Friday, April 13, 2012
Cabin in the Woods Review
Almost didn't go to see this. It sure got a lot of excellent reviews, but none of them made the movie sound that good to me...I hadn't liked the trailers either. They made it look like the film was an unlikely cross between Evil Dead and a military-industrial complex paranoid thriller. However, now that I've seen the thing I realize what the problem was...it's really hard to to show or explain what's good about the movie without giving a bunch of specifics away. I'm going to have to do some tippy-toeing in this piece myself. Also, even though the film is extremely funny, the humor doesn't lend itself to quick trailer-style clips. Comedy trailers are always a bear, of course...you don't want to waste your big laughs, but you don't want to lead with your second string stuff either. Well, take it from me, Cabin in the Woods is a fairly non-stop hoot, and the more you know about horror movies, the better you'll like it. And even though it works as satire, it also delivers as a straight horror flick. It builds and builds, finally unleashing, in the last quarter, a pretty damn amazing monster-and-gore fest.
The credits, involving some reflections in spreading puddles of blood, are extremely nifty. I won't go into what they depict, but I always love it when a proper tone is established before you even get to the story. My one worry was that the titles would be the best stuff in the film...pleased you report that the rest of the movie lived up to them.
Five college kids are planning to go to the titular cabin for a party, and we know right from the gitgo that they're being manipulated remotely by sinister forces. The bad guys are all the more creepy---and funny---because they seem like fairly normal folks, office types you might work with. The first ones we meet are at a vending machine and discussing fertility treatments. Initially you think they're in some corporate building...then you think, they're in the government, spies maybe. They sure are spying on the five kids, Hunger Games style, with hidden cameras and mikes.
Our protagonists head out to the cabin...before they ever reach it, it's established that they've gone through some sort of invisible barrier that vaporizes anything that's not supposed to enter...once again, I'm not giving anything away here. The cabin itself looks exactly like the cabin in Evil Dead... and just like that one, it seems a whole lot bigger on the inside than it does from the outside. It's got incredibly freaky pictures on the wall that conceal two-way mirrors so you can watch the chick undress in the next room over, and a basement full of hideous busted dolls, bizarre occult objects, and diaries filled with awful secrets. One of the girls picks up a diary and reads about a vile cannibal family that used to live, supposedly in the house...the puppet-masters back at wherever dispatch the Buckners, a family of pain-worshipping hillbilly zombies. All the watercooler types are all taking bets on this stuff, although a lot of them were hoping the kids wouldn't pick the damn zombies this time, etc. One guy laments he's never gotten to see "the merman" in action.
It's all quite amusing, although you might be saying to yourself that you're rather tired of zombies too. Well, you needn't worry. Even when the film seems to hop the track at a couple of points, you're just being set up...just about everything would be better on a second viewing, I think. When you do find out what the puppet-masters are up to, it's not a let-down at all, and it places our surviving kids in a genuinely awful predicament....right at the end, there's a hilarious cameo that I won't reveal. In the meanwhile, we get tons of laughs, grade-A carnage, and a horde of splendid monsters. Since it turns out that the conspiracy is global, we also have glimpses of badness in Japan, and there's a J-horror bit involving a Sadako-like ghost, a squad of little Nipponese schoolgirls, and a frog, that had me laughing out loud. I also loved the evil red phone, and of course, all the merman stuff.
Movie sure has a lot of good writing; the script is plenty damn nutty, but in a genuinely clever way. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard did the honors...Goddard also directed. Some of the characterizations are pretty stereotypical, but that that's to be expected, given the satiric nature of the proceedings. Chris Hemsworth, Thor himself, makes a perfectly good stalwart hunk...Anna Hutchison is a toothsome slut, although but my heart went out to winsome Kristen Connolly, who plays the virginal girl. But the best character is a stoner played by Fran Kranz, who gets all the best lines in the movie, and whose paranoia serves as a nice expository device, because he jumps to all sorts of correct conclusions. I might also mention Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, the two guys manning the keyboards at Evil Central...just about every scene with them is choice.
My only quibble is the photography. It's way too murky for my tastes. There's some gore and makeup that I would've liked to have seen more clearly. But what the hell. Go see this thing. I understand it was kept out of release for a while by Lion's Gate, but I can't think why. The audience I was with really dug it. Movie has a lot of parallels with the Hunger Games, although it's a very different commodity.
For one thing, it's got a whole lot of very sharp teeth.