Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Evil Dead Rise in The Cabin in the Woods

     You may have seen the preview quickly flashed across your television screen. It has all of the ingredients of a typical, unoriginal, cliche horror movie: five college age kids, each playing the role that has been played a thousand times, head up to a remote cabin in the woods (on a lake, obviously) to drink and screw for a long weekend. There's the bonerific blond girl, Jules, whose screen time is spent either screaming or gyrating her tanned upper thighs to party music. Her boyfriend, Curt, wears his varsity jacket and lives off of his frat-boy charm. Holden is the smart kid, tagging along on the trip for chance to score with the virginal Dana, whose professor just ended their short fling via email. And then there's Marty, who's--you guessed it--a stoner who knows that something just isn't right.
     Do you really want to pay money to see this story played out again? We all know where this is headed (or beheaded). The answer to that question is yes...but I can't really tell you why. It's nearly impossible to tackle a review on The Cabin in the Woods without spoiling some of the best parts. I will say this: the film is surprising and breaks out into a no-holds barred blood bath of epic proportions, and even if some of the plot points are too over-the-top and some of the humor misses its mark, The Cabin in the Woods is an enjoyable 90 minutes at the theater, with enough spurting blood to satisfy any gore-hound.
     Though the group stops at a decrepit gas station and meets the toothless, tobacco-spitting local who owns it, and the cabin looks no different than most any other cabin-horror movie, once the group finds out what is exactly in the cellar, all hell breaks loose. The film sounds quite similar to Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, which I love unconditionally. But the director and writer of The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon (who created the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is directing next month's hugely-hyped The Avengers), have crafted an entirely new experience, an Evil Deadish film full of meta winks and nods.
     Clearly, this cabin in the woods is much different than any other portrayed in the horror genre. Nothing is really what it seems, and most everything is intentional. If you've seen the previews for The Cabin in the Woods, it's clear that there are members of the cast other than the five unfortunate souls who enter the cabin. Six Feet Under's Richard Jenkins and Billy Madison's Bradley Whitford play scientists who are trying to craft a successful experiment involving the attractive twenty-somethings. This may seem a bit too spoilerific, but the first scene in the film involves these two characters. They add much of the humor and horror-genre self-referential wit to the proceedings.
     Creatures start to rise from nearby graves to attack the confused group. As the fighting and terrorizing continues to get more and more scary and crazy, The Cabin in the Woods takes a left turn into absolute insanity. The final third of the film is a balls-to-the-walls freak fest that is as admirable as it is laughable--laughable in a good way though, as revelation after revelation forms on the faces of the remaining characters. Like The Evil Dead, it opens up the gates of Hell and plants its feet firmly inside of them (also like The Evil Dead, it's destined to become a cult classic of sorts).
     The Cabin in the Woods is like a puzzle that is generally enjoyable but occasionally frustrating. It's reminiscent of many movies: the aforementioned Cabin Fever and The Evil Dead, Cube, and even the recent Hunger Games adaptation. But it fully makes the story its own. What's key is going into the film knowing as little information about it as possible. You might be thinking: Why tell me this now, after reading all of this review? But the information I have told doesn't come close to delving into any of the surprises of the movie. Ultimately, The Cabin in the Woods isn't even about scaring or surprising, as much as it seems to be. It's about taking a trusted story and flipping it on its head, winking to the audience the entire way.     (B)

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