The Cabin in the Woods,
directed by Drew Goddard
(Lionsgate, 2012)

The Cabin in the Woods is clearly a love letter from co-creators Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard to cheesy, low-budget horror flicks, without necessarily being either cheesy or an actual low-budget flick. You know going in that it's going to be a satire with a sharp point and an unexpected plot development; unfortunately, those end up being the movie's excesses instead of its saving graces.

Microbudget horror flicks work on several levels. Lack of money forces a certain degree of creativity that is sometimes absent in big-budget studio products. Shooting from the hip, literally and figuratively, can in turn encourage the type of originality that moves the field forward. Horror films can also be ferociously clever in terms of their social commentary. Another delightful aspect is the complete lack of fear in separating from the mainstream in order to get back to old-school style of filmmaking.

Most importantly, though, is the massive fun that can be had with dark, hidden things that scare us to death. The filmmaker has done what was needed to take the viewer to the edge, so you buckle up for the ride.

The Cabin in the Woods is a homage to the sort of films that have influenced an entire genre, while simultaneously trying to come up with a twist not seen before; additionally, there's a message about reality shows and our addiction/connection to cheap, voyeuristic entertainment. That's a lot of plates to spin in the air.

Which is why so many of them go crashing to the floor. This good-hearted, lovingly crafted movie is bogged down with too many agendas to be very effective.

A bunch of teenagers are going away for the weekend to a cabin in the woods. But of course there's more to it than what's on the surface. The point of revelation, sadly, is exactly where the film loses its way. Whedon and Goddard are attempting to craft a homage film while simultaneously trying to do something subversive, using nonstop satire to carry the heavy weight.

By the end, the humor is the only thing that's holding up. Even then, it's weakened to the level of gimmick. The "subversiveness" is really just a weak upending of familiar themes that embraces the paradigms it purports to mock salute. It's hard to respect plots that are little more than manipulative stunts. There just is not enough of a context to make this rigged, mechanical story truly enjoyable. The Cabin in the Woods basically suffers from too much craftsmanship. It's decent fun but it doesn't really fulfill its high-concept premise. Don't expect much and that way you won't end up pitying what could have been admired.

review by
Mary Harvey

22 December 2012

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