Saturday, 25 August 2012

Film Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Certificate: 15 (strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity)
Directed By: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Budget: $30 million
Runtime: 95 minutes
Trailer: Watch

For a horror movie The Cabin In The Woods doesn't exactly start in the most conventional manner. We are introduced to two bantering white-collar workers named Sitterson (Jenkins) and Hadley (Whitford) as they make their way through a high-tech facility, their link to the film's paranormal premise unclear. What do they have to do with five generic suburban college kids about to embark on a weekend getaway to the sticks? Soon enough, all becomes clear.

There's not much one can reveal about The Cabin In The Woods without spoiling what is a fantastically original and witty concept. Rest assured however, it's brilliant. What one can reveal though is that this is essentially a film deconstructing the horror genere, a self-referential post-modern horror flick in the same meta mould of Scream 4. Cabin is completely self-aware in the most whimsical fashion, picking up on nuances and fallacies which will delight those sick of the formulaic structure of horror movies nowadays. Dumbass college kids? Check. Secluded retreat not on any map? Check. Eerie log-cabin packed with spooky knickknacks? Check. The archetypes are all here; athletic alpha jock, book smart best pal, sexy slut, stoner and down-to-earth protagonist, but these are merely formalities as the film takes a delightfully unexpected fork in the genre.

Indeed, such courtesies don't last long as our two bantering co-workers get to work in ensuring subsequent events run smoothly. This is utilised to clever effect, a device which writer Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon's use to level devastating criticism at the genre and all it's predictability. They waste no time in highlighting this link to our two technicians as they ironically hold to light conventional horror tropes for indelible scrutiny. In the cold light of day, one is forced to ask themselves who, or more importantly why, people continue to watch the same high-school teens get devoured by zombies / werewolves / vampires / mermen over and over. Indeed, the blitheness with which Sitterson and Hadley treat the deaths of the victims says less of their own reactions and more about the audience's. Namely the inherent dispensable, dehumanised nature of horror cannon-fodder as well as genre writers' banality and failure to create empathetic, emotional characters the audience can invest in.

Goddard and Whedon have managed to highlight and mock almost every horror cliche to darkly comic effect. By the end of the film you could accuse The Cabin In The Woods of forgetting its duties to genre subversion by descending a little bit into convention, but it always maintains that element of never taking itself too seriously. This is fun, funny and originally pleasing stuff and could well be considered the best 'horror film' of the year.