LITTLE ROCK If you were under the impression that the wave of post-modern, deconstructionist horror films had already reached its apex with films such as Halloween H20, the Final Destination collection and, of course, the Scream franchise, it turns out you were terribly mistaken.
Drew Goddard’s blood-soaked fright-fest (co-written and produced by idolatrized nerd touchstone Joss Whedon) goes to an entirely different meta-level - and has a better and more successful time doing it than many of its predecessors.
To do any kind of plot summary on this film beyond the most basic theme is to risk Whedon’s request that there be no spoilers in the reviews, so we’ll keep it very close to the vest.
A group of beautiful young college students, archetypes of the horror genre - a football-playing alpha dog (Chris Hemsworth); his beautiful and slutty girlfriend ( Anna Hutchison); her more cerebral and shy friend (Kristen Connolly); a well-heeled and thoughtful smart guy (Jesse Williams); and a perpetually stoned court jester (Fran Kranz, even sporting Shaggy’s signature messy ’do) - all decide to spend a weekend in a remote cabin deep in the woods. The place turns out to be creepy, dilapidated and filled with the kind of deep, angled shadows in doorways and corners known throughout filmdom to harbor evil forces.
The little fixer-upper also comes festooned with cheery paintings of demons performing decapitations, which doesn’t seem to bother the guests. Their intention is to have a lot of fun with drinking games and sex but, naturally, their plans are interrupted by a bunch of homicidal maniacs who dig themselves out of a grave to attack them.
Meanwhile - and here’s where it gets extra dicey if you want to watch this movie with a completely clean slate - a couple of white-shirt and-tie middle managers (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) work feverishly in some giant underground bunker with a large staff of technicians, scientists and a lone intern to prepare what appears to be a bloody reality TV production of the events as they take place.
Suffice it to say, these two plot threads are fairly deeply entwined, but the extent of which is not entirely clear for quite a decent period of screen time. Whedon and Co. have created a nearly perfect vehicle for his particular brand of bloody good humor (unless you think the prospect of seeing a grisly, hillbilly zombie attacking a coed, or beautiful, privileged young people getting on the wrong side of a swinging bear trap sounds uninteresting).
The result is a surprisingly sly and often hilarious riff on the rigid structure and standard tropes of the slasher genre.
The surprising thing is how well the whole piece plays out. You get the impression Whedon and Goddard had nearly as much fun sending up the genre as taking part in it. German auteur Michael Haneke might have made similar sorts of observations in his unrelentingly dark Funny Games, but he refused to let the audience in on the joke, preferring instead to use his cinematic pulpit as a scold. Whedon, meanwhile, through clever writing and solid comedic chops, gets to have his bloody cake of good-natured nonsense and eat it as well.
The Cabin in the Woods 86
Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly, Bradley Whitford, Fran Kranz
R, for strong, bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity
MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 04/13/2012
Print Headline: Yuks and YUCKS