Sunday, October 21, 2012

Enter This "Cabin," If You Dare....

Horror fans have seen this setup before; a group of friends heads to a remote area to hang out, party & engage in a little pre-martial sex. Then strange things start to happen, and people start dying in grisly fashion, stalked by a seemingly indestructible, supernatural killer. Is this Evil Dead (1981)? Friday the 13th (1980)? No, it’s The Cabin In The Woods (2012), a clever homage to the genre from co-writers Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Avengers). This time, the story has a different angle; as the teens prepare for their trip, they are being observed on video screens by mysterious people. These watchers are able to manipulate events & the environment around the teens, and their job seems to be to kill them off; but for what purpose?

The script by director Goddard and co-producer Whedon both honors & subverts the conventions of several sub-categories of horror (slasher movies, zombie films, and even tales of cursed & haunted places) in enjoyable fashion. Our main characters represent all the stereotypes we’ve come expect in stories like this: the jock (Chris Hemsworth of Thor), the hot blonde (Anna Hutchison), the nice kids (Jesse Williams & Kristen Connolly) and even the stoner (Fran Kranz from Whedon’s TV series Dollhouse). As frightening events start to take place and the characters are being murdered one by one, the mysterious observers celebrate as each death occurs. Something bigger is happening here, but will any of our heroes stay alive to figure out all the answers?

Whedon has commented in interviews that part of the reason he & Goddard wrote the film was as a reaction to the fact that the so-called “torture porn” films (Hostel, Saw, etc.) seemed to have taken over the horror world, and they wanted to revitalize the genre. Well, they succeeded. The dialogue is witty & clever; and if you liked Whedon’s work on the Buffy & Angel TV series, you’ll smile at the ultimate reason for the chaos & weird events. There are also good performances by the main cast, as well as the actors playing the watchers, including Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Richard Jenkins & Amy Acker, a veteran of a few previous Whedon projects. And there’s a great (though perhaps not too surprising) cameo at the film’s conclusion.

Goddard & his crew do an outstanding job; cinematographer Peter Deming & editor Lisa Lessek have clearly done their homework; this looks & feels like a horror film. There are some wonderful scenes & set pieces, including a wonderfully creepy encounter in the cabin’s cellar.  The Cabin In The Woods is dark, twisty fun; if you’re a horror fan, you’ll love seeing the sly references to other films, and the way that the script plays with your expectations of this classic genre. It’s recommended as part of your scary viewing for Halloween this year. The film is available on DVD, Blu-ray and for digital download. Check out The Cabin In The Woods, but don’t linger too long. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

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