Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie Review: Cabin in the Woods (there be spoilers ahead)

A surprisingly fresh twist on the slasher genre. Not only did Cabin successfully hit on (and in doing so, unironically parody) all the slasher movie cliches, it did so in a way that was fun, entertaining, and still scary. A feat accomplished maybe once before with Scream. It wasn't heavy-handed and formulaic, collapsing under its own pretense like I Know What You Did Last Summer, or the Final Destination franchise.

Sure, you can question the logistical impossibility of much of what transpires in this flick,(would pheromone mist work? and that quickly?), but for a movie like this you have to be willing to suspend disbelief to a greater degree than you normally might. You have to realize, this movie is asking you to go along for a ride in a universe where "the old gods" exist and are to be feared. So save all your "Shuh... right" for Shyamalan's next outing.

Besides, this movie has a bigger agenda. Not only is it a thoughtful and original commentary on the bureaucracy of our modern age- juxtaposing the red-tape cubicle life to which we've become accustomed against old-world religious cults- it also takes to task our societal bloodlust; or at least our desensitization to the horrible things that happen in our actual world, as evidenced by the nameless company's celebration (premature though it was) while the last remaining survivor of their cruelly orchestrated ordeal was getting the shit kicked out of her on a dozen monitors in the background. Not to mention the betting pool itself, which was also cleverly mirrored in the movie's finale when we realize that just as the kids in the cabin chose their own harbingers of doom, the corporate drones chose those kids to ride down in the same elevator and kill them.

Cabin is a self-conscious movie, aware of its own genre but not to the point of satire. It knows where its boundaries lie and it pushes right up to the edge of those boundaries without becoming a joke. More of a knowing nod, a peek behind the curtain. And in that vein it includes references to other classic horror movies- Evil Dead, Hellraiser, The Ring- as well as genuine campy humor- the zombie arm, the contrast between horror movie archetype and real world issues (as in the speaker phone scene, where Mordecai actually seems to break "character").

It has all the sensibility and atmosphere of an 80's slasher film without falling victim to the cheesy cliches that so routinely plague the genre. All the usual elements- stereotypical characters, poor decision making- are satisfyingly explained in real life terms. Especially fun was the guilty pleasure of seeing all the other creatures that earlier were only hinted at on the board- sexy witches? Angry molesting tree? Kevin???

Another nice touch- there is no happy ending. Sure the protagonists survive (including, in an interesting twist against type, the resourceful stoner). But it's short lived, as not only do they ultimately die in the end, they also self-righteously choose to wipe out every living person in existence. An incredibly selfish choice that caps off the film nicely.

I really like that they downplayed the whole "reality TV" angle. It was pretty much only mentioned in passing. The premise itself is almost like a modern, less dystopian version of Hunger Games: kids chosen at random to fight to the death in a controlled and manipulated environment, all for the entertainment and survival of the rest of the population. The placement of this game in our familiar modern world makes Cabin all the better. We see technology failing, endless bureaucracy, jaded corporate drones... genre mash-up that is both intelligent and hilarious.

Highly recommend. Go see it.

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