Stabbin' Cabin: The Cabin In The Woods
It was inevitable that Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's piss-taking Horror-Comedy The Cabin In The Woods would draw comparisons to Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's Scream franchise. Both are the work of a genre veteran (in collaboration with a brash young screenwriter) looking to spook new life into a tired genre by subverting and skewering its tropes. Scream seemed positively invigorating in 1996, partly because no one was really bothering to make mainstream Horror movies anymore, and partly because all its self-aware mugging and in-jokes were like a shiny coat of paint on an old jalopy. The guts remained the same (after all, Scream is still essentially a by-the-numbers slasher pic with a few extra twists thrown in) but by acknowledging and upsetting the "rules" of the genre, the filmmakers were able to pay homage without completely rehashing the past. If Scream (and its numerous, appropriately diminishing sequels) was a wink and a nudge, a zing to the nose of the Slasher pic canon, then The Cabin In The Woods is a full on pantsing of the entire Horror genre. Whedon and first-time director (and long-time Whedon cohort) Goddard aren't content that their film is knowing and knowingly iconoclastic, they're out to upset and undo over a hundred years of cinematic history in one riotous, gore-soaked free-for-all.
Cabin gets off to a gleefully unnerving start, with a pre-credit sequence featuring Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins that is so blandly innocuous it can't help but seem sinister. At the scene's completion, a blood red title card is abruptly emblazoned across the screen to the familiarly screechy strings of a thousand forgotten fright movie scores; it's the first in a number of big laughs and the initial hint (at least for those going in spoiler-free) that the filmmaker's aren't exactly playing it straight. From there we're introduced to the requisite group of pretty, vacuous youngsters who are no doubt to be methodically dispatched and yet, here again, Whedon and Goddard toy with our expectations. The jocks aren't rape-y and dim-witted, the heroine is less virginal and her gal pal is less whore-ish than, say, your average gang of Crystal Lake counselors. Even the stoner is less a burnt-out scofflaw than a clever, dope-smoking subversive with some wild conspiracy theories that may not be as crackpot as they seem. When the group reaches the titular getaway and the blood-letting begins, it's a pertinent plot point that these kids start to revert back to their 80s archetypes.
Though promotional materials have leaked a few of the surprises, and it's best to go into The Cabin In The Woods knowing (and perhaps expecting) as little as possible, it's really the third act where the film distinguishes itself. The entire premise is sent off into the stratosphere once our beleaguered vacationers (their numbers gradually but reliably lessened by loosed terrors) figure out the true source of their troubles. They set about a path of revenge that catapults the movie from provocatively sly to bat-shit insane. With the literal and figurative push of a button, both the dangers and the stakes are increased immeasurably and the whole thing culminates in go-for-broke climax that rivals Peter Jackson's zombie opus Dead Alive for casualty count and variety of colorful beasties. If you're amongst The Cabin In The Woods' target audience of jaded but receptive Horror fan then go for the clever deconstruction and stay for the ridiculously joyful cataclysm. A-
Labels: Film Review