Cabin in the Woods came out on DVD in the UK recently, and for me, a person who jumps and gasps and screams at even the most obvious of scares, this has been the first real opportunity to watch it. There was absolutely no way I was watching that in public. I remember judo kicking the back of someone’s chair out of fright when watching Jurassic Park at the cinema many moons ago, and it seems to have got worse from there. In the last year James and I have got through an entire Hitchcock season, The Thing, Alien and Aliens at the lovely independent Filmhouse in Edinburgh, but not without me having to clutch his leg/hand/entire body throughout all the scary bits.
SO, Cabin in the Woods. Ordinarily, this kind of film wouldn’t really interest me. From the trailer, it looks like your stereotypical horror movie – five unknowing teens, full of life and booze, find themselves the victim of an axe-wielding psycopath, a mutilated, one-armed demon, or in this case, a family of redneck torture zombies. I’ve watched many of these films with groups of friends or out on dates, and they give me a little excitement at the time, and a lot of nightmares later. The Grudge had me scared of bathrooms for over a year, I will never travel through the Texan countryside by myself or at night, and I’ve had nightmares about The Ring based on the trailer alone. But I’d heard interesting things about this film that suggested it was not what you might expect, and as a fan of producer and co-writer Joss Whedon, I decided to suck it up and give it a go. And I’m seriously glad I did.
Warning: may contain spoilers…
From the very get go the film announces in bold red lettering that it is not your stereotypical horror movie, almost literally. Regular everyday office guys Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are chatting about the banalities of work when BOOM in bright red lettering: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. It is so misplaced that it’s comic. Intentionally so. And as the stereotypical horror movie develops in parallel with scenes of office life, it watches like a perfect behind the scenes. The various production teams at the office each play their role in creating the murderous rampage that haunts the teenagers. The creepy gas station attendant, the atmospheric summoning of the horror from an old book spoken in Latin, the archetypal blonde bombshell, stoner dude and jock; all simply calculated ingredients for your average slasher flick. Office workers place bets on which gruesome fate will befall the characters as if they are in fact just characters. People die gruesomely to celebrations and congratulations.
Inevitably, the behind the scenes show and the slasher feature merge into a huge bloodbath of doom. It is chaotic and horrendous, but wickedly entertaining. If you wondered why a unicorn, surely a delicate and peaceful creature, featured on the board above, just imagine the impaling opportunities.
Cabin in the Woods knows all the ingredients of the horror genre, and nods to all the clichés. Every monster and villain from horror films of years gone by are displayed in the rotating boxes of terror, stored waiting to be unleashed on whatever victims have been arranged for them (a production shot here shows just a small selection against a green screen, and thanks to IT the clown is definitely the most terrifying for me). The jumps and gasps viewers anticipate while watching a horror are provided with glee, the gore, the ominous music, the ‘no not that way’ moments; they’re all there. But the film takes all these stereotypical elements and adds an extra dimension: the why. There’s a little more background, some motive, and a lot more comedy than you may expect. Whedon is up to his usual tricks, subverting genres just for the fun of it. Cabin in the Woods never takes itself too seriously and it’s a lot of fun to watch. It hasn’t given me any nightmares either.
So, if you’ve read this far and haven’t seen the film yet, well, I’ve just totally ruined the surprise of the concept. But in fairness, I did warn you. And since you still don’t know how it actually ends, I’d definitely recommend a viewing. If you’ve already seen it, I’d love to know what you thought down yonder in the comments section.
>>> This is post 23 of the 31 I’ll be writing for Blogtoberfest 2012 <<<