Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods Review

"The Cabin in the Woods" is a Lovecraftian love/hate letter to horror films. It has some suspenseful moments, but for the most part, it's a fun romp through slasher flicks, giant monster movies, creature features and foreign horror films. "The Cabin in the Woods" is clever, snarky and constantly pokes fun at just about any horror convention or cliche you can think of, which makes it the best deconstruction of horror movies since "Scream." In fact, this movie invokes more stereotypes and horror tropes than even "Scream" was capable of doing. And for this reason, "The Cabin in the Woods" is freaking hilarious.

"The Cabin in the Woods" starts out a little slow, as two distinct groups of characters are introduced: the suits in the white shirts and ties, ala 1950's NASA style, Sitterson and Hadley, and the normal college kids that transform into the stereotypical slasher film archetypes: the jock Curt; the slut Jules; the virgin Dana; the nerd, Holden; the fool, Marty.

Sitterson, Hadley, and their friend the chemist Lin are heading into the office for another typical work day; complaining about family problems and mundane matters as they make their way to the control panel where all the "magic" happens.

Turns out, the suits are a part of a huge conspiracy that collects groups of young adults and turns them into the perfect human sacrifices by manipulating them with drugs and pheromones to get them to act out the roles that the Chthonic gods, the Ancient Ones, require in order to be satisfied. Failure to kill them means that the gods will awaken, and the world will end.

Sitterson and Hadley are hilarious. They are competing with a unit in Japan, who sent a hungry ghost to kill a room full of nine year old school girls. When the school girls use their Shinto magic to place the ghost into a happy frog (which leads to Sitterson screaming F- you! repeatedly at the screen where the Japanese school girls are cheering after they stop the ghost),  it's up to them to save the world.

Some of the humor of the movie comes from the fact that the characters are forced to become the stereotypical teens found in slasher flicks. For instance, Curt is a sociology major attending college with a full academic scholarship. He is turned into the brain-dead jock. When they arrive at his cousin's cabin, all of the sudden he is wearing a varsity jacket and turns into a beer drinking horn-dog. Curt has a healthy loving relationship with Jules, who was poisoned with "stupid" (chemicals that inhibit the thought processes in the brain) when she dyed her hair blond. Dana was having an affair with her college professor and is turned into the innocent virgin. Holden, the football player with the amazing six-pack abs, turns into a glasses toting, dress shirt wearing girl-shy nerd. Only Marty, the philosophical stoner, is unaffected by the drugs that they are given, mainly because he's such a bud-head.

Soon, the college kids travel to Curt's cousin's cabin for a fun weekend in the woods. While on the way they stop for gas and are greeted by the harbinger of doom; you know, the one ugly dude that warns the meddling kids not to go up to the spooky cabin in the middle of the woods because people that go up there never come back. Of course, they ignore his unsettling warnings.

After they pick their rooms and go for a swim in the lake, they start drinking and playing Truth or Dare. During the game there is a very creepy scene with the slut Jules making out with a stuffed wolf head ( for some reason, that wolf head is so sinister looking that it made me nervous to watch her lock lips with it). Then, suddenly, the trap door to the cellar slams open, scaring the crap out of the college kids.

I still can't believe that the actor that plays Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in this movie...
The cellar is chock full of objects, each of which are relics that can be used to summon a different type of monster. Back at mission control, the different departments are taking bets on what monsters will appear to kill their sacrificial lambs, as it all depends on who uses their item first.

Personally, I would've bet on Kevin. He's probably terrifying.
Check out that list on the white board. We have Angry Molesting Tree and Deadites from "Evil Dead." Which is a nod to the fact that both "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2" take place in a cabin in the woods.

The Buckners are resurrected after Dana reads aloud a Latin phrase from Patience Buckner's diary. Marty, the stoner and ironically the voice of reason in the film, tells her not to read it out loud, but no one listens to him. Soon, they are stalked by the redneck zombie torture family from hell. (In H.P. Lovecraft stories and "Call of Cthulhu" RPG, you never read the books out loud. They always summon something terrible that will kill you, rob you of your sanity, or devour your soul.)

Marty is the only one that thinks that they are being manipulated, but his friends ignore him because they think that all of the pot he's been smoking has made him paranoid. His suspicions are confirmed once he finds the tiny camera that's been installed in his bedroom on the lamp. Unfortunately, before he can tell the others, they are attacked by the zombie redneck torture family.

Of course, the jock and the slut are killed first for their "transgressions" i.e. showing boobies in the woods and making out. The guys in the control room make comments similar to what an audience might say, such as which character(s) they are rooting for and urging Jules to take off her shirt. Which can be taken as a comment on how the average audience to a slasher film would react by rooting for their favorite characters and telling the hotties to get naked.

When Jules dies, Sitterson and Hadley say a strange prayer and then pull the first lever to release blood into a chalice. Curt runs back to the cabin and the kids try to hide from the zombies, but its no use. When Marty "dies" off-screen and there is an earthquake after they pull his sacrifice lever. Later, we learn why- Marty isn't dead and the gods are voicing their displeasure.

After Curt and Holden die, Marty shows up to save Dana from daddy Buckner. Turns out that he found a tunnel leading to the building where the control room is located when he was hiding from the zombies. He takes Dana with him into the elevator, where they make their descent into hell. Well, not literal hell, but movie monster hell. All the monsters they were betting on earlier are kept in glass cubes that the elevator can get to, by moving Willy Wonka style (up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards).

To get their revenge on the people that set them up to die horribly, Dana and Marty unleash the monsters and the goriest, funniest, blood-bath I have ever seen takes place. By the time the monsters are done eating people, the hallway is literally slathered in blood. There are so many homages to the different types of movie monsters, you really need to keep your eyes peeled during this sequence to catch them all.

My favorite was Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain- the Pinhead analog of the movie, who held a puzzle sphere instead of a puzzle box. 

I guess he would be called Sawhead instead of Pinhead....

The guest star appearance at the end with Sigourney Weaver playing the Director is also equally awesome. I won't tell you what she does, you'll just have to see it for yourself. Needless to say, she doesn't win. Then, after defeating the Director, Marty and Dana sit down and have one last smoke as the world ends.

If you haven't had a chance to see this movie, you really should. It's an intelligent comment on horror movie cliches and stereotypes. It gives us a reason for why they exist, and why monsters in horror movies are always running after young adults and trying to kill them.

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