The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

If you hear a strange sound outside... have sex.
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The Cabin in the Woods - If you hear a strange sound outside... have sex.

The Cabin in the Woods is a rarity in modern horror in that it gets a lot right. Directed by Drew Goddard (who also wrote the movie alongside Joss Whedon), it is apparent that his time writing and producing TV was well spent, mastering the art before delving into film. Whedon's influence is also very noticeable within the execution of the film, the attention to detail and the manipulation of the audience's expectations to deliver the surprises makes The Cabin in the Woods rewatchable beyond the two times you saw annoying children seeing dead people.

One of the most beautiful things about the direction this film takes is that it manages to come across quite believable while being completely fantastical yet taking itself far from serious. It is as if each serious scenario has a punchline yet the film still manages to distance itself from absurdity, a path so many films of a similar ilk end up following. This is no mean feat and takes balls to even attempt. Good work Drew, good work Joss and good work zombie hand.

That being said, The Cabin in the Woods honours the slasher genre with fondness and fervor rather than picking the easier option of having a pop at the multitude of turd-like slashers created over the last few decades. The slasher stereotype is relished with tongue firmly wedged in cheek but without the slightest hint of disrespect. It even goes that further mile to explain why the stereotypes are happening with the aforementioned convincing yet implausible rationality. This notion is used to lull the viewer into a false sense of predictability time and time again before tools are skilfully thrown into the works and the current scene delivers it's curvespanner.

The premise starts simple and allows the audience to know this will not be a traditional slasher while still giving them plenty of assumptions to jump to. We are even given the traditional group of young people, the dumb blonde, the jock, the stoner, the rational egghead black guy and the hot bookworm virgin (I believe that is what they are known as). It becomes apparent that there is a reason for these characteristics above and beyond paying homage to a genre.

This crew decide to go for a relaxing break in a small isolated cabin conveniently located in some woods for some beer, weed and husband bulges. Things start to get subtly weird and the references to the more mentionable horror movies start thick and fast (with the cabin even looking quite similar to the one in Evil Dead). Investigating the cabin the holidayers stumble upon a basement of artifacts including a diary with latin incantations and a Lemarchand's sphere with an appropriate musical accompaniment from a music box. No one suspects that anything could go wrong by tampering with these items except Marty the stoner who is beginning to suspect all is not as it seems.

From this point on the luckless group encounter a plethora of slasher movie clichés while the viewer discovers more and more of what is really happening and why. It is apparent that the story is moving towards somewhere non traditional yet the scale of the place it is heading is probably not yet fathomed. Towards the end, the survivors descend into a maelstrom of violence which surprisingly doesn't include either sharks or Die Hard and the only drugs they are on are unlikely to make things hectic. The ending is refreshing too and once again not expected. The cameo seemed a bit out of place but was a nod of respect from the creators and the ultimate final girl (yes she is, watch "Alien" again if you doubt it) to all the final girls that made slashers what they are today.

The attention to detail in The Cabin in the Woods makes a tremendous impact on the overall viewing experience. The actors are all very professional and seem to have relaxed into the roles perfectly, even small actions such as facial expressions make a big difference to the believability. The enemies are detailed, varied and abundant with many standard monsters given a new twist. The music is nothing original in itself but is used to great effect when setting expectations before the visuals destroy them. There are lashings of blood and some very creative kills. The style of the film is almost fractal like, overall it seems to be one thing and then becomes something quite different. As you look closer the various stories running alongside each other do the same and as you look even more closlier each scene follows a similar pattern.

The Cabin in the Woods raises the bar for horror movies like Avatar did for Smurf movies. It proves that there is still a lot of creativity available in the horror creativity pool if people have the correct equipment for diving in and filtering out the necessary components. Having the drive to do something original rather than try and profit from past creativity with a constant barrage of remakes is what the horror industry requires to get back to a place where movies are made to be remade. I look forward to the day when people will proudly say that "The Cabin in the Woods remake wasn't as good as the original" or when a lacklustre film is compared to "The Cabin in the Woods on amphetamines" by people whoring for DVD case quotes.
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