Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods Review - WOW!... Wait what?

24 hours after seeing The Avengers, I went with Scott G. to see The Cabin in the Woods, which was also written (but not directed) by Joss Whedon. We had a great time. I loved the cast & laughed quite often, but it wasn't very scary and has huge plot holes. Strangely, it was too fun for either flaw to hurt the experience.

I have mentioned this film twice before - and I'm so glad I skipped the trailers, as they reveal far too much. Now, I have the supremely-difficult task of reviewing it. The problem is partly that it's easy to spoil, and partly the weirdness of the picture itself.

See, Cabin is a very meta horror film, much like Scream, but more odd. The characters know the rules: don't go alone, or into a basement, and dear god, don't read Latin words from a book out loud. As in Scream, horror cliches are often referenced, right down to the 1 required nude shot, yet tCitW is still packed with smart surprises.

The Cabin in the Woods, however, goes far beyond Wes Craven's self-awareness and into new territory: from the very opening, this picture spills its secrets. It does this with bite-sized pieces of conversation between coworkers at some location that suggests a major corporation or government agency.

This clever and carefully-calculated aspect makes me (and most other reviewers) extremely cautious about spoiling the intelligent work on-screen. It also sets a great contrast in tone while neatly deceiving audience expectations. As a movie reviewer, this picture is one big migraine. As a film watcher, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Even this gives away too much, probably.

Whedon's style often achieves something I love - conversations that aren't too forced. Coworkers seldom describe who they work for just to provide viewers with exposition. And, unlike in a JJ Abrams' show, they don't artificially talk around stuff just to keep us hanging. If you simply pay attention, you'll start to figure it out.

Which undermines Cabin's scare-factor, because you wonder what's really happening too early. Teen horror generally gives you 1 scare in the beginning, then puts you at ease; the tension that builds later is more powerful that way. The opening here skips the big scare but eases into the genre setting perfectly, while also making you ask what connects that weird office and those average teens.

So it's a shame that Whedon and Goddard start to give answers quickly after, as it creates low-level tension too soon. When we get a real sense of what's up, the events that occur are less terrifying for it. There are scares - some of the best show that The Cabin in the Woods is a master at jumping back and forth between settings.

Yes, "really." But why?

However, the result is, perhaps, the greatest strength of the picture - blindingly-funny humor. I worried I wouldn't hear dialogue because I was laughing too much. Everyone does good work here, tho everything with Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, and Richard Jenkins is excellent.

This pic is beautifully shot, has fantastic effects, good actors, great characters, and seriously-satisfying dialogue. It's more fun than creepy, but it is so fun that I can't really complain if I was seldom frightened. I feel the same way about its massive plot holes.

I gladly overlook the flaws; Cabin is blessedly-different. I laughed a dozen+ times; my 1st was caused by the opening title credit alone. I highly recommend The Cabin in the Woods. Please see it soon; a big screen and good audio are important, and I hope it takes a bundle at the box office. We need smarter cinema.

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