15 April 2012

Movie: Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Filmed in early 2009 and scheduled for release in May 2010, and then delayed until January 2011 for 3D conversion, Drew Goddard's directorial debut of a Joss Whedon script, The Cabin in the Woods, fell eventually to MGM's financial woes that lead to the companies bankruptcy that put the film in limbo. Then in April of last year, MGM announced a distribution deal with Lionsgate, and there had been hopes the film would be out for Halloween 2011. But eventually, in July of 2011, Lionsgate acquired the film wholly and announced an April 2012 release date.

For me, it was a very clever, very self-aware attempt at parodying the horror genre, without really saying they're parodying the horror genre. Whedon and Goddard borrow every trope of the horror genre, which included a mysterious cabin in the woods, five college kids on break -the jock, the slut, the virgin, the book smart geek and the stoner- a stop over at what appears to be an abandoned gas station, but has a creepy owner who spouts politically incorrect things.Oh, and the Winnebago standing in for Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine.

Then, as audiences familiar with the genre know, once the Scooby gang arrives at the cabin, all hell is going to break loose. And it does, and it's pretty funny.

For viewers of Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series, you'll see him borrow a lot themes and ideas (along with various cast members of those shows and Whedon's other series, Dollhouse). The cast is wonderful, especially Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins and Fran Kranz as Shaggy. Well, not really, but very close. Then, of course, there is the surprise cameo that even I, Mr. Pop Culture Nerd, did not know about.

As Whedon explains what the film is about: "On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction."

There are plot holes, and very little explanation of how the whole thing really works, but for any Whedon follower, that's not important. So those confused by the film (and I heard a guy say this to his girlfriend as they passed us), expecting a typical horror film like the ones made in the last few years, will be disappointed by it. 

Of course, I still think they should see it, if only because it pokes fun at the genre without insulting the viewing audience. It's fresh, fairly original and fun.

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