Sunday 20 October 2019

Movie Review: The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

A horror film laced with comedy and satire, The Cabin In The Woods enjoys building up and breaking down genre conventions.

A group of five college friends head off for a fun weekend at an isolated cabin deep in the woods. Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) are a lustful couple, Dana (Kristen Connolly) is their unattached virginal but-not-a-virgin-friend, Holden (Jesse Williams) is the hunky newcomer who could be a good love match for Dana, and Marty (Fran Kranz) is the surprisingly perceptive stoner.

In parallel, Gary (Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford) are two weary managers in charge of a large high-tech facility under the command of an unseen Director. Gary and Steve see and manipulate everything going on at the cabin.

After arriving, settling down and enjoying a swim, the five friends stumble into the cabin cellar. Dana finds an ancient diary and reads macabre text with Latin phrases, unleashing a family of killer zombie monsters from nearby graves. The college friends are soon under vicious attack, with Gary, Steve and their army of technicians intervening in real time to ensure the deadly carnage unfolds according to plan.

A frantic and bloody horror film riding a wave of eccentric originality, The Cabin In The Woods carves out a unique path while still saluting genre fundamentals. The adventure at the spooky cabin carries all the familiar elements of twentysomethings introduced to horrible deaths, but early on director Drew Goddard interweaves the Gary and Steve oversight command centre to make clear this is not a traditional horror narrative.

The film's middle segment is a relatively standard kill-or-be-killed zombie war zone, with the added mischievous gloss of explaining why victims-to-be always behave the way they do. Gradually the two settings come together in a story of sacrifice and international efforts to ward off humanity's end at the expense of cultural offerings.

The final act explodes into a climax that turns sharply towards blood soaked irreverent humour. Monster lovers will rejoice at where Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon gleefully steer their imaginations, and The Cabin In The Woods relocates from rustic isolation to a new and more modern battleground.

Within the twisted take on why so many teenagers die in all those horror movies, the film explores themes of free will, sin, penance, friendship, loyalty and layers of discourse on individual rights versus collective good. Dana and Marty are forced to confront uncomfortable choices, in this case heroics in pursuit of personal survival not necessarily the only satisfactory resolution to the lurking evil.

By pushing deep into uncharted terrain, The Cabin In The Woods ticks all the expected boxes and creates a few new ones.

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