Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Cabin In The Woods

Directed by: Drew Goddard

Produced by: Joss Whedon

Screenplay by: Drew Goddard
Joss Whedon

Starring: Kristen Connolly
Chris Hemsworth
Anna Hutchison
Fran Kranz
Jesse Williams

Music by: David Julyan

Cinematography by: Peter Deming

Editing by: Lisa Lassek

Studio: Mutant Enemy Productions

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Release date(s): March 9, 2012 (South By Southwest Film Festival)
April 1, 2012 (Dead By Dawn Horror Film Festival)
April 13, 2012 (Worldwide)

Running time: 95 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $30 million

Box office revenue: $66, 486, 080

Ahoy there, my sickness thankfully seems to be a short-term thing, because in the less than twenty-four hours since my last review, I am feeling much better and recovery seems to be well on the way, which can only be a good thing given that I'll be allowed to the cinema again. That hasn't stopped from keeping up with movies: this week, before my flu, I saw The Impossible and Seven Psychopaths, and earlier on today I watched Chronicle. So, for all the latest in films from 2012, check out this blog, and keep your eyes posted!

As those of you following the blog will know, I haven't got to review that many horror films this year, and so this film, The Cabin In The Woods, is part of my attempt to catch up with what has come in the past year. It was interesting finding out in my research that this was shot and completed between March and May 2009, and was originally meant to be released in February 2010. However, an attempted conversion to 3D and the difficulties of MGM, who later that year filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which say this film get lost in the shuffle. Since then, it had producer-writer Joss Whedon had went on to do The Avengers, and the project had a ready-made star in Chris Hemsworth, who starred as Thor in the eponymous film and Whedon's Avengers. So, unlike most projects put on the shelf, the wait seems to have benefitted the project. The Cabin In The Woods stars Hemworth amongst Kristen Connolly and others as a group of young people who decide to go on a road trip to star in the proverbial horror film 'Cabin In The Woods.' However, unbeknownst to them they are part of a 'plot' moderated by technicians Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), who are manipulating them into a scenario that's being filmed for the benefit of viewers and audiences around the world. I've tried my best to explain, both in a logical way and without giving away much of the film's plot spoilers, which I think I've done relatively enough, so let's get cracking!

To start with the good about The Cabin In The Woods, I must say that this is one of the most intelligently written horror film's that has come out in the past few years. Structurally, it is quite masterful the way in which it works on a lot of different levels, without any one of them feeling worse than the other. It manages to be on the one hand a parody of the tropes and cliches of the horror film genre, but also a loving tribute that's a throwback to them, that manages to be seamless in terms of it both being a horror and a satire. Quite clearly there are things being said about an inherent voyeuristic quality to horror cinema, and also the kind of crassness that can come with torture porn, snuff cinema and it's links to surveillance society. Furthermore, it is done in such a way, for which both writer-director Drew Goddard and Whedon must be praised, that you feel like you are watching a piece of popcorn entertainment as opposed to being lectured about all these things. Audiences are intelligent and they know when they're being patronised. Goddard and Whedon clearly have their finger(s) on the pulse right here. Also, while you should not expect any acting masterclasses from this film, there are a couple of very good performances. Kristen Connolly plays a strong lead, and Fran Kranz is endearing and humorous in a role that could have just as easily been pure comic fodder. On the veteran side of things, Richard Jenkins gives solid legitimacy to the project, and not to spoil anything, there is a terrific cameo by a certain actor who I'm a big fan of and who proves, once again, they can just walk in, deliver a two-three minute spiel, but still be completely engaging. Also, it's a pretty well designed film. Being very much a film that exists with two different identities, it's appropriate that not only are the sets of both these worlds well-designed, but that they manage the trick of existing both in conjunction with and as separate to one another. The proverbial 'Cabin In The Woods' is quite clearly a nice little homage to The Evil Dead, and the excellent industrial-control rooms are almost Kubrickian in their symmetry. More good; I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pleased to hear Iggy Pop's She's A Business from his underrated 2009 album Preliminaires, and not to spoil the surprise, the song selected for the end credits is aurally the perfect way to close the film. In closing on the good, this is an excellently edited movie in more ways than one. Sound wise, it's terrific, highlighting both a realism and absurdity as to the chaos that is going on around us, and as such, we are (appropriately) unsure whether we should laughing or cowering. Also, the special effects editing works in this way, particularly in conjunction with the design. Some of it looks realistic, but some of the more ridiculous special effects clash rather well with the clean, symmetrical designs of the sets/locations. Finally, Lisa Lassek has done a stellar job in the editing suite, chopping the film where appropriate, but also playing a pro-active and wise part in ensuring the overall seamlessness of the finished product.

These nice things being said about The Cabin In The Woods, quite easily one of my favourite films of 2012, there are a couple of little issues that deny it from being an outright masterpiece. David Julyan's score, while at times being very good, is also troublesome. I understand that it's part of the overall construction of the film, but the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra inflections still feel tacky without the irony it's trying to get across. Also, I'd be lying if I thought that the movie wasn't occasionally too smart for it's own good. The intelligence that makes a lot of the film strong can also have the converse effect. For instance, (no spoilers!) the thing with the seagull (or whatever bird it is!) near the start does end up taking away from a scene that occurs later in the film. Little things like this do take away from the film and work like at it like a goat slowly gnawing it's way through a nice sweater. 

Little things are the issue with The Cabin In The Woods, chipping away too much from the masterpiece, but leaving in it's place a nevertheless great movie. It's a well-designed film that is terrifically edited, and contains some strong performances. Furthermore, and first and foremost, it is a genuinely intelligent horror movie that works in a lot of different ways and manages to be about something without being patronising or making one feel like they're being lectured too. A highly entertaining genre flick!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Getting better (another day of contagion with this flu and I'm getting back into the real world!)

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