Sunday, April 13, 2014
The Little Cabin In The Big Woods!
It's taken almost as long to get around to seeing The Cabin in the Woods as it did for Joss Whedon and gang to get this clever spin on the classic splatter film into the theaters. And I liked it. I don't usually watch movies of this kind unless there is some fresh element people are buzzing about. That's the case here as the creators have taken the classic horror scenario of teenagers in the deep woods facing sharp pointy death and deconstructed it in such a way as to evoke followers of sci-fi as well as horror.
There be spoilers beyond this point...Beware!
We meet a surprisingly smart and self-aware gang of twenty-something college kids taking a break by driving deep into the woods to spend some quality time toking and fornicating in a remote cabin. They ignore a creepy old gas station attendant and drive on, at last penetrating a strange electronic grid and arrive at their destination. This movie's main trick though is that our teens are under constant surveillance by a high-tech organization stationed under the cabin which has arranged at detailed length to lure these particular five teens to this rendevous with the particular intent to kill them off in a pre-determined order to salve the periodic requirements of ancient gods buried beneath the Earth who will rise if they aren't given the proper sacrifice in the proper time. The technicians who mastermind the orderly but still ultra-violent murder of the kids are striking in their banality when it comes to this regrettable but seemingly necessary procedure. They have hardened themselves over years of repetition to this murderous ritual and they dehumanize their victims in surprisingly demeaning but frightfully familiar ways.
The kids are given a chance to select their method of death (unbeknownst to them) and they choose a family of hillbilly zombies who immediately rise, blades in rotten hand to begin the carnage. Almost immediately the ritual goes haywire, as the technicians use their resources to herd the kids into the proper spots for execution and the kids fight to stay alive. Strangely this time the kids become aware of the behind-the-scenes activity (paranoia caused by smoking too much weed it is suggested) and are able to defend themselves somewhat more effectively. Despite that though, they continue to die in the necessary order until things go seriously off the rails when only two remain. These two end up down below in the technicians hideaway and they raise quite the ruckus. The ending of this movie caught me by surprise, but I'll say no more.
Spoilers have ceased...Analysis begins...Beware!
This is a hip smart movie, totally in keeping with the work Whedon has done in the past with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and suchlike. It has all the strengths of those efforts, smart clever dialogue and a neat meta-knowledge aspect which allows the viewer to feel a part of the creative process. It also has the weaknesses, which include an over reliance on clever dialogue at the cost of true emotional impact and a winking relationship between the creators and the audience which at once invites the audience in but keeps them at an emotional distance. The cathartic effect of these films can be palpable, but that is undercut when the movie is too aware of its own genre details. Satire can be intellectually enlightening, but it hardly ever emotionally compelling.
That said, The Cabin in the Woods is must see for most horror fans, and especially for horror fans like me who like a sci-fi spicing up the witches brew. That kind of mix of supernatural and super-science is exceedingly Lovecraftian at its core and this movie owes quite a bit to Lovecraft after it's all said and done.