victims, including a clear homage to the Cenobites.  Now logically it would be much safer for some government agents to merely execute the sacrifices periodically instead of housing 100s of incredible dangerous monsters in a rotating cube storage system undergrond that would cost billions of dollars.  And all of that to stave off the Joss equivalent of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones or perhaps Outer Gods. 

But I don' t think logic is central to this piece.  It's about unified theory of college kid cabin horror and posing as exorbitantly grand and fun explanation of why the array of college kid horror victims always seem to fit certain archetypes.  It reminds me of a Marvel Comics What if?  It's more important to the creators to really bring as much horror mythology as possible into this piece than making it that plausible. 

Now as a comedic what if? RE: horror movies, I think it works just fine.  It was entertaining and interesting. 

But in terms of drawing me into it as a horror, not so great.  I very quickly picked up that the college kids were being manipulated by government bureacrats who have placed them in a deathtrap in order to save the world.  The creators meant to do this, but knowing the victims' situation, and the source of the monsters made me care less about the victims.  It pulled me out of them and I generally didn't really care if anyone died.  No/low fear really reduces the effectiveness of the horror.  I was much more interested in the bizarre workings of this ridiculously complex base and the international conspiracy to keep the world safe. 

As a viewer I was hoping for more scares.  Structurally the horror could have been amped up by having the audience only see waht the victims see and revealing the weird conspiracy to the audience at the same time as the victims, towards the end.  But you would have to cut a ton of the another-day-at-the-office-preventing-apocalypse scenes, which are funny and probably incredibly enjoyable to write.  

I was just hoping for more scares and maybe less laughs, so I'm mildly disappointed. 

Thanks for reading,


PS - I know I left out referring to the director Drew Goddard, sorry about that.  I really enjoyed his previous work, Cloverfield.  I recognized more of Joss Whedon's languge and themes and so I kinda bypassed him.  Needless to say, the movie felt like some good teamwork between the two.  I didn't feel a big clash between these two in the work itself, but I also haven't read the original script.  I haven't seen enough of Goddard's work to pull out stuff that was more him than Whedon. 

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It did work for me on all levels. Agree it's not so much a horror film as a black comedy. I can't wait to see it again on DVD now that I know the full twist and know what signs to look for. And to see how many more familiar creatures I can spot!