Sunday, April 22, 2012
The Cabin in the Woods
Luckily I'm not actually in the movie "The Cabin in the Woods", so that movie was absolutely fantastic. "The Cabin in the Woods" is a horror-comedy made by sainted nerd legend, Joss Whedon. The plot is exactly what you'd expect: five young people go to a cabin in the woods to stay for the weekend, where they are promptly slaughtered by a gaggle of redneck zombie cannibals. That story is classic, millions of movies have been made exactly like this. (Like I swear to God this is the same cabin from "Evil Dead", which would have me extra annoying in this movie because I would have spent the entire time making "Evil Dead" references.) But there is more going on. These aren't spoilers, because this is revealed almost immediately in the beginning and in the trailers. It turns out that the cabin is being watched and controlled by a group of mid-level management office types who are manipulating the slasher bait to act like stupid drunken whores that will get slaughtered. So the observers send in stupid gas to force the characters to say things like "let's split up" and poison hair dye to make the blond a super slut and then shoot the basement door open so the adolescents find a crypt full of damned items that will summon a demon.
So "Cabin in the Woods" is funny. You got the great dynamic of a bunch of actually really well-acted and likable slasher bait characters having fun partying before dying. These aren't the typical obnoxious retards that you see in a 21st century horror movie, because the writers this time can actually make real people. And there's the observers sitting in their office begging for tits and betting on which monster will eat them first. Also, "Cabin in the Woods" is scary, because its actually an effective horror movie while having fun with its premise. But more importantly, "Cabin in the Woods" is fucking awesome! And that's the third act right there. Which I can't spoil, unfortunately.
The movie opens with the two middle-aged office types driving down a big science complex in a golf cart, while one is complaining about cabinets or something. Then all of a sudden the conversation is stopped by this huge ridiculous horror title card. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS!!!! We haven't even met the main characters yet and nothing at all has happened that is even remotely scary. Yet this ridiculous blood-soaked title card comes out. That's when this movie immediately had me intrigued.
So next up we meet the five slasher bait characters. You got Thor playing the Jock douchebag (Freddy), but he's actually really well-read and deeply into sociology. There's his girlfriend who becomes a major slut (Daphne), but her blond hair is actually dyed and its said that she's usually not so vapid - not that we get much proof of that. There's the stoner dude (Shaggy), who actually is incredibly smart and guesses that something is wrong. There's the nerdy guy (Scooby), who is actually a football star. And there's the virgin Last Girl (Velma), who is definitely not a virgin. Velma by the way is incredibly cute and lovely, I'm so glad to have spent an entire movie with this beauty. As you can tell, none of them actually fit the archetypes they're supposed to be playing, but thanks to some stupid gas, they're sure made to be it. It also really helps that most of these characters are really likable. Shaggy carries around a six-foot bong that's hidden inside a coffee mug. Freddy is incredibly badass and takes a ridiculous amount of punishment from the redneck zombies. And Scooby... actually is pretty bland, forget him.
The movie plays with the cliches of a slasher movie, but does it in a positive way, I feel. Yeah, there's the crazy redneck gas station owner spitting out tobacco and whispering about doom, but then later he calls up the observer guys who laugh at what a crazy hick the guy is. Later on the observers whine that the main characters summons the redneck cannibals, when one of them always wanted to see a merman. There are some scenes that go a bit too far, like when Freddy decided they should split up and Shaggy replies with "what are you, stupid?" Now we're going from satire of love to satire of hate. I love horror movies, and there have been more than enough films pointing out the cliches of the genre. Deconstructing horror is about as pointless as deconstructing the Western these days. Its fine giving the audience avatars of themselves in the observers, who sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the tits to pop out, but its another thing to say: "man, isn't it stupid how all horror movies do that?" Then your horror movie does the exact same thing, and you're committed the same narrative faults you brought up earlier, just with a weak excuse of bullshit "irony". Luckily "Cabin in the Woods" skirts the line well. Because there's more of the observers being audience stand-ins than snarky people ranting about how this genre is horrible and that people who like horror are idiots (like some other movies I've seen). One guy has to ask "why are her boobs so important?" and the answer is clear "gotta keep the customer happy". Damn right.
Mostly because the ending of this movie is not ironic at all. This is where reviewing "Cabin in the Woods" gets difficult. The first two-thirds of this film are decent and I'd have an okay recommendation just with that alone. However, the last half hour is amazing. Its like a dream come true. Utterly balls to the wall insanity, just the craziest thing you can imagine, and the movie is playing it all straight. I can see the writings sitting down and saying "wouldn't it be awesome if THIS happened, lets put that in the movie!" And then they did, and God bless them for it. I'll give away one spoiler: you know how I mentioned earlier that one of the observers wanted a merman to attack? Well it does. And then everything else does. Its glorious! It silly, its preposterous, its bloody as shit, the effects are nicely cheesy, and its beautiful.
My only complaint is that curiously there are no vampires in this movie. Has Twilight done so much damage to the vampire name that Joss Wheden couldn't include them in his movie? Everything else is here, trust me.
Also, the ending is pretty ridiculous. Again, I promised not to spoil anything, but nobody would actually make the choice the main characters do. There's a great cameo at the ending too, I won't spoil who that is either. But the ending at least lets one more monster attack, even if the form of that monster that we get to see is pretty weak*.
Ultimately, I love "Cabin in the Woods". Its the fourth awesome movie I've seen in 2012 so far. And its not even May yet! The summer blockbuster season hasn't even begun, and I've four amazing movies: "Chronicle", "John Carter of Mars", "THE RAID!!!", and now "Cabin". Am I crazy, or this is going to be like the best year for movies ever? 2012 is kicking 2011's ass right now. Its not even funny.
* Spoilers: Its an Elder God. Like H.P. Lovecraft-style Elder Gods. They need the sacrifices of stupid teenagers getting slaughtered in horror formula so that they don't attack the world. At first I thought the observers were just working for Satan, but turns out its worse than that. Then when those sacrifices don't go quietly, the Elder Gods wake up and attack. Unfortunately instead of a mass of tentacles and unspeakable things from beyond imagination, its just a big hand. Lame.