The Cabin in the Woods
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The Cabin in the Woods: A self-reflexive portrait of an exhausted genre?
John Morris highlights the USP of the Cabin in the Woods: it is a movie that challenges the American teen horror genre to up its game in the face of generic characterisation and plot. But does it become what it seeks to critique? John argues not.
Five completely stereotypical teenage students (Jock, druggy, slut, etc) decide to take a weekend break at a Cabin in the woods. Before you can say ‘I’ve seen this before’ zombies start attacking and the cast starts to dwindle.
However, this film is anything but typical, with something far more mysterious at play. It starts with two technicians discussing, quite happily, an operation. This operation, which is revealed very early on, is a Hunger Games/Big Brother style reality TV show that puts five teenagers in deadly peril, with the goal being: make them suffer.
The film takes traditional horror elements and then turns them on their head. A room filled with creepy items left by previous owners. Touch one and a creature starts attacking, only they choose the creature to satisfy the ‘game makers’ who are sitting in their office taking bets on what horror they unleash. It even mocks the fact that all the cast fit a specific horror stereotype.
The cast are actually rather good in this film with Chris Hemsworth as the jock, Kristen Connolly as the virgin and Fran Kranz as the spaced out drug-addict ‘Marty’; whose drug use has effects that change the rules of the game. All bring something new to their over-utilised character.
It is a romp, there are some scary scenes, though not as many as I expected, and there is enough gore to satisfy that crowd. Producer Joss Whedon (Avengers, Firefly, Buffy) calls the film a ‘loving, hate letter’ to the genre, ‘a serious critique of what we love and what we don’t about horror movies.’
When the film reaches its second act you will see what all the events have been leading up to. You will be rewarded with an onslaught of violence, a great cameo and character stories that are fully wrapped-up.
The Cabin in the woods is dark, scary and funny. At no point does it drag, keeping you on your toes throughout. It has given the flailing genre a good kick. And hopefully, future horror films will take a look at this before they spew the same tried-and-tested nonsense.