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CABIN IN THE WOODS is a horror game-changer

Posted on April 23rd, 2012
Posted on April 23rd, 2012

by Coop Cooper

Every once in awhile, a movie comes along that can change a genre forever. In the case of horror films, “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “The Exorcist” (1973) and “Scream” (1994) are all examples that broke the mold and changed how people view horror. “Cabin in the Woods” has also earned a place on this list.

We all know the story… Kids go to a cabin in the woods, bad things happen. “The Evil Dead” (1981) and its horror/comedy remake “Evil Dead II” (1987) are credited for perfecting this subgenre. Although no other film of this type has come near to competing with these originals, it hasn’t kept filmmakers from trying. The subgenre has been one of the most overused and poorly-made film types of the past 30 years. “Cabin” takes the concept and turns it on its head in such a way, I believe the subgenre is now spoiled for good. Trust me, this is a very good thing.

It’s impossible to describe the film adequately without giving away too much. As a group of very likeable college kids make their way to an ominous cabin in the woods, the story cuts away to a pair of wisecracking government bureaucrats (played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) preparing for some event in a control room. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the kids and the office drones are linked, but the relationship between the two parties remains murky until the kids begin to explore the cabin. Bad things happen, but only after the first death does the overall story start to become more transparent.

The less you know before you see it, the better. The context clues gleaned from the trailers and TV spots give away far too much as it is, but luckily the film still contains rewards, especially for those patient enough to make it to the last 20 minutes. The third act of the film has one of the most fun and satisfying climaxes of any horror film in recent or past memory. It simultaneously tops its own subgenre while playing homage to nearly every other creature feature ever made. The sneaky “Choose Your Own Adventure” device in which the kids accidentally select the monsters that attack them adds a very unique element. It also widens the scope to show how this frightening phenomenon is not unique to to America alone.

Written by Joss Whedon, “Cabin” is also extremely funny. Whedon is famous for creating sci-fi and fantasy TV favorites such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Dollhouse” and the upcoming “Avengers” film. “Cabin” features Whedon’s famous wit and astute character development. It’s also directed by Drew Goddard, responsible for co-creating “Cloverfield” and the TV sensation “Lost.” Fans of all of those properties will not be disappointed by the rich mythology these filmmakers create for “Cabin.”

The film also features a wide array of up-and-coming stars: Liam Hemsworth (“Thor” & “Avengers”), Kristen Connelly (“Ex-Girlfriends”), Anna Hutchison (“Go Girls”), Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”), Brian White (“Good Deeds”) and Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”). However, the real entertainment comes from veteran actors Whitford and Jenkins who comedically play off of each other in their control room, with Amy Acker (“Angel” and “Dollhouse”) as their stiff-necked co-worker. There’s also a stellar supporting cast of office workers and monsters that add to the magic of the entire calamity.

Strangely, this film was completed in 2009 but its release was delayed when the post-Avatar 3-D craze kicked in. The film was shot in 2-D but the studio wanted to convert it to 3-D. Then MGM went into bankruptcy and the film got shelved. Luckily, studios know a good thing when they see it and eventually found the funds to release it. Hopefully they will also soon release the similarly shelved remake of “Red Dawn” which also stars Liam “Thor” Hemsworth.

Since “Cabin” can’t readily reveal its full concept to the public, it might not attract much of a box office audience. Regardless, I predict it will become a cult video hit for many decades to come.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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