Re:View – ‘Cabin In The Woods’

The Arts

*No Spoilers*

Destined to be adored by postmodernist critics, this horror/fantasy film was widely tipped to be the next game changer, just as Wes Craven’s first ‘Scream’ film remoulded tired slashers, I went along with more than an open mind – having sat through so many appalling ‘stoned obnoxious teens in a van’ movies in the last few years I was virtually willing it toward success single-handedly. With a Josh Whedon script it was obvious there would be plenty of ironic Pirandello-esque fourth-wall-breaking, albeit at a slick and shallow level – but would it really wipe the slate clean and reset the genre?

Well, I’m swimming against the tide here, but for me, no. There’s plenty of fun to be had in this tale of leering, preening teens taking a holiday cabin and discovering Something Bad, and there are some nice jokes and left-turn surprises to keep the whole enterprise bubbling along, but a fundamental flaw quickly emerges. If you’re going to undercut the horror with the addition of a High Concept, it had better be watertight – and this one doesn’t bear the weight of scrutiny. The shiny TV-slickness of the enterprise keeps you from investing any sort of belief in either half of the film, which leaves the audience without anyone to root for.

Herein lies the central problem; if the film is so keen to show up the ridiculousness of horror cliches, why should we believe the even more absurd central idea it proposes instead?

So we have sociology major Chris Hemsworth slowly turning into a dumb jock to fit the require horror movie cliché, along with a stoner, a slut and a virgin, but as they had no characters or revealing dialogue to start with, we have no vested interest in their changing fates. The High Concept side is more intriguingly scripted, and should probably have constituted the main body of the film, but by cutting away at key points between a film of literally two halves there’s no suspense or excitement, just a string of po-mo one liners and cheap soundtrack jolts for tweens.

Having combined ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Cube’, a final crowded quarter chucks in script pages from ‘Men In Black’, ‘The Mist’ and a dozen other films, as if the whole enterprise was knocked up by a video-store geek with zero interest in reality or human nature. It’s a fun and a fitfully exhilarating ride marred by sheer unbelievability and the late appearance of A Slumming Major Star who is required to deliver the eleventh hour Basil Exposition speech.

Compare this to the wonderfully high-concept fantasy ‘The Nines’ and you see the scale of the problem. That film really did feel like a game changer because its outrageous central idea was made painfully believable by Ryan Reynolds and Hope Davis working from a heartfelt script. ‘Cabin’ is a Buffy episode that’s only too keen to remind you how stupid horror films are, and in doing so it becomes redundant before it’s over.

6 comments on “Re:View – ‘Cabin In The Woods’”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Well, I’ll skip it then. Pretty good reviews, here, though. As a long-time first-run Buffy watcher – to my wife’s amazement – I’d hoped it might be better. Too bad.
    Actually, I hardly ever go to the movies now, saw a ton way back when the MGM ones supported us, but no more. All the technical advances of the digital age simply can’t substitute for plotting and writing And acting.
    Am I the only one who takes earplugs to the movies and rock/pop concerts? Will this 21st-century 3D ever go away? What a hassle it is, for so little benefit, particularly when you wear progressive lens and can’t see the screen without wearing the filters over the for-reals.
    Well, I feel somewhat better, now, except U.S. taxes are due tomorrow.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    My sympathies, Dan, as we have only two weeks more to file ours. I haven’t been to a 3D movie yet and if I can’t put the filters over my glasses there’s no point. The same for my husbad who leaves his glasses on even when he’s swimming.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Thank you, Helen. Since we own a small business, I always have to file an extension and put up some cash, while our accountant finishes the company return. But having him do it helps, except it’s all darned complex anyway and paper slips just fly around. In Germany most people don’t have to file, unless they think they are owed a refund. Or have extras involved. Sounds more blissful.
    The filters fit over the glasses pretty much, but its a loose fit and moving your head may cause slippage.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    How would you know you are owed a refund if you didn’t file? Unless you got married or had a baby in the last month of the year, of course.

  5. Clarissa says:

    Thanks for the review, because I was sort of interested in this. I basically can’t watch horror films (40% of the time I laugh when I’m not supposed to, 30% of the time I alternate rolling my eyes and being really bored, 20% of the time I’m grossed out–which I hear some people like [?], and 10% of the time I’m actually scared or upset–I think last time was the original Japanese version of Dark Water, unfortunately watched in Taiwan with Japanese dialogue and Chinese subtitles–and I don’t actually enjoy being scared or upset).

  6. Saw it on Friday night and still not entirely sure what I think, I also felt unsure of who I was supposed to rooting for. There was lots of interesting stuff but I felt vaguely disappointed though I’m not able to articulate why just yet, still mulling.

Comments are closed.