|ONE CREEPY CABIN!|
dir. Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Sigourney Weaver
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Set a spell. Take a load off. Leave your brain home. You won't need any grey matter for The Cabin in the Woods anyway. As moronic, derivative and plot-hole-ridden as the picture is, there are enough genuine surprises and a couple of truly breathtakingly inventive horror set pieces, that by the end, you'll be giddily satisfied.
It's a familiar-enough tale. Five college kids - two hunks, two babes and one doper dweeb (think Scooby Doo's "Shaggy" with a perpetually smouldering doobie twixt his lips) - hop into an RV and head into back country so isolated they can't even get a GPS signal. Stopping for gas, they encounter a chaw-spitting, unfriendly, hell-and-brimstone-uttering inbred who points them in the direction of an abandoned cabin in the woods - a long-forgotten family treasure of one of the more obnoxious hunks in this party of brain-bereft 20-somethings.
Upon reaching their destination, they engage in the usual shenanigans that Hollywood-types assume young people do and before you can say: "Sam Raimi", a whole mess of slavering, rotting, bloodthirsty undead come crawling out of the soil.
Needless to say, there will be carnage.
However, if you think the movie is a mere retread of The Evil Dead and its many imitators, you've another thing coming. A concurrent tale involving a whole whack of white collar bureaucrats wends its way through the familiar tale and then, even though you think you might have it all figured out, the narrative takes several detours - some stretching credibility even within the context of a genre picture, while others not only making perfect sense (so to speak), but displaying horrific delights of the most insanely,jaw-dropping variety.
Another element the picture has going for it is a sense of humour. Though many of the laughs are of the bargain-basement youth-comedy variety, there are an equal number of knee-slappers that delight and surprise. Most importantly, the humour is not of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink tongue-in-cheek variety, but is naturally rooted in the characters (such as they are) and narrative (such as it is). Wisely, the filmmakers do not continually remind us that they're more clever than movie (a stretch, I'll admit).
In his directorial debut, Drew Goddard (writer of the terrific Cloverfield and co-writer of this one) has a firm grip on the proceedings. His helmsmanship is very solid and certainly a cut or two above that of a mere TV-hack camera jockey and country miles ahead of the grotesquely overrated and utterly incompetent likes of J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and Gary Ross.
Unlike those three boneheaded stooges of modern cinema, Goddard has good, clear ideas where to place his camera for maximum impact, using a variety of well-composed tableaux and covering the action with a superb sense of space and geography. Every cut, every shot is a dramatic beat - unlike the herky-jerky mish-mashes continually perpetrated by Abrams, Nolan and Ross - who collectively have the worst tin-eyes in Hollywood and no real idea of how to craft suspense and action save for throwing blustery everything-including-the-kitchen-sink shots in our direction with lots of noise and Attention Deficit Disorder editing.
I went into watching this film without having seen the trailer and avoiding all puff pieces. I do this with all films, but it was especially helpful in terms of enjoying The Cabin in the Woods. I normally don't have a problem with "spoilers" as a READER because I NEVER read reviews until AFTER I see a movie. I, however, am an anomaly in this regard. For me, a good review is like a dialogue with the reader and I much prefer getting (and giving) such specifics. Doing so for this film, however, would be most egregious.
That said, I mentioned several plot-holes above and without citing them specifically by rote - allow me to briefly address them in general terms. The holes were of the stretching credulity variety. Even within the context of the fantasy world set-up by the filmmakers, the movie also had several motivational speed bumps. Each time these stumbles occurred I'd briefly be taken out of the forward thrust of the piece either by noting them or briefly questioning them (all in my mind - as it were - not, obviously aloud).
Part of why these plot-holes and speed bumps stick out like sore thumbs has to do with the admirable directorial choice of providing really well composed shots that conveyed a lot of information without resorting to that dreadful rat-at-at-at approach that's become annoyingly fashionable in contemporary genre films. Alas, the script needed one more pass to allow for this. Cumulatively, however, it's not a major problem, but certainly worth noting since the mise-en-scene is generally so first rate.
I'm not sure how Goddard's style will develop beyond this first film - unlike, for example Brad Peyton (Journey 2 The Mysterious Island) who, with his first two features, delivered craft, humour AND a clearly distinctive genre filmmaking voice. That said, Goddard is this film's real star and I have high hopes for his career as a director.
Without spoiling a single thing for you, two of the more favourable aspects of The Cabin in the Woods are:
(a) Every character you detest (including some of the purported "good guys") get everything they deserve and then some and;
(b) The film has an extremely satisfying conclusion that completely betrays most contemporary movies of this ilk and delightfully harkens back to the sci-fi and horror of 70s cinema AND E.C. horror comics of the 50s.
The Cabin in the Woods is a genre-geek's wet-dream that will also appeal to those of more "normal" mainstream tastes.
It's not perfect, but it's a winner nevertheless.
"The Cabin in the Woods" is in wide theatrical release via Alliance Films"
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