Archive for April, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods – Balancing Homage & Parody

I’m not going to lie – I’m a complete a wuss when it comes to horror films, but even I realize that the majority of horror films run on the same hamster wheel with the overt sexual overtones before ending up falling into the cliche death rundown.  The best horror films realize this and either run in a completely different direction or pokes fun at these tried-and-true ideas.  The Cabin in the Woods falls in the latter category and although may at first seem like a run-of-the-mill parody horror film of sorts, the end result is much more of a loving tribute and complete package in developing a fascinating plot and some great characters.

The Cabin in the Woods follows a group of college students: Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Dana (Kristen Conolly), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Holden (Jesse Williams) who all join together for a trip up to a secluded cabin for a weekend getaway.  Unknown to them, they have been chosen as part of a mysterious ritual of sorts under the supervision of Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford).  When they finally reach the cabin, they all start to not only act mysteriously but find a mysterious cellar where their lives dramatically change.

The weaknesses that hold back the film are largely in not being able to completely live up to it’s ambitious premise whether due to it’s budget or narrative turns.  Although it may not seem like it at first (no real spoilers, promise), the film is very ambitious in it’s scope and twists but unfortunately, some of the aesthetics and plot do not give the premise enough justice.  For instance, the special effects seem lacking at times.  Although the objects of horror are pretty frightening, there are obvious points in which the film’s budget seems to have been shortchanged and resulted in some less-than-stellar moments.  Perhaps using the ‘more is less’ mentality could have helped immensely in certain parts, especially near the climax and ending.  Along the same route, the same could be said about the narrative arc.  The reasoning and the reveals on one side don’t feel too off although certain points don’t fare as well such as in the way the film ends.

However, it really is in it’s ambitious undertaking and successful care in how it both plays with and honors the horror genre that makes the film an utterly fun and entertaining watch.  The core of why it works comes in it’s core ideas and writing.  The film knows from the very outset that it isn’t taking itself seriously and swiftly showcasing the puppetmasters rather than hide them until a big reveal.  Of course, other horror films have done this as well but few have approached the topic so boldly in really making fun of while still honoring tried-and-true horror conventions.  A hilarious but candid scene showcases the victims crowding together until suddenly, one of them exclaims they have to split up due to some tinkering from the masterminds (This spoiler was in the trailers so my apologies if this is new information to you!)  The film literally shows the two voyeurs exclaiming at how everyone is put together and makes an effort to separate the group.  These antics continue to varying effect, but it’s a fun take that both makes light of and honors the old stereotypes.  Along with this are the characterizations of all the main characters, which continues this concept of honoring and playing with the horror genre.  Characters regularly address and comment on some of the absurdities of their actions yet keep a straight face and convincingly draws the audience into their antics.  This isn’t to even undermine the actual horror part of the film which as much fun as the film has, has some great scares too.  The best performances come from Jenkins and Whitford as the two ‘game’ masters that play the parts with jest and gravity at once and play a large part into making the film such an entertaining watch.  And finally, the concepts and twists themselves keep the audience on their toes.  Going from a typical horror genre to a sudden perspective from the masterminds with jovial jazz music back to the horror stricken group is played just enough without growing too distant or out there.  Yes, the film loses this a bit by the end of the film but is at it’s best when there is a well-groomed surprise in store behind every corner, all the while without taking itself quite too seriously.

The Cabin in the Woods delivers one of more unique horror films to recent memory by feeling free to acknowledge the genre freely and openly in a unique and fun world.  The special effects may not always be able to match the plot’s ambition and the narrative doesn’t always feel pack an effective punch, especially in it’s ending, but the creative twists that the film takes with it’s pokes and homage to the horror genre are both fun and endearing.  Anyone who loves horror movies (or moves in general) or feels that the genre has gone stale really needs to take a moment and watch this fascinating piece.

Director: Drew Goddard
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: *** ½ out of *****


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Quick Blog Update

Hi everyone!

I know it’s been a little while since I updated the blog.  I’ve been very busy with a lot of things and some great announcements.  First off, I do have a review coming very soon so please be on the lookout for that.

Second, I have a second blog going along for my brand new passion project, Weird Wacky Productions, in which I’m creating original digital content.  You can follow us at the link hereIt doesn’t mean I’m ditching this blog at all and will continue to update random thoughts and reviews here while I focus on my passion project/filming tips/digital video news on my other website.  Thanks a bunch!

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