movie film review | chris tookey

Cabin in the Woods

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  Cabin in the Woods Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
7.04 /10
Kristen Connolly , Anna Hutchison , Bradley Whitford
Full Cast >

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Released: 2012
Origin: US
Length: 95

A classic tale of the unexpected.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Ads make The Cabin in the Woods look like a cliched exploitation film, with good-looking young people murdered one-by-one in a spooky forest cabin by, as one of the characters says with understandable resentment, "zombified pain-worshipping backwoods redneck idiots".

But donít worry, itís anything but conventional in where it goes from there.

Those directions are hinted at by the opening titles. They depict ancient scenes of ritual sacrifice. Then thereís the first scene, which shows two middle-aged technicians (well played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) swapping banalities as they prepare for a normal day at the office, or wherever it is they work.

Their cheery badinage, jokily reminiscent of Ricky Gervaisí The Office, is interrupted by more menacing titles, which drip blood in a way that clash with the tone of the opening.

The endearingly playful, dazzlingly unpredictable movie that follows - and Iím not going to spoil it by telling you too much Ė shows Hollywood at its best. This is a hugely entertaining, brilliantly crafted entertainment thatís witty, ground-breaking, and Ė most important of all - fun. Weíre still only in April, but by the end of 2012 millions are going to be talking about this as the outstanding film of the year.

The actors, inspired by a screenplay that miraculously bothers to give them funny things to say, hang around long enough to suggest they are capable of more than the necessarily stereotypical characters they have to play here.

Two make a particular impression: the more-or-less virginal heroine Ė the Neve Campbell/ Jamie Lee Curtis role - is engagingly played by Kristen Connolly, a red-head whoís the spitting image of the young Shirley Anne Field.

Fran Kranz, looking like a youthful, even more frazzled Owen Wilson, is a hoot as a young man whose cannabis intake has unexpectedly revelatory side-effects.

The first picture to be written and directed by the co-writer of Cloverfield, Drew Goddard, Cabin is a personal triumph for him, but also recognisably the work of his co-writer Joss Whedon, who helped give us Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and (a credit less well known) Toy Story.

Both men deserve credit for artistic integrity. The Cabin in the Woods was shot three years ago, in 2009. The delay came about because Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard objected to the studio Lionsgateís plans (later shelved, thank goodness) to convert it to 3D.

The creative influences upon Goddard and Whedon are clear. The scarily effective mixture of black comedy and horror is reminiscent of Sam Raimiís first two Evil Dead movies, and of Wes Craven, who gave us three of the other most memorably innovative achievements in the genre, Scream, Scream 2 and Wes Cravenís New Nightmare.

The plot is also indebted to Welsh director Mark Evansí intelligent horror movie of 2002, My Little Eye, sadly underestimated by most critics at the time.

The spooky corridors, chilly vision of the future and skilful blending of horror with social comment recall Stanley Kubrickís The Shining, 2001 and Dr Strangelove.

Less obvious influences are two British authors, Clive Barker and Douglas Adams, both of them always keen to deconstruct the appeal of horror and science fiction, and reveal why theyíre important to so many of us. Their ideas underpin the entire movie.

Add to these ingredients five charming performances by the doomed college kids (youíre actually sorry to see them die), and an unexpectedly lavish special effects extravaganza for a finale, and you have an innovative mixture of at least three genres: horror, science fiction and black comedy.

Itís much cleverer and more mature than The Hunger Games, but itís about very similar things. The Cabin in the Woods ends up as the more biting satire on the entertainment industry, manís appetite for violence and older peopleís love-hate relationship with youth.

And donít worry, Iím not spoiling anything by saying that. Itís clear from very early on that our two boffins are desensitised workers in an entertainment machine that regards human life as something that can be cavalierly ended in order to appease the audience.

Who and what that audience is, the movie leaves teasingly uncertain until a big guest star cameo reveals all, but it may not be the answer youíre expecting.

If you wanted to be hyper-critical, you could argue that Cabin is guilty of the sins that it condemns. It values narrative ingenuity over genuine horror and treats with flippant callousness the characters it slaughters for our gruesome scary-movie delectation.

But Iím happy to swallow a small amount of hypocrisy in exchange for the pleasures this movie gave me. I havenít enjoyed a film as much since The Artist, and this is easily the best fun Iíve ever had watching a slasher movie.

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