Thanks to Amazon’s Instant View, I was finally able to see ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, one of my most anticipated horror movies of recent memory. Seeming to come from nowhere and making a huge critical splash, ‘Cabin’ looked and sounded to be the breath of fresh air that the genre needed. But does it truly live up to expectations and is this a game-changer in the horror world?
The answer is:
No. Not in a bad way but still; no.
If you have yet to see the film, I’ll give you the pedestrian rundown. If you have been lucky enough to keep a virginal eye as to what transpires in this film, then do yourself a favor and come back and read this later. This is definitely a movie you want to see knowing as little as possible about it. With that said here is the basic plot. A group of 5 plucky young teenagers are off to a vacation at a cabin in the woods. There is the jock, the nerd, the whore, the virgin, and the stoner. Before they know it they are being hunted down by an undead horde of unstoppable yada yada yada. Who will survive and what will be left of them?
Sound like something you’ve seen a hundred times before? Well, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ has more than a rotting Henrietta in its root cellar. If you are a fan of the genre or have become bored with the paint by numbers quality of so many of these types of films, then you are going to be really in for a treat with this movie.
Now. Go ahead and go watch the movie. Then come on back and finish this up with me ok?
Alright, we are heading into Spoiler Country now. There are bats here, giant ones.
Now that you are back or still going (since you watched the movie already and didn’t just heed the warnings), let’s talk a bit about what works and what doesn’t work in this film.
The Plot: What on the surface starts out as your typical slasher/monster movie; soon transitions into something completely different. We see that there is an underground network of specialists, an almost religious sect, of people who are following ancient instructions of sacrifice to keep the Old Gods at bay in their slumber. We learn that all horror movies are more than just what they appear to be. There is a science to it, a code and rules set to ensure that the creatures below do not awaken to rule this world once more. Not only is this a fresh and interesting concept, it also is handled exactly right.
What could have been a hokey reveal in the final frames, is actually established throughout the film so when the ‘big speech’ comes toward the last few minutes, it is not some huge surprise. I love how many little nods are thrown into fans of the genre. Like how the setting is almost an arena filled with traps and surprises. The film shows us why these characters act the way they do in horror films, how the harbinger of their demise is chosen, and why the order for death is imperative to the grand scheme. This part of the film is awesome. In a time that so many films are derivative of thousands of other films, it is quite nice to see such a new spin on not just type of film, but the why of it.
While the idea is really smart and a whole lot of fun, it also doesn’t change what has come before or it or what will come after. The film is just a fun ride that really pays off to those who have seen the modeled incarnations countless times before. The characters, due to outside influence, hit the note for note path of their fictional fallen brethren, but it is really cool to have a movie that tells us exactly why they end up that way.
The Monsters: If you love monsters or slashers like I do, your favorite part of most of these types of movies, is seeing those monsters going crazy, and man this movie does not disappoint in that aspect. What should eventually become a famous scene would be ‘The Elevator Scene’ and its subsequent aftermath. I felt like a kid watching these scenes and seeing the countless monsters just going to town. I’d love to go through frame by frame to see what all I missed. But it is definitely a Who’s Who of the horror world, a compilation of nightmares all in one place at one time, Convention Hall C at the Ramada Inn.
The Characters: Not only are the ‘victims’ interesting and fun and genre-bending, there are also a lot of people to like behind the curtain. It is great to see such familiar territory and have it feel as new as it does in this film.
The Final Shot: If there is anything bad to be said about that last few frames, it is that I wish it would have kept going.
What Doesn’t Work:
The Actual Horror: Though a lot of fun and certainly still brimming with blood, the one downside to the film is that it is never truly scary. With the semi reveal early on it is hard to be really scared by anything that comes after. The Meta makes the kills feel calculated (which in part is intentional) and if you’ve seen more than a few of this type of horror film, you will know each kill or jump scare before they happen.
But then again for those of us who have seen these movies multiple times, that is not really why we watch them in the first place. There isn’t the dread or seriousness of ‘The Shining’ or ‘Audition’. This is the rollercoaster, the haunted hay ride, the funhouse. It is that controlled environment that even though we know what is coming we still look forward to the ups and downs and the scream from the darkness. Despite the setting or the ghoul, you know what to expect, but you just hope to get your heart racing just a little faster.
Worth a Watch?
Most definitely. If you are a fan of this type of film, you are going to find a whole lot to love in here, and more than enough you might miss to return back to that cabin a few times over.
Oh and Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!