Friday, April 20, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

The Horror Behind the Curtain             
by Zac Sanford

College coeds at a secluded cabin in the woods have long been a staple of the horror genre. It's a tired and stale cliche that has left audiences bored and hungry for something new and inventive. With the release of Cabin in the Woods, director Joss Whedon and co-writer Drew Goddard tackle the genre with a crowd-pleasing twist on that tired and dreary formula.

To go too deeply into the twist, one would have to lay out heavy spoiler warnings, and this is a film best viewed with the least amount of prior knowledge. As with the "kids in the woods" tropes, it begins with a mix of cliches and stereotypes. We've got the alpha male who will try to stand tall when the stuff finally hits the fan (Chris Hemsworth), the dim-witted blonde with a nice rack to drive up the ticket sales of the adolescent set (Anna Hutchison), the heartbroken but reserved female (Kristen Connolly), the stoner with his different views on the world (Fran Kranz), and the token black character (Jesse Williams). Yes, these are total Hollywood cliches, or at least that's what one is led to believe.

Joss has been known in the past to take something familiar and turn it on its head. While all those stock characters may give you the idea of perception as reality, the writer/director wants you to look deeper beneath the layers that are on the surface. It isn't until something is conjured up to attack our group that true identities come to the forefront. But what will actually attack our heroes?

In the cabin in the woods movies it could be a bevy of concepts or ideas. Typically some backwoods inbred psycho is on the loose or conjured up from the dead. Once our characters get to their destination, the psycho in the woods does come at them, but this isn't like any other horror film. As the campers prepare for an evening filled with cup after cup of alcohol or their preferred drug of choice, something beckons them down into the dimly lit and eerie basement. Every character is entranced and drawn to a specific item. Will it be the orb? The book about a past event in this very cabin? A piece of jewelry with special powers? Or could it actually be a mix of all these things.

Cabin in the Woods is more akin to to Scream than Hostel. The laughs come far more often than the scares or the gore, which is mainly saved until the climatic and overdone third act. Joss and Drew know the genre and how they can play around in it, manipulating and poking fun at horror movies. As a personal fan of horror films, I sometimes want to yell at the screen for the idiotic choice of the main character, but with this flick, it is proof that the writer and director knows how to manipulate and invoke a reaction.

Even if horror movies aren't typically your thing, I would implore you to check this movie out. Usually when a film sits on a shelf for multiple years it is because the final product isn't of the highest caliber, but this film was only lost in the shuffle due to the demise of MGM. Cabin in the Woods is a treat for any film fan.

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