Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stubs – The Cabin in the Woods

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford. Directed by Drew Goddard. Screenplay by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Produced by Joss Whedon. Run Time: 95. Color. USA. Horror, Comedy

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Five college friends set out for a weekend in the country. They are hoping to explore all their prurient interests, but instead end up being set up for murder in the most horrible way possible. Let the slashing begin. And this is sort of what happens in The Cabin in the Woods, the next film in our survey of horror. But it is not all that happens either, and that twist is what for some makes the film worth watching.

While I believe The Avengers is one of the best movies of the year (2012), I would not say that I am a Joss Whedon fanboy. I never watched Buffy; I liked Firefly, but I know it’s flawed and I really enjoy the ingenious, underground musical treat that is Dr. Horrible. That’s just to set the bar. And while some think of this as a Joss Whedon film, he is only the co-writer and producer. The real director is Drew Goddard, who is previously best known as the writer of Cloverfield. (That film actually had a writer?)

The film has a fairly impressive cast for what’s usually a genre (horror) reserved for actors starting out or ending up their careers. I’m sure Kevin Bacon would like to forget his beginnings in Friday the 13th and Johnny Depp isn’t probably bragging about his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street. But neither does this genre usually tout a writer and producer like Whedon. So instead of a bunch of no-names, you have the actor who played Thor, Chris Hemsworth as one of your male leads, Curt Vaughan, the athlete who is on a full academic scholarship. Jesse Williams is also recognizable from the TV medical soap, Gray’s Anatomy. There he plays Dr. Jackson Avery, here he is Holden McCrea. Curt’s girlfriend, Jules Louden (Anna Hutchinson); Jules’ roommate Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly) and the fifth wheel, Marty Milkalski (Fran Kranz) are all played by actors who’s previous work I am not familiar with.

And while there is comedy in the film, it doesn’t really revolve around these five. Instead a lot of humor comes from Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), two technicians who really seem to enjoy their work. They carry on behind the scenes and I don’t want to say too much about what they do as not to give away too much of the story. Enough to say, they’re in on what is happening to the five college students and even help move things along with a spray of pheromone fog or the opening of a door to the cellar of the cabin.You see, there is more to the savagery that the five students are being forced to endure; a higher good and that’s all I want to say about that, lest I say too much. This is one of those films that the less you know going in, the better.

And this is also one of those films where it is best not to think too hard about it. The filmmakers only give you enough to intrigue you, but they don’t give you any backstory as to how these five are selected and who the technicians are working for, other than The Director (Sigourney Weaver). The film does tell you the higher purpose, but it doesn’t really explain the whys and wherefores, so it’s better not to ask those kinds of questions, or else it falls apart.

The film can be viewed as a satire on the slasher/horror genre, but to get into that analogy too much might start to give away crucial plot points that you may not want to know prior to viewing. If not, please skip past this:

If our five college students/victims are the plot of the movie, then the technicians can be seen as the director/writers/producers of the movie. The technicians manipulate and play with the boundaries of the film, that is, kill our victims in order to 1) satisfy the standards of the genre, which this film sees as turning into torture porn. 2) The technicians are trying to appease the old gods, which can be seen as the fanboys, or the hardened entrenched fans of the genre. If the film does not satisfy the fanboys by adhering to the guidelines of the genre, in this case the order of the killings, then the fanboys will ravage the film or as the film states the old gods will destroy the earth.

Not being a fanboy of slasher/horror or even horror for that matter, I am relying on the film for what are the proper elements of this sub-genre. To be honest, it doesn’t make me want to view more slasher films to see if it got it right, so I will take the technician’s word that they did. I will give the filmmakers credit, while the film is gory, they don’t seem to overplay that angle. There is blood, lots and lots of blood, but until the end it is not over the top.

This is the right movie if you’re a Joss Whedon fan and eat up anything he serves up because you think he is the greatest creative mind of our time. His fans are a little like Aaron Sorkin fans and think the man can do no wrong. However, I am not a devoted fan of either.

Overall though, while the film is funny, and the humor gets very, very dark at times, it is not funny enough nor is the satire that apparent at first viewing. And if you’re like me and you’d rather not watch a blood bath or even the hint of a blood bath, then this may not be the film for you, even with Halloween just around the corner.

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