Monday, April 23. 2012
Cabin In The Woods looks, from the trailer, rather like it's a return to that old stock horror classic where are group of young adults - students in this case - are out of touch in the woods and horrible things happen to them. If you're thinking of the various Jason and Friday the Thirteenth movies, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. you're on the right track.
It is, from the first shot, obvious this isn't going to be quite that typical movie. There are these two middle-aged guys in shirts and ties, one is bitching about his wife's pre-emptive baby-proofing when she's not even pregnant. The other is carrying his lunch hamper and getting coffee from the machine. It's clearly a work-place shot. Neither of them appears, at first, to fit into the movie. The film then puts up it's titles and moves to a scantily clad girl moving around and packing - one of the students packing for her weekend in the woods! It's kind of reassuring actually, because suddenly it's closer to expectations.
The film continues moving, not entirely comfortably at first, between these two environments. The old classics of the remote cabin horror movie are trotted out. They're not exactly played for laughs (as they might be in the Scream franchise for example) but they are punctured in various ways, quite deliberately. Not too far into the film there are enough clues laid out that you can work out the central premise that ties these two stories together neatly and tidily into a coherent film. It is, perhaps, the first post-post-modern horror. It's abandoned the framework of the post-modern horror because it is almost impossible to imagine this movie being made if we hadn't had the post-modern horror of Scream and the like. While there is some gore, unless you're really weak-stomached it's not too much. In fact there are places where it's clear a decision was made to keep the gore down to... well I'm tempted to say tasteful levels, if you can have a tasteful horror movie with multiple deaths. It is, however, a clear departure from the gore/torture porn of movies like Saw (that I'll freely admit I've never seen and don't want to thanks).
In the horror setting the story develops much as you'd expect. Something happens, horrible things start to appear, there is much screaming, some chasing around and the body count starts to rise. As you'd expect in a post-post-modern movie the standard tropes are played out but they aren't played out in isolation - there are not only comments about it there are explanations too.
The penultimate scenes are kind of predictable if you stop to think about it. There is, basically, only one way this movie could sensibly play out and it doesn't try to wriggle out of it. There is, however, a little twist in the end. It, again, is inevitable perhaps that the story will resolve to this central question - albeit a question that is so loaded with spoilers I won't reveal it to you. Apparently, in an effort to keep everyone guessing, they filmed both endings - with that question resolved both ways. Very Aristotlean of them, an either-or resolution! I think they chose the more satisfying ending but your tastes may differ.
Although this is a horror movie, and unashamedly so, it is a clever update on the old format and a fun movie as long as you're expecting a bit of fake blood to be splashed around and one or two other unpleasant bits. It's low on the jump shots, it's low on the gore, certainly on the fetishisation of the gore and it actually has a story that makes it interesting. It has a number of laugh-out-loud moments as they tip their hat to other movies and the tropes of the genre. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps but if you like a bit of horror, not at all bad.
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