The Cabin in the Woods
|May 10, 2012||Posted by Sep Gohardani under entertainment, reviews|
Film Information: Released April 13th 2012; Certificate 15
Cast: Kristen Connolly; Chris Hemsworth; Anna Hutchison; Fran Kranz; Jesse Williams; Richard Jenkins; Bradley Whitford; Brian J. White; Amy Acker
Director: Drew Goddard
Screenwriters: Joss Whedon; Drew Goddard
Running Time: 95 Minutes
When friends Dana (Connolly), Curt (Hemsworth), Jules (Hutchison), Marty (Kranz) and Holden (Williams) go on a trip to an isolated cabin in the woods for a short holiday, what starts as a fun sojourn quickly turns creepy and moves at an alarming rate to downright horrifying, soon transforming their holiday into a torturous ordeal. Something else sinister is also afoot as, unbeknownst to the friends, they are being twisted in to the common horror movie archetypes by outside forces in order to fulfil a strange ritual. Can they survive not just without any help but with a whole team of people working towards their gruesome downfalls?
You know the story. Every year the Hollywood conveyor belt produces various horror films that are each hyped up as the next big franchise and turn out to be as much a waste of time as watching Scooby Doo was back in the day (if you liked that show, then I apologise… No, sorry, I actually pity you). Their other link to the annoying long-lived children’s franchise is the head banging repetitiveness of each and every one, as if the esteemed big-movie screenwriters immediately misplace their originality as soon as it comes to this much-maligned genre. Films such as the recently released The Devil Inside are great examples of this, since it’s about the 803rd spin-off of The Exorcist that we’ve had since the masterpiece’s release, not one of which has had redeeming value, expunging the genre of what it once was.
So after watching countless films called The Last Exorcism: No Sorry I Lied and Why Won’t the Devil Leave Me Alone 3: M. Night Shyamalan’s Revenge I haven’t really been that enthusiastic about horror of late – until this turned up. Boasting the involvement of Firefly and Serenity maestro Joss Whedon, whose behind-the-scenes work on Toy Story was invaluable for the movie’s success, we were promised intelligent writing and a film that recognised the clichés of the genre, seeking to explore them in its own unique way. Meta-horror could indeed be a genre that other film makers might explore, and it may well provide some badly needed originality.
Drew Goddard, whose only previous experience was on the writing team for the critically acclaimed but in my eyes disappointing Cloverfield, accompanies Whedon at the helm, the two having worked together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Despite this lack of experience I found him to be incredibly adept at adding quirks to the regular shooting style of a zombie-based horror film, incorporating a comic value into most scenes – and not one that felt gimmicky either, the horrible ineptitude of the Scary Movie franchise style of “humour” not rearing its head at all.
The acting, courtesy of a mixture of well-known names and newcomers, isn’t bad. Chris Hemsworth (Thor; Star Trek) is possibly the most well-known in a main role, and his performance, while nothing special, is watchable and fits in nicely with the caricature Whedon wants to portray. Lead Kristen Connolly, for whom this is the first main role in a film, also puts forward a refreshingly competent performance, quite unlike many female leads in horror films (Final Destination anyone?). The pick of the rest is probably Fran Kranz as Marty. Having worked with Joss Whedon previously on the TV drama Dollhouse, he probably has a good idea of the sorts of things he’ll be asked to portray, and he delivers. Kranz is delightfully silly and charming at the same time, his role as the crazy, lovable stoner making for the best acting performance in the film. Sigourney Weaver (Working Girl; Alien) makes a welcome appearance, another iconic horror figure that Whedon and Goddard manage to weave into the narrative with success: her cameo role is pivotal for the plot and is an example of very intelligent casting on Goddard’s part. Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) is the other name worth mentioning, his character also providing some of the valuable wit that took this film from average to fun with consummate ease.
Peter Deming’s cinematography takes all the conventions of traditional horror, employing many famous techniques to both highlight the farces of some horrors and accentuate the effectiveness of others with his shots. In keeping with the rest of the film, Denning’s take on the camerawork is almost a criticism of these horror styles, and references are regularly made to bastions of the genre such as the aforementioned The Exorcist and Japanese scaremongerer The Grudge. What results is a thought-provoking experience for the horror fan mixed with a generally entertaining, vastly original film to enjoy alongside all the jabs and slights at the genre.
Whedon himself called The Cabin in the Woods a “loving hate letter” to horror, admonishing the tendency towards “torture porn” that many horror films these days can be accused of championing a little too often. It’s certainly a fantastic feat of filmmaking, with its ability to weave criticism and story and to provide both scares and laughs in its relatively short 95-minute timeframe. It does feel slightly lacking on true suspense though, and its focus on biting away at modern horror does sometimes overshadow the film itself. Ultimately, however, it is entertaining, clever, and definitely worth a watch even for non-horror fans. Another Whedon triumph, and I can only imagine his fan base growing larger. I definitely see him and Drew Goddard working together again in the future, and judging by this film it’s something we should look forward to.