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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cabin In The Woods

It was really, really unfair to release this little gem against The Dark Knight Rises this week in South Africa - especially because the two will undoubtedly have similar audiences - so make sure to keep this film in mind for the next time you go to the cinema after seeing TDKR. Or see it before even - I sadly doubt it will be on for very long.  

I'm going to try and step very lightly when talking about The Cabin in the Woods because one of its great pleasures is just how surprising it is. I won't even summarize the plot beyond saying that this is the kind of horror film that starts with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins - ya know, "proper" actors - having a funny West-Wing-like walk and talk as two regular working Joes, before moving on to the kind of horror-by-numbers that the film's title might imply. For fifteen minutes. It then goes completely and utterly bonkers, delving further and further into unfettered insanity before climaxing in one of the year's most hysterically off the wall endings.    

Part of this does have to do with the surprises of the plot and that it doesn't follow any typical horror formula, but more than that, even once you have started to piece together exactly what's going on, the film still shocks time and time again with its pitch-black humour, deranged violence and fantastically atypical characterization. It's never particularly scary, but even if it won't have you shrieking in terror, it's all but guaranteed to have you howling with laughter - sometimes at nothing more than the filmmakers' chutzpah. But then, when you consider who the filmmakers are, subverting expectations and bonkers post-modernism just seems par for the course.

I am, of course, referring to geek-god and co-writer and producer of the film, Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Firefly and some little film called The Avengers), and co-writer/ director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield and Lost, I suppose, but more importantly later seasons of Whedon's own Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), two guys who have plenty of experience with subverting whatever genre they happen to be working in. Still, The Cabin in the Woods is easily the most subversive thing they've done to date.

With this does come the worry that the film might be too knowing for less cine-literate audiences and too smart for its own good for die-hard horror fans. After all, Whedon has even described the film as a tribute to all that he and Goddard love about horror, while also a satire of certain horror conventions that they don't like. While the film hasn't a hope in hell of winning over horror fans not blessed with a sense of humour, anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of horror cinema and has something of a dark sense of humour should find plenty to love in a film this unique and this unwilling to bow to audience expectations.

More experienced horror fans will get a kick out of identifying the specific films that the film lampoons/ pays homage to but that's only the icing on an already pretty damn delicious cake. So too are the cameos -sometimes extended cameos - from veteran "Whedonverse" actors: fans will dig 'em, non-fans won't notice them. 

Forget the in-jokes though, if you are at all interested in seeing a film filled with witty dialogue, hilariously over the top gore and violence, an authentically low-budget feel, genuine intelligence and more twists, turns and shakeups than anything we've seen since at least Hot Fuzz then be sure to head down to your local cinema to give this wonderfully low-key charmer the support it so rightly deserves.