Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It Came From The Cineplex: The Cabin In The Woods

This is by necessity going to be a pretty vague review, as much of this movie's fun depends greatly on the element of surprise. There's no shocking twist ending as in The Sixth Sense; rather the whole movie is one long series of twists, switchbacks and surprises. If I were to reveal any of them to you you'd no doubt seek me out and rain blows upon my head. Therefore I'll tiptoe around the plot as much as possible.

The film starts out the same as dozens of other slasher movies: five college students travel to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere for some R & R. The gang consists of the typical horror types. There's the Athlete, the Whore (hey, it's the movie's word, not mine), the Scholar, The Fool and of course, the Virgin. As part of the nature of the movie, each isn't exactly what they seem though; the Athlete is actually quite intelligent, the Virgin isn't really a virgin, etc.

Shortly after they arrive at the titular cabin, strange and unusual things begin happening and hijinx, as they say, ensue. The characters are attacked by a family of redneck pain-worshiping zombies and are picked off one by one.

Sounds like a standard slasher movie so far, right? Wrong! We soon discover that the students' every move is being monitored and the entire supernatural scenario is being controlled by someone. Who exactly is orchestrating events and the reasons why are definitely not what you might think. To say more would stray too far into spoiler territory and start that whole raining blows thing.

The movie is a lot of fun and plays around with the conventions and trappings of the horror genre. There's lots of humor in addition to genuine scares, and a huge free-for-all near the film's end that involves pretty much every horror movie archetype you could think of.

The film was co-written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Whedon also co-wrote and directed a little indie film you probably never heard of called The Avengers. Goddard, who directed the film, wrote Cloverfield as well as episodes of LOST and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The movie was completed way back in 2009, but due to the unfortunate bankruptcy of MGM Studios it was shelved until sold to Lionsgate, who finally released it in 2012. Lionsgate got quite a deal; they supposedly paid $12 million for the film, which had an original budget of $30 million.

Pros:
• An original concept, which is pretty rare in these days of endless sequels and remakes.

• Lots of twists and surprises to keep you guessing.

• Climax features pretty much every type of monster and horror movie villain.

• Lots of fun horror movie Easter eggs for sharp-eyed viewers.

• A surprise cameo at the end.

Cons:
• A convoluted and flimsy excuse for all the goings-on that really doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Don't question the premise too vigorously or the whole thing will deflate like a balloon and fly across the room with an embarrassing noise.

• The very first scene of the movie gives us a partial clue as to what's happening. I'm really not sure why they did this. I think I would have waited a bit to tip my hand and reveal the big secret, but then again I'm not a director.

All in all a fun and original little film that shakes up the horror genre, and one of my favorite films of the year.  I give it a B+.

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