Monday, October 24, 2016

#2,231. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed By: Drew Goddard

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

Tag line: "We work with what we have"

Trivia: Won five 2012 Fright Meter Awards, including Best Horror Movie, Best Director, and Best Screenplay

There are those who think that 2012’s The Cabin the Woods is a straight-up spoof of the horror genre, and I have no doubt that - at least to some degree - writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard were going for this very thing when they made it. But it’s also a loving tribute to the horror movies of old, taking the clichés that have been well-established over the years and turning them on their heads. The result is a very original, highly entertaining motion picture.

Five college friends: the virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly); uber-jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth); party girl Jules (Anna Hutchinson); the pot-smoking Marty (Fran Kranz); and Holden (Jesse Williams), a newcomer to the group, head deep into the woods for a weekend getaway at a cabin owned by Curt’s cousin. This cabin is well off the beaten path. In fact, according to an incredibly rude local gas station attendant (Tim DeZarn), the cabin has changed hands many times, and after what’s happened to some of its previous occupants, nobody stays there anymore.

Undeterred by the warning, the group eventually arrives at their destination, and while unpacking discover a few strange things about the place (including a one-way mirror that separates Holden’s room from Dana’s). But they are determined to have a good time, which is exactly how the weekend goes until later that first night, when the wind blows open a hatch in the floor, revealing a basement filled with an assortment of oddly creepy knick-knacks. 

The one that catches Dana’s eye is a diary from 1906, written by a girl named Patience Buckner, whose family was clearly into some terrible stuff (including torture and murder). The diary’s final entry is a phrase written entirely in Latin. Fearing the worst, Marty begs Dana not to read the passage aloud, but to no avail. And sure enough, those few words trigger a chain of events that could spell doom for all of them.

But what these five don’t know is that a pair of technicians, Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), are watching this all play out from the comfort on an underground bunker, and are using high-tech equipment and hidden cameras to track the friends every move. Sitterson and Hadley are members of an organization that, for reasons unknown, is very interested in what happens to Dana, Curt, and the others. What’s more, these two gentlemen, and all of their compatriots, have clearly done this before, and, despite their occasionally flippant attitude, something very important is at the center of it all.

It’s how these two very different scenarios blend together that makes The Cabin the Woods so unique, and an absolute blast.

There is comedy in The Cabin the Woods, most of which comes courtesy of Sitterson and Hadley, who, despite the horrors that are descending upon the college chums, seem to view the entire thing as a party. They even operate a betting pool that is somehow tied to the cabin and its occupants (to explain this connection any further would be a spoiler), and every department that works in this bunker (maintenance, R&D, security, etc.) gets in on the action. 

As for the five college friends, they are, in many ways, typical of the characters/victims you’d find in a horror movie: young, cocky, sexually active, and a little careless. But as the film progresses, they become even more stereotypical than they were at the outset, and exactly how (and why) that happens adds yet another layer of intrigue to an already compelling story.

As for the horror, it’s effective and bloody, and what starts as an homage to both slashers and zombie movies soon expands to include many, many sub genres (all of which contribute to the film’s wild and crazy finale). So even if The Cabin the Woods does take the occasional light-hearted jab at the genre we know and love, it's at least clever about it. And after watching the film, I get the distinct impression that Whedon and Goddard "know and love" horror just as much as the rest of us!

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