Wednesday, 18 April 2012

CINEMA REVIEW: The Cabin In The Woods

New review coming up after I read some Latin from a creepy book.

So, a lot of reviews have critiqued this film without giving away any plot details, as it’s best to go into this movie knowing nothing about it. I shall not be doing this; the blog is called Contains Spoilers for a reason.

The Cabin in the Woods, marketed as just another horror film…with a twist, sets out what it wants to do within the first minute. A creepy title sequence featuring all sorts of macabre paintings covered in blood smash cuts to a government facility with two shirt and tie wearing folks, discussing the success rate of their current experiment over a coffee machine. This isn’t your granddad’s horror film.

It transpires that the teens that are going away for a weekend at the titular cabin are the experiment in question. The teens are your standard horror movie stock characters: The Virgin, The Nerd, The Jock, The Slut and The Black Guy. So far, so normal. However, it’s the Cabin that’s not at all it seems. After not long at all the film plays it’s hand; the cabin and even the teens are all being manipulated by the aforementioned suits, for reasons that aren’t given away. Yet.

The best way to describe Cabin in the Woods would be half piss take of horror movies, and half loving homage to them. It embraces all the clichés of countless horror films and subverts them all; for example, at one point the characters decide to search the rest of the house together, in a group. The puppeteers are having none of it and pump in gas that gets them all to change their minds, and they decide to ‘split up, so they can cover more ground.’ It’s an obvious joke, but it’s still funny. And then there’s the scene which kicks the whole thing off, which is a treasure trove of meta-humour; the characters are lead down to the basement which has an assortment of creepy looking artefacts and items. Each character picks up something in their search, each of which in your usual horror film would trigger the plot (a necklace, a Hellraiser like sphere, a book kind of like the Necronomicon). The gag being…they all do. Each item relates to a different scenario that the puppeteers would visit upon the teens. They further pile on the meta references by having the employees behind the fiction run a sweepstake on what doom the teens will bring on themselves. The winner being Zombie Redneck Torture Family.

And in perhaps the funniest gag in the movie, the puppeteers get a phone call from the Creepy Gas Station man, the character who appears in every horror film, including this one, who gets our teens to where they want to go, who begins a long speech which would be a portent of doom in most horrors, but keeps getting stopped when he realises he’s on speakerphone and his warnings are being laughed off by everyone in the room.

The film has fun subverting all the clichés but eventually this kind of loses its fun factor and becomes another ‘oh look, we’re poking fun at this hoary old horror movie schtick now.’ Thankfully, at this point the film takes a drastic U-turn which again subverts everything that has come before it, and it becomes something fresh again. The two remaining characters, the Nerd and the Virgin, find their way into the underground base and discover all the monsters held below; any one of which could have been unleashed had they chosen a different artefact. In an attempt to get back at their tormentors, they release all the monsters in the facility against the puppeteers, leading to the most insane monster mash you’ve ever seen. And probably the bloodiest, goriest but also most fun scene you’re going to see in a mainstream horror film.

The final revelation (that the teens are being killed as a sacrifice to the Old Gods) is quite fun and plays into an old horror movie cliché itself; that it requires the archetypes of characters always seen in horror movies to work. And the addition of a horror movie icon as the person behind it all just adds more layers to the joke.

Overall, it’s not as good a post-modern horror film as the granddaddy of the genre, Scream, in that at times it’s not as clever as it thinks it is, but it certainly is a lot of fun. And thankfully something different than the slew of horror remakes that have been churned out recently.

And the Japanese version of the same experiment is a very very good gag.

3 and half stars.

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