Monday, 30 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Hipster darling Joss Whedon co-wrote this self-conscious deconstruction of the horror genre (Drew Goddard, 2012) and even though some other guy directed, his fingerprints are still all over it. Soulful underdog wisecracker? Check. Improbable ass-kicking waif? Check. Potshots at organized religion? Check. Amy Acker? Check. Nice to see you, Mr. Whedon. Congratulations on discovering a genre in which needlessly slaughtering your characters is de rigeur.

"Maybe we should have gone on a road trip."
Actually I quite liked The Cabin in the Woods, which manages to put a novel spin on the Horny Kids, Isolated Location formula. University buddies Dana (the wallflower), Curt (the jock), Jules (the dead tramp walking), Marty (the class clown) and Holden (the sensitive guy) trek out to the boondocks with a keg of beer and start getting slaughtered long before they realize that the worst thing about their situation is not the homicidal pilgrim zombies on their trail.

I won't give away the twist ending. It's barely worth protecting, though. The Cabin in the Woods' last fifteen minutes are a train wreck, because the film chooses the grandiose Hollywood finish over one which provides the story with actual closure. Whedon and Goddard overreach themselves, introducing too many plot elements and not explaining any of them. True, a few plotholes are forgivable, even expected, in your standard horror movie. But a movie that aims to tear down and rebuild horror cliches needs to be watertight. The Cabin in the Woods is enjoyable if you don't think about it, but the more questions you ask about the world it builds, the less well it holds together. Up until your brain clocks in, though, it's a fun ride, made all the better if you've seen enough horror to recognize the references (in some ways, The Cabin in the Woods is just a big in-joke for horror fans).

The Cabin in the Woods gets a 4/5 from me, but this is satire, not horror; the scares are scarce and largely incidental. Plot holes aside, the central premise makes this one of the most clever movies I've seen in theatres for a long time, even if the plot does eventually paint itself into a corner. Too bad about that, too. A long string of sequels would have been in keeping with the most hallowed and time-honored traditions of the slasher.

The anguish of the lost contact lens.

FINAL GIRL: Kristen Connolly as Dana, who I guess is the Felicia Day you get when Felicia Day is making Rock Jocks. Connolly is decent and forgettable, which is all she had to be. Whedon generally needs skilled elocutionists more than people who can actually act. As Harrison Ford said to George Lucas, "you can write this shit, but you sure can't say it." (I love you, Joss. Really).

2 comments:

  1. By the last fifteen minutes, do you mean (SPOILER!!!) once they're down in the cavern with Sigourney Weaver? Because I agree that the movie was kind of running out of gas by then. But overall the third act (when the monsters get lose in the facility) is my favourite part of the film and is what kicked it up from 'enjoyable, clever movie' to 'AWESOME'- for me at least.

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    1. I loved the stuff in the facility (the shot of all the monsters in their individual holding cells was cinematic deliciousness) but I thought that A) Sigourney's "explanation" raised way more questions than it answered (who created these rules, how do they work, who were the "athlete" and "fool" in the Japanese classroom scenario?) and B) that Dana's final choice to (SPOILER!) let the ENTIRE WORLD PERISH was over-dramatic and out of character. She'd been cool-headed and rational up to then. I didn't believe for a second that she was a "let's take them down with us" kind of chick and that made the ending cheap to me.

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