The Cabin in the Woods

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The Cabin in the Woods
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The Cabin in the Woods
Horror, Thriller
Lionsgate, Mutant Enemy Productions
April 13th, 2012
Release length: 1:35:00
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In what has been heralded as one of the most impressive and reinvigorating Horror films as of late, Joss Whedon brings a “revolutionary” new approach to the genre with his latest offering, The Cabin in the Woods. On the lips of every Whedonite out there, many hailed this as a miracle of film making, and one of the most important entries of the genre to date, earning a respectably high score through many media websites such as the Internet Movie Database and even Rotten Tomatoes. But, for those who don’t consider the man a visionary genius on every level, does The Cabin in the Woods really make for a memorable experience that is worth all the high praise, or is this just another offering that was given too much credit where it simply wasn’t due?

Without really hiding much of the plot and what to expect, The Cabin in the Woods introduces the underlying plot right off the bat with Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) getting what appears to be a television studio ready for another broadcast, eventually filling up with other employees including their assistant Lin (Amy Acker), and an intern named Ronald (Tom Lenk). Their role is to make sure everything goes off without a hitch in their productions, which includes our main cast of five teens heading out to a cabin for a getaway. Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), and Holden (Jesse Williams) talk to one another about the plans for the trip, leading Jules to insult Dana for wanting to bring a book with her on the outing. Everyone is ready, but Marty (Fran Kranz) is holding them up, showing up late using a bong made out of an aluminum coffee cup. The group head out on the road, eventually meeting up with Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) who warns them of the cabin they are heading out to when they stop for fuel at a closed down gas station, a warning that of course goes unheeded.

At this point, the trap has been made pretty clear. Periodically the film cuts out between these five and the employees in the studio. As the teens find things in the cabin such as a horrific painting that, when lowered, reveals a one-way mirror to the room Dana is in, something Curt is too gentlemanly to not mention and switch rooms about. This leads to the growing relationship between the two, a development painfully obvious when it comes to Holden and Jules. As the night goes on, the group starts to get drunk or high, leading to sexy dancing from Jules, as well as a game of truth or dare, which is when the men behind the cameras begin to push the group towards choosing their fate in the basement of the cabin, housing various relics such as a large konsch shell, and a diary by Patience Buckner that concludes with a text of latin, inevitably read aloud by Jules, introducing the zombie Buckner family into the mix.

One by one, and like a text book to horror films, the five begin to die off at the hands of the zombies, being largely influenced by the people behind the scenes to make sure things go off the way they should. However, this doesn’t always end up the case, as video from other countries show people overcoming their fates, especially in Japan where a group of school girls stop an evil spirit and trap it within a frog. The fate of “downstairs” relies on the murders of these teens, which seems to be imminant, even pulling away during one brutal scene involving Father Buckner to trick you into believing the end is coming, and will occur if you’re not paying attention to the clock at that point. However, this is simply the first part, and it’s the latter half of the film that does actually stand on its own.

Eventually, the survivors make their way into a discovered elevator shaft, passing various horrific creatures and even icons of modern film all locked away. This includes various ghosts and giant snakes, an odd alien creature with buzz-saws similar to the things from Starship Troopers, but also what appears to be Pinhead from the Hellraiser series, staring back as they realize the basement was the way those in control made them choose their own fate. But, as they wander through the facility, the orders are given to kill them in the proper manner, which leads to those previous horrorific beings to escape, killing everything and everyone in their path, including one you wouldn’t actually expect to be in a Horror film, especially as the thing to be afraid of. This all leads to them reaching the downstairs, and a surprise appearance from The Director (Sigourney Weaver) to reveal the purpose that the ancients play in their world, and that the people who died here are meant to keep them at bay so they won’t rise up destroy humanity.

The biggest drawback is that you’re going to hate pretty much every character in the film, and when it comes to slashers, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. Each character literally fills a stereotype. Jules is the blonde whore, Dana is the “virgin” nerd, Curt is the good guy, Holden is the tough guy, and Marty is the stoner. Their deaths follow the typical blueprints to any slasher film, and not a single one will make you feel sorry for their departure, or even make you chant with glee when they die. This is largely due to the fact that any free will the characters have is gone. Even when common sense takes over, such as the decision to stick together when the zombies attack the first time, Sitterson and Hadley alter the atmosphere in the cabin to literally change their minds and opt for splitting up. There’s also the coercion they do to Jules and Holden to get them to have sex in the woods, altering the air, as well as the lighting and the temperature of the outside, down to even making the hair dye Jules uses to literally change her DNA make up before they even leave for cabin in the first place, all with the goal to turn her into the stereotypical slut. And, even worse, when they finally do get free will, it’s due to getting high, or they ultimately make one decision the movie banks on for much of the final act, such as letting the monsters raise hell and only running to escape their fate when one spots them hiding under a desk.

On top of that, the acting is horrible. Anna Hutchison does a good job at being provocative, even when making out with the mounted wolf head on the cabin wall, as well as seducing Holden out in the woods. Kristen Connolly also does a convincing job of being the nice girl who is there to just unwind, Chris Hemsworth does a good job at being the patient nice guy, and the duo of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford come off as experienced operators behind the scenes with their professionalism perhaps the most believable aspect of the film. Sigourney Weaver’s appearance at the end may be brief, but simply steals the show, trumping every single actor and actress to the point of completely upstaging them. However, Fran Kranz is the most unbelievable paranoid stoner you could possibly see in a film today. He’s unlikeable and extremely annoying, and not in the stereotypical paint-by-numbers pattern you would expect for a cast like this. He just acts and sounds like a guy who has never seen a marijuana user before but decided to play one, and it just comes off downright painful to watch.

The visuals are, for the most part, decent. The zombie make-up is good when it comes to Buckner family, but overall the film already has a creepy overtone in that the cabin is, or at least was remarkably designed to be similar to the cabin from the Evil Dead films, just minus the swing. This is appropriate as Joss Whedon has basically made his own reboot of the first Evil Dead film with this one, but just enough changed that it isn’t copyright infringement. If you watch the two back-to-back, you’ll find many similar scenes that you simply cannot argue this was an intent somewhere along the lines. However, it’s the CG that ultimately hurts the film on many occassions. Holden riding across the gap when the cave-in blocks their escape route and then crashing on the invisible forcefield looks laughable, and the bird that flies into it earlier and explodes is about the same. However, in the latter part of the film, it’s understandable that some creatures, such as the giant snake, will be done with computers. Unfortunately, it’s nearly every creature that escapes, including the werewolf which easily could have been done with practical effects given the “love letter to the Horror genre” that this film is basically billed as.

The Cabin in the Woods is honestly a god-awful film. It’s hard to get invested when you applaud a good choice, only to have it revoked by altering the air, temperature, or even the physical DNA of someone to change that and completely remove free will. Yes, the point is it’s meant to follow the stereotypes in every aspect, but even then the characters are horribly written and acted, the effects are worthless, and never once do you feel any sort of compassion for them. It’s obvious who is going to die, it’s no surprise who doesn’t, and when they find the facility it just becomes a display of “how many iconic movie monsters can we cram into this one film?!” for the majority of the climax instead of a gripping conclusion that shows the survivors struggling with someone and/or a choice that could save or damn the world for eternity. There’s no tension to be had, there’s no unforseen consequences to actions that the viewer can see, and at the very least there’s absolutely nothing worthwhile to the film outside of Anna Hutchison’s tits, and even they are a bit of a let down. Why Joss Whedon fans are calling this a defining film to Horror is beyond all comprehension, as this movie does everything in it’s power to destroy what makes a Horror film so good in the first place, making it more of a Twilight glamorous Evil Dead reboot with a reality television show twist that incorporated the lore of H.P. Lovecraft as a final blockbuster reveal. Aside some worthwhile laughs and brief topless scene, this film just isn’t worth your time, and will leave you hating that you wasted your time on this abomination unless you’re one of Joss Wedon’s cult of worshippers.

Overall Score: 2.5/10
The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.