The Cabin in the Woods
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Director: Drew Goddard
Around midway into The Cabin in the Woods, one of the film's five leading characters rants about the 'puppeteers' trying to manipulate him and his friends into becoming archetypes in a horror flick. 'We are not who we are,' he says, adding how he's not going to be dictated to by some mysterious voice he's hearing.
That he finally succumbs to that whisper in comic ease is perhaps the point here, as Drew Goddard's film is basically about laying bare horror-film tropes, complete with their cliches and illogic, for all to see. Channelling a postmodern, parodic spirit first seen 17 years ago with Scream, The Cabin in the Woods offers a knowing pastiche drawing from old-school gore-fests such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the more recent class of claustrophobic scary movies such as Saw.
The self-aware protagonist spouting the reflexive truisms, Marty (Fran Kranz), makes up one of Goddard's stock-character quintet. He's the stoner fool cast alongside the blonde bimbo Jules (Anna Hutchison), the jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth, above with Kranz and Hutchison), the brainy Holden (Jesse Williams), and the chaste Dana (Kristen Connolly). They are spending the weekend at a remote bungalow decked out with one-way mirrors and a basement filled with shady artefacts.
Long before they get sucked into the mayhem, however, Goddard has already slipped in foreboding hints. To reveal this development is hardly a spoiler. The film begins by revealing the goings-on behind the staged 'kids-in-peril' story front-of-stage.
After an initial credits sequence, viewers find themselves watching a pair of white coats (Richard Jenkins' 'Sitterson' and Bradley Whitford's 'Hadley') readying for work in a control room filled with monitors beaming in images from not just the cabin, but also others around the world. Some kind of a competition is on between the pair's American team and their international counterparts, who are also presiding over their own horror-flick scenarios.
The Cabin in the Woods looks more like the kind of film Michael Haneke - whose Funny Games critiques violence in modern cinema - seeks to abhor rather than approve, as Goddard and his co-writer/producer Joss Whedon seems to want to boast of having a postmodern cake and to eat it. As the two dimensions in the film collides and monstrous chaos unfold, the film veers from challenging the triviality of genre markers, and becomes as eager to milk the premise for more money-shots.
And as the film descends into reusing those very norms of manipulative mainstream filmmaking The Cabin's foundations are cast asunder, with the film neither worthy enough as a thought-provoker or as a sufficiently innovative scary flick.
The Cabin in the Woods opens today